Growing up a child of the 1970s, I used to love prog rock. Led Zepplin, Jethro Tull, and other super groups wrote my anthems. But when you reach a certain age, you stop doing LSD, and then rock music gets a whole lot less interesting. Hip Hop is musically innovative in ways that rock hasn’t been since the mid 1970s.
But rap and hip hop are very different things. A friend laughed at me for saying so, and said “alternative and rock aren’t the same at all.” The split between rap and hip hop is more like the schism between the blues and rock. (It’s interesting to note that all of these are occasionally bridged.)
So What’s The Difference, Then?
Has anybody in the room ever heard the term “gangsta hip hop?” Neither have I.
KRS-One (short for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) puts the difference as “rap is something you do, hip hop is something you are.” Put in context in the history of a new musical genre, and of Chris Parker, hip hop is a state of upliftment. This is a bit oversimplified, but essentially what the man advocates.
Rap is “Criminally Minded” (instead of?) “Self Destruction”. There’s a vast market for music by and about thugs, filled with profanity, mysogony, and violence. Ice-T was at least honest about it “I’m not a musician, I’m a hustler. I’m in this for the money.”
Hip Hop uses the same techniques (DJing loops, spoken word) to create legitimite music. Lyrics are generally positive, although this isn’t always the case – and there’s plenty of instrumental (only) hip hop. Old jazz is a favorite style to sample and loop.
You’d be surprised how much gangsta rap carries a very heavy Christian influence. Maybe as a tithe, more than 10 % of Tupac’s lyrics are to God. One song begins “Let us pray, my niggas, because we definitely have sinned.” Another is called “Only God Can Judge Me Now” and yet another is entirely about being in heaven, a consolation left to those behind that ends with “in time you’ll understand only God can save us.”
It wasn’t just Tupac – he was very much an anomoly. Cypress Hill are a lot of things to a lot of people, but mainly they’re marijuana and violence. “You told the boy to pack a 45, now he rests in the place called Paradise.” “There were no survivors – they all died in the flood.”
Christian Hip Hop
Zion I writes things more like what you might expect from a Christian, and even a bit extreme for most of us. It’s the anti-thesis to gangsterism. “I don’t need no vest, God, He protects.” Common Sense starts the day with prayer. The Blue Scholars “give praise to The Most, it’s the least that I can do.” De La Soul makes an interesting point in Held Down
When I’m watching the news
and my daughter walk in and choose
to ask “Who are all those people, lying on the ground sleeping covered in red?”
I tell her “they were searching for God, but found religion instead.”