Zito Madu on rap's freedom narratives

A rapper rapping with a spotlight on them, all under a purple filter

‘Rap is fantastical; life in the songs tends to be exaggerated and extreme.’

Zito Madu is one of my favourite people on Twitter and a damn good writer. Here, he wrote about rappers’ ‘tales of breaking free’:

Rap is fantastical; life in the songs tends to be exaggerated and extreme. In “We Gonna Make It,” Jadakiss doesn’t just own a fancy house – in his house his “bathtub lift up” and his “walls do a 360.” And he didn’t just sell drugs, he “ran through enough coke for Castro to build schools in Cuba.”

Rap music and its artists have come under heavy criticism for those fantastical elements, especially when it comes to violence. Rappers are always killing hundreds of abstract enemies in songs, and buying wildly inflated numbers of high-powered guns. The criticism has come not only from those who see rap as evidence of Black degeneracy, including the FBI, but even from more “conscious” rappers who see violence-as-entertainment as both inauthentic and a disservice to Black culture.

When I was writing my dissertation on Black music, I learnt about griots and, as Zito said in his essay (‘I think of rappers as great American storytellers’), I felt the same. It’s all about telling the stories of what has happened, what is happening, and what you think/want to happen. And for many rappers through time, violence has been a focal point. Those acts of freedom deserve their grandiosity in expression.

Hi, it's Luke, the editor of Sampleface! Why not subscribe to my Patreon and support the blog?

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