“I put my lifetime in between the paper’s lines,” -Prodigy on “Quiet Storm”
I’ve heard so many, too many argue that rap isn’t a music form, it’s depiction of women is misogynistic, the words and beats violent and appalling. These points of view range from lack of awareness to downright ignorantly laughable to me. The difference being, if you’ve never taken the time to listen to different types and styles of rap, you couldn’t ever have a clear understanding of the many expressions within. But then there are those who will listen to others and not educate themselves, as if it was beneath them to ask those more knowledgeable in this world, and are happy to be ignorant. Like people, there are many differences. Some lyrics are explicit for sure. And for sure, explicit doesn’t always mean negative.
Let’s check out a couple of genres. For instance, “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” by Conway Twitty had a great way of mixing tongue-in-cheek yet detailed lyrics of amorous activities in the bedroom. Dixie Chicks, “Goodbye Earl,” (one of my favorites) in its upbeat tempo and sisterhood solidarity helped convey the message through its lyrics about domestic violence and empowerment. “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves is beautifully and brutally honest using specific examples about being strong to follow what you know is true since many will try to make that decision for you. Classical music is deemed intellectually more significant than other music genres. There is indeed beauty there as well as violence in some pieces. Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 4” is an amazing masterpiece that also can be described as angst-filled. Verdi’s “Requiem Dies Irae” is powerful and oh so dramatic, “…death and nature shall be stunned…when mankind arises to answer before its judge…” It isn’t subtle, but steeped in complexities. The same is true for some rap lyricists and certainly for Prodigy.
This isn’t a justification of violence. More so, a frame of reference and a tribute to a great lyricist, Prodigy. He spoke of the many hardships he endured growing up in an almost Dickens-like way.
”…only 19 but my mind is old, And when things get for real, my warm heart turns cold.” -Prodigy on “Shook Ones”
I think music, like all art, can be a reflection of a person’s experiences, their life journey. Some of these journeys aren’t the prettiest of roads. This world is beautiful and it is also violent. We have easy access to violent movies, video games and speech, how could that not be reflective in some degree in music?
Quiet Storm was one of my favorite songs. It just resonated within me. For a long time I felt like there was always a storm brewing within me and I had to keep quiet about so many things. Sometimes listening to another person’s anger can echo so deeply within you that it helps burn your own anger down or at least keep it in check. It can also soothe and comfort even in spite of harder tones and tough lyrics, just as not all seemingly calm music is peaceful. A disease from birth is what eventually made Prodigy succumb to that ultimate peaceful realm. Though difficult, the words expressed were always potent. Thank you Prodigy.