Common sweetens rap with Chocolate
Hip-hop has long been a popular dumping ground for those attempting to
prove the debasement of modern youth and music. "It's all about themselves,"
they claim, "but you know, who understands those 'rap guys?'"
Not without cause, the movement to typify and vilify rap has some valid
complaints and, without a vocal justifying opposition, is often accepted
as truth. Characteristic of any such "tyranny of the majority,"
however, there is a great deal of overgeneralization and assumption built
by using singular artists as examples.
Common, a rap artist out of Chicago, presents an intriguing challenge to such-minded people. Though he retains the swagger and braggadocio of his colleagues on his recent album, Like Water for Chocolate, he acts out the frustration and anger of an urban upbringing in a very different way from other rap artists. For example, his "hit" single, "The Light" is a sensitive, thoughtful tribute to a love interest: "It's important, we communicate / and tune the fate of this union, to the right pitch / I never call you my bitch or even my boo / There's so much in a name and so much more in you." The album is an interesting mix; far from the stereotypes so often applied to the genre.
Predictably, a mainstream hip-hop listener may find the eclectic styles challenging and perhaps unsatisfying. But even from that standpoint, several tracks stand out. "A Song for Assata," the story of a Black Panther framed for a murder solely because of her race, uses rap as a unique mode of communicating constructive messages. Another interesting song is "Geto Heaven Part II," providing another contrast to the purportedly typical rap relationship between the genders: "Love, your happiness don't begin wit a man / Strong woman, why should you depend on a man / I understand you want a man that's resourceful / If he pay your bills, he feel like he bought you." His message is not necessarily completely acceptable and he occasionally conforms to the stereotypes as well. His album does, however, provide a different, powerful message from the streets of Chicago that those so quick to write off hip-hop culture as uniformly destructive and negative would do well to hear. This is a man who makes constructive usage of his emotions from his youth, rather than simply celebrating the hate that they evoke in him, as many rappers do.
Not surprisingly, this doesn't sit too comfortably with many hip-hop
fans, who have become accustomed to the anger and attack from the artists
and the subsequent distaste from the more conservative members of society.
For those interested in viewing a fuller picture of the hip-hop culture
and scene, Common's Like Water for Chocolate is a great place to
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