By RYAN ARANDA
Today, rap music is widely criticized by many people across the country, who hate on the genre’s continual loss of appeal over the years. There are numerous hip hop fans who are disappointed with the failure of young new artists to reflect similar styles of “old school” rappers such as Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and many others. I am here to say that rap is still very much alive.
The music of today’s up-and-coming rappers may not completely mirror the same status as past rappers, however, their music can still be seen as quite attractive to a great deal of hip hop fans.
Some of the most famous rappers today include platinum-recording artist, J Cole and young mastermind, Kendrick Lamar.
J Cole, one of the best hip hop artists of the present time, first began to receive recognition in 2007 after the release of “The Come Up,” his debut mixtape. Cole would then follow this up with various mixtapes and features on other popular artists’ albums.
Soon after this, the rapper would begin his studio album career with “Cole World: The Sideline Story” (2011), “Born Sinner” (2013), and finally “2014 Forest Hills Drive” (2014). All three of these albums would be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
However, Cole’s most recent album would be one that made the most history. Not only was it the artist’s first certified platinum album, but it also made the “Work Out” singer the first rapper to go platinum without any features in over 25 years.
In this album, Cole does an excellent job of explaining certain issues of his life through multiple songs, including “Apparently” and “No Role Modelz.”
In “Apparently,” Cole reflects on his past mistakes and states “ I keep my head high,” displaying the confidence that he has in pursuit of a better life for himself. He especially uses lots of wordplay in his second verse of the song in showing that his life may now be coming together.
“No Role Modelz” is used by Cole to represent the fatherless life that he has lived. He shows this message in the intro to the song as he raps, “Rest in peace Uncle Phil, for real, you the only father that I ever knew.”
J Cole appeals to numerous young hip hop fans across the world for a countless number of reasons. Those who listen to Cole are generally interested in his ability to educate with his lyrics. In addition to this, he also helps give his enthusiasts different perspectives on their everyday lives.
Furthermore, Cole’s extremely talented wordplay and capability to project a mellow voice with such great power adds to the attraction that his music has.
Next, there is the exceptionally talented Kendrick Lamar.
“K-Dot” grew up in the well known city of Compton, CA, where he attended Centennial High School as a straight-A student.
Kendrick debuted his first mixtape at the young age of 16 years. The mixtape would help lead him to his securing of a recording contract with Top Dawg Entertainment.
After various mixtapes and tours, the west-coast rapper launched his debut studio album, “Section.80,” which was a perfect start to Lamar’s career. The album received a tremendous amount of praise from hip hop fans, as well as fellow rappers.
In 2012, Kendrick released his second studio album, and one of the best hip hop albums of the 21st century, “good kid, m.A.A.d city.”
I believe that the album proved to be the turning point in Kendrick’s career, especially after it was certified platinum by the RIAA just nine months after its release.
The album would help Lamar earn seven well-deserved Grammy nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. These nominations included “Best New Artist” and “Album of the Year.”
Lamar lost the award for “Best Rap Album” with his album, “good kid, m.A.A.d city” to Macklemore and his album, “The Heist.” Don’t get me wrong, Macklemore had a great album, but to say that it was better than Kendrick’s is an insult to Lamar and all hip hop fans.
Kendrick followed the success of this album with “To Pimp a Butterfly,” (2015) which includes some of the best rap songs of the year such as “Hood Politics,” “The Blacker the Berry,” and “Alright.”
The much-anticipated album sold a total of 324,000 copies within just its first week of release.
At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Kendrick would once again be robbed of an award when his music video for “Alright” lost “Best Hip-Hop Video” to Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” I, along with many other hip hop followers, believed that Lamar’s music video was clearly greater than Minaj’s, but this did not turn out to be the case for the “Swimming Pools” singer.
Kendrick’s skillset as a rapper is very much similar to that of J Cole’s. K-Dot, like Cole, isn’t afraid to speak his mind through his raps, while also imposing tough questions regarding the events that occur in society.
Many fans admire the messages that Lamar displays in his music, showing his opinions and relating to people in society.
I especially liked the song “Alright” from his most recent album, where the Compton native displays his trust in God and God’s plan for him. As he states in the song, “If God got us, then we gon’ be alright.” It is a song that helps remind its listeners to not worry about what problems may be going on in their lives, because it will turn out to be “alright.”
The ability that he has to produce hip hop music that is enjoyable, yet thoughtful is difficult to find in today’s society, which is one of the reasons why he is one of the greatest of his time.
Both J Cole and Kendrick Lamar have unique styles in their rap that rarely exists anywhere else in music of today and even the past.
While the popularity of rap music may be declining, Cole and Kendrick are doing a fantastic job of keeping it alive with their undeniable greatness.