Rock Therapy: 5 Rap Songs Conversion Challenge

Do YOU hate rap? If so, why? Do YOU love rap? What 5 rap songs would you have picked instead?

In a recent post a friend and colleague stated he didn't like rap. Fair enough. Like what you like, of course. I've liked rap from the beginning. I started listening to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in 7th grade. Some like it, some don't. 

The challenge
I stated that I would attempt a full-on conversion to which he said, "Challenge." The challenge I accepted was to convert him to rap in just 5 rap songs. I concede that I may not succeed at that task. People like what they like. There are certainly plenty of rap songs I don't like either. But maybe I can at least increase his appreciation a bit. My objective is 1. to make much more of this than is necessary ;-) and 2. that people (not just him) won't discount an entire genre because of not liking some of what's been heard. I mean, there's lots of every genre I don't like, such as while I love rock and roll, there are a LOT of rock songs and groups I don't like, too.

Why we like certain things
This got me to thinking why do we like some music and don't like other types? And, of course, this question goes beyond just music. There are lots of reasons for why we like things, of course. One reason, though, is that we as humans tend to generalize a few things to the whole. We all do it. We pre-judge (prejudice) things usually with little, or skewed, information. So, for example, I used to hate country music. I didn't just dislike it. I would proudly proclaim, "Ugh! I hate country!" What reason did I have to hate it, though? Not much actual reason, just personal preference based on hearing a few country songs and when they didn't immediately resonate with me I unwittingly wrote off the entire genre and all sub-genres. I shut out an amazing catalog of music in one fell swoop and didn't even realize what I had denied myself access to. However, after I got married my wife introduced me to country songs and artists that had fun songs or ones where I liked the message, such as Clint Black, The Judds, Garth Brooks, and Randy Travis. This then hooked me into the musical style. She unwrote my prejudice. Crafty minx, that one. From there my father-in-law opened my afore-closed mind to the wealth of old school country western music. To think I used to hate a genre of music I actually knew nothing about. As you can see, this is much more than just about music, but is part of what we do as humans in many areas that are much more important than just what music we like or not. 

Mindfully experiencing music vs. reacting
I do a mindfulness exercise with parents sometimes. I have them bring in their teen's music that they hate. We listen to it together using the "observe and describe non-judgmentally" mindfulness skill. As they listen they are to remove judgmental words such as, "good/bad, right/wrong, should/shouldn't,"  observe how the beat moves in their senses and how it feels in their body, consider the lyrics objectively, try to empathize with what it was like to be a teen, and contemplate what aspects of their music would resonate with them and why. I'm not asking them to like it or agree with the music's message. I'm helping them gain a better understanding of, and possibly connection with, their children through their music, rather than just discount it because they don't personally like it. I then encourage them to ask their children about their music, and listen attentively, respectfully and not interrupt, interject and correct. That's actually a very simple, but very hard thing to do. And then from there interesting discussions and understandings often ensue. Ones that otherwise would've been missed if we just went with what we liked.

The 5 Rap Songs
Okay, back to the challenge. If I fail at my task of converting him, and he still doesn't like rap after this, it's okay. To each his own. To his open-minded credit he accepted the challenge and I'm giving it my best shot.

There are MANY songs in this genre that I would like to share, however, I'm limited to five. Understand that these song choices, except for the first, are targeted towards converting the social scientist sensitivities of this particular colleague. Of course, others will have chosen different songs for their five. 

We'll start at the very beginning of rap history with two songs with very different messages: One fun, one serious.

1. Rappers Delight, by The Sugarhill Gang (1979)
This is where it all began. Upbeat, fun dance classic with lyrics just for the joy of the rapping. No deep message here. I'm saving those for the other four. Just a fun rolling dance song.  The Sugarhill Gang were contemporaries of the next group below and both were on the same label Sugarhill records. This was the first song that showed that rap was appealing to the masses and not just the underground. But it wasn't until Run DMC that rap became truly mainstream.

2. New York, New York, by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (1983)
While rap music may not appeal to my colleague, as a psychologist I believe he will find great value in the message of this song. This song is a biting, and insightful social commentary. It is important for developing compassion for those who grow up and live in an entire other unseen, but very real, non-privileged world. "I"m down by law," means he's paid his dues and knows what's really what—there's much more to NYC than the surface glitz and glamor. I almost submitted The Message, which along with Rapper's Delight, are probably the two most iconic songs in all of rap history.

Interesting trivia: GMF+FF started the whole "MC" trend as well as coined the term "hip hop." There's not one rapper today who has not been influenced by this group.

Those are the early history ones. He may or may not have liked them. Now, while I could try to convert him with lots of fun, rocking, cool rap songs, I will instead continue to appeal to his socially sensitive mindset. 

3. & 4. Keep Ya Head Up, by TuPac (1993) and U.N.I.T.Y, by Queen Latifah (1993)
There are other rap songs I that have great social value, such as these two feminist songs by TuPac and Queen Latifah about treating women with the respect they deserve. These both can be found in this Rock Therapy blog post I wrote a few years ago:

Rock Therapy: Two Fantastic Feminist Rap Songs by 2Pac and Queen Latifah

5. Babygirl, by Brother Ali (2009)
This is THE best song I've yet heard in any genre that accurately and compassionately captures the dynamics and harsh, lasting impact of sexual abuse and PTSD .


Do YOU love rap? What 5 rap songs would you pick instead?