It was recently announced that Nas is going to be the first verified rapper on RapGenius.com, meaning, as opposed to people outlining their own interpretations of tracks off Illmatic, he’ll personally explain them. Sounds great, right? I mean, Jay-Z decoded his own lyrics, and several other artists have been quick to decipher their bars, but does it really matter? There are numerous books outlining the poetics of rhymes, even breaking down specific lines, including Adam Bradley’s heavy 300-page book The Anthology of Rap, which was released last year but… did it matter? Did it change anyone’s views on lyrical values?
If music is subjective, if the way you interpret a track is indicative to your own life and thoughts, is this necessary? RapGenius.com has never been an accurate source of information and The Anthology of Rap was littered with mistakes, but at the end of the day, music is understood not just cohesively, but on an individual level. The special thing about hip-hop is that it transcends the social, economic and political barriers that divides us, and takes on its own meaning to every listener.
One of the even greater things is that hip-hop etymology and lyricism was never meant to be understood by the masses. Being misunderstood is an integral part of hip-hop culture; it’s a mask to conceal the real essences of everyday life as people, as well as artists. The notion of being misunderstood has, in fact, been a saving grace for centuries – whether it was developing new languages or dances to confuse oppressors, it’s been a shield to fight power. With that being said, the concept of being misunderstood is a mask that conceals who we are as a community and a language only understood amongst us.
If we can appreciate a painting for what it is, right there in front of us, why can’t we appreciate the words written on the page for whatever interpretation it may have? In the same breath that Parents Just Don’t Understand, it’s how it should be. This is art, this is our art, and we shouldn’t have to decipher it on a formal level for anyone.
**(Written via DJWayneSki.com, bad-perm homie & respected collegue! Check out his site, after you’ve checked out bad-perm!)