Hip Hop is My Culture, But Rap is My Passion

Kanye West accepts the video vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Kanye West accepts the video vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

When the weather turns above 10 degrees, Casey and I roll down the windows and turn up the bass. You might not have expected it, but rap music is our passion. From Nicki Minaj to Nelly, hip hop is an amazing way of life. In spite of some derogatory lyrics, rap has addressed a variety of issues–from racism to sexism–since its inception.

So today, we’re going to learn some lessons with the help of rappers from across the decades.


Peer Pressure

One of the biggest issues facing teens in school is peer pressure. We hear things from our teachers and parents about ‘making good choices.’ But life isn’t that simple. Life is a series of choices, but most of them are wrong, and that’s ok.

There are obvious bad decisions like doing drugs or ignoring your grades. In “The Art of Peer Pressure,” Kendrick Lamar says “Look at me I got the blunt in my mouth. Usually I’m drug-free, but I’m with my homies.” It’s as if the second we are with our friends, our sanity, reason, and morals are thrown out the window.

Kendrick Lamar performs at the iTunes Festival during the SXSW Music Festival on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)
Jack Plunkett
Kendrick Lamar performs at the iTunes Festival

Mobb Deep has a similar theme in his song ‘Peer Pressure’: “Gotta find a way, to get accepted by my peers, So now I’m sippin on beers… Thinkin to myself does that make me lesser? Just, dealin with the peer pressure.”

And this isn’t an isolated issue. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism writes that in 2014, 8.7 million young people ages 12–20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month. Now, I’m not saying that all of the 8.7 million teens are drinking underage because of peer pressure, but there’s no denying that they do feel the pressure to fit in. Even if that means doing something they are not comfortable with.

Psychologist John Chirban writes “Sometimes peer pressure is exerted through what Freud called the “group mind,” the mentality of a group of people that takes on a life of its own. While the desire to conform to the demands of peers is known for its role in influencing adolescent rebellion.” Kids rebel in order to fit in, even if it means pushing their own boundaries.

There is no denying rap music perpetuates making these bad choices. I mean, there’s a reason Lil Wayne has been arrested seven times (and counting). Admittedly, there are hosts of rap songs that also glorify drinking, and drug use. However, these lyrics like Kendrick Lamar and Mobb Deep’s suggest that the conversation about the influence of peer pressure is beginning. The more we can talk about these problems the greater the chance of solving them.  


Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is another major theme in rap music, especially when it comes to how women are treated in the music industry. Nicki Minaj once sang, “I ain’t talking bout that Lil Wayne record, I’m still the highest female rapper for the record.” Nicki Minaj is one of the most successful female rappers in our century and yet she faces constant criticism and pressure to be what society thinks a woman in the music industry should be.Her song “Anaconda” was released in 2014, and Minaj hit immediate backlash. Critics calling the song “racy” and saying it “went too far,” all for expressing her acceptance of all types of bodies. But Nicki isn’t the only one fighting these norms.

This Nov. 2, 2013, file photo, shows hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj at the Power 105.1's Powerhouse Concert at the Barclays Center in New York. Wig designer Terrence Davidson filed a lawsuit Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, against Minaj accusing the star of harming his business and selling wigs based on his designs. (Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP, File)
Brad Barket
This Nov. 2, 2013, file photo, shows hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj at the Power 105.1’s Powerhouse Concert

In fact, even men in the industry voice their opinions on feminism. Surprisingly, Tupac, in “Keep Ya Head Up,” sings, “Time to heal our women, be real to our women. That will hate the ladies that make the babies. And since a man can’t make one. He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one.” He isn’t just speaking out for gender equality, but also on a woman’s right to choose. Arguing for a women’s right to choose also gives women the right to freedoms they deserve. Especially when it comes to the difficult decision of having an abortion.

Women shouldn’t have to be regulated in this issue or others. Salt ‘N Pepa write in “None of Your Business,” If I wanna take a guy home with me tonight. It’s none of your business. And she wanna be a freak and sell it on the weekend. It’s none of your business.” Women are not meant to be controlled and neither are men. We are all free human beings that can all laugh, love, and think for ourselves.

Another song that shares a strong message on gender equality is Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here”. Personally, this is one of my favorite songs for this message, because Allen does NOT hold back:

“You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen. I won’t be braggin’ ’bout my cars or talkin’ ’bout my chains. Don’t need to shake my a** for you ’cause I’ve got a brain”

I’m just going to leave that ‘food for thought’ right there. I can’t even follow that up.

Women are not playthings. Women are not fragile statuettes. Women are not objects. Every person is their own combination of DNA, feelings, and interests. Just because someone might feel anonymous online or in the street doesn’t make the comments or harassment hurt any less. Comments like “You’re fat,” “A woman’s rightful place is as a secretary,” and “She’s a hoe” all sting. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a stranger, it’s wrong. A woman is someone’s mother, someone’s daughter. Don’t forget that.


Self- Confidence

High school is a rough time for everyone, even without the comments from other kids. It’s a time when you have no idea who you are but everyone seems to be pressuring you to become something. Hey, maybe I just want to take a nap today! Leave me alone!

The struggle to ‘find yourself’ really isn’t one that ends. Even at 50 there are ‘mid-life’ crises. And no one knows this better than Kanye West. He sings with Paul McCartney in ‘Only One,’ “No, you’re not perfect but you are not your mistakes.”

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2012 file photo, American musician Ben Haggerty, better known by his stage name Macklemore, right, and his producer Ryan Lewis pose for a portrait at Irving Plaza in New York. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are top contenders at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, with seven nominations, including best new artist and song of the year for “Same Love.” Their debut album, “The Heist,” is up for album of the year and best rap album, while the massive hit “Thrift Shop” is nominated for best rap song and rap performance. The duo’s other hit, “Can’t Hold Us,” will compete for best music video. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Invision/AP, File)
Carlo Allegri/Invision/AP
American musician Ben Haggerty, better known by his stage name Macklemore, right, and his producer Ryan Lewis pose for a portrait at Irving Plaza in New York.

Mistakes happen to everyone. Whether it’s messing up a test question or spilling coffee on your dress shirt, it’s not something you can avoid. But these mistakes should not define you. Macklemore sings in ‘Same Love,’ “Kids are walking around the hallway, plagued by pain in their heart. A world so hateful. Some would rather die, than be who they are.”

As rough as high school might seem, it is not the end. The world is so much bigger than these classes, teachers and friends. And spoiler alert: you can leave this place and never come back. So forget the people that said mean things and put you down, because they are just as insecure as you. These four years are such a small part of your life. Don’t let it drag you down.


Rap teaches us to love each other, and most importantly, to love ourselves.

Tupac in ‘Changes’ says, “Only time we chill is when we kill each other, it takes skill to be real, time to heal each other.” The people around you are more like you than you think. We’re all flesh and blood, love and hate. Embrace your mistakes and embrace each other.