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Play Listen Repeat Vol. 37

chuck d
chuck-d.pngWow. My previous post somehow managed to elicit a few fairly incendiary comments regarding rap music: so I think we’d better have this discussion now. Let’s keep it civil, and aim to have as our ultimate goal the promotion of a greater awareness of all the amazingly great rap and hip hop music that’s out there.
Ok. One listener wrote “I can’t figure out for the life of me why rap is considered music”; another made the rather extraordinary claim that “…rap music is non-music and it is forced on the media to reach kids to pull them into the gansta, dope dealing, guns and prostitution junk while as they depict their lifstyle as the high life.”
This idea that rap somehow “isn’t music,” is pretty prevalent, so let’s check it out. Setting aside the minefields of class and culture and race and just keeping it to the music, I’ll just say that musically speaking the idea that rap is “not music” probably comes from the fairly obvious observation that (en masse and in very general terms) rap songs don’t have melodies in the same way that popular songs do. There are plenty of melodies in rap, and there is lots of great music as well; but the salient point here is to compare what there is in rap songs to what there is in the basic popular song.
Pop songs, folk songs, art songs, and even instrumental music are almost always built around a melody. In most rap, that focal role of the melody is replaced by the voice of the rapper, and by the words. Now it turns out that the vocal cadences of rapping do in fact have a whole music of their own (as do our own speaking voices), and it’s a music that is quite subtle and absolutely bursting with the kinds of deep human information that animate the strongest art. But, to the new listener, or to the listener who is accustomed to singing along with melodies, or who carries with them a certain idea of what music is and is not, it’s worth observing that the fundamental composition of most rap pieces is in fact a radical musical challenge.
As such, if someone were to say that they didn’t like rap in general because they listen to music primarily for melodies, then that would be at least a concrete musical argument.

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College Campus Visits

We’ve had a great time in the past year visiting college campuses all across the country. I’ve given lectures to music classes, business school classes, entrepreneur clubs, engineering groups… you…
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Play Listen Repeat Vol. 36

As usual, your comments astonish me. And even though I admit that it’s a bit odd to be asking music listeners the kinds of questions that music makers ask themselves,…
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