5 Biggest Hip-Hop Myths Debunked

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Hip-Hop Misconceptions You Should Stop Believing

Chris Weeks/Getty

"If the society that we're talking about is a society that starts wars all over the world, degrades indigenous cultures, is misogynistic in itself, if that's the society we're talking about, then it's not a bad thing if hip-hop did degrade that society." — KRS-One

I could hear the disgust in my Uber driver's voice. He'd just learned that I listen to rap music. "I don't like that gangsta rap stuff,” he said. “It degrades women."

He exemplified the judgmental sentiment of almost everyone who hates rap music. Hip-hop gets a bad rap, some deserved and some unfair. None of it is unique to hip-hop.

Hip-hop is often criticized for misogyny, but misogyny is not unique to hip-hop. Critics knock hip-hop for vulgarity and violence, but you can find vulgarity and violence in movies, video games, high school books, TV shows and Target's toy section. You can find violence and misogyny in every music genre.

That's not to say that hip-hop is perfect. It isn't. What I'm saying is that hip-hop shoulders a disproportionately high section of the blame for century-old societal problems. When outsiders attack hip-hop, they're attacking much more than hip-hop.

Most hip-hop misconceptions are rooted in a misunderstanding of the culture. Without an intimate understanding of the history of hip-hop it's almost impossible for an outsider to completely appreciate the genre.

Time to separate fact from fiction. Here are the most common hip-hop misconceptions that need to go.

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Hip-hop promotes negative ideals.

Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne. © Cash Money/UMG

One of the most common hip-hop misconceptions is that it promotes bad behavior. Yet studies show no justifiable link between hip-hop and bad behavior.

In fact, we've seen more people act up after watching a show or a movie. Did you hear the one about the guy who killed his friend after watching The Walking Dead because he thought his friend would turn into a zombie?

The point is that good and evil exist. And some people will do evil, no matter what's pumping out their speakers. It's a dangerous misconception to attach negative behavior to a form of music without evidence.

The truth is that hip-hop inspires, motivates and entertains. In college, I used to listen to Nas before exams. I felt motivated when I heard Jay Z rap about his ambitious ways on "Ambition." Songs like "C.R.E.A.M." and "NY State of Mind" give those from less-glamorous roots a way to visualize a brighter future.

Rap is the soundtrack of our lives. When rappers tell their stories, we visualize a future better than the one promised. We invite them into our world and they pull us into theirs.

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Hip-hop is all about violence and shaking your booty in the club.

Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar. Chris Weeks/Getty Images

Hip-hop is entertainment. It will always have an entertainment component. But it also has educational components. It inspires, teaches, motivates, and moves us to action.

Unfortunately, when people hear the word "rap" they associate it with violence and misogyny. I mentioned my Uber driver earlier. Notice how he reacted to my statement. I said "rap," he heard "gangsta rap."

Political commentary, for instance, has been a core focus in rap since the early days. From Public Enemy and N.W.A. all the way to Talib Kweli and Mos Def, rappers have been shining light on social issues from the beginning. They rap about injustice, racism and personal responsibility. They hold us accountable and lift our spirits in dark times.

Today, the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole carry on this tradition of positive narratives. On To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar captures the journey of being black in America today. Kanye West--rap's favorite scapegoat--has had moments of purpose with songs like "Jesus Walks" and "New Slaves." And these were all works that made huge waves in pop culture. This myth, like most hip-hop myths, makes absolutely no sense.

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Hip-hop isn't real music.

DJ Premier

You've heard this one before. Critics say hip-hop is an unoriginal art form. They say it's a cacophony of sounds--a bunch of fast talkers over noisy beats.

Wrong again.

Hip-hop is one of the most innovative art forms around. The way hip-hop artists flip and reinvent sounds should be admired. Considering that early musical equipment were not originally created with rap in mind, hip-hop is as original as it gets.

Rap is poetry. Period. Eminem sometimes rhymes multiple words within a bar. Rakim used to draw lines in his notebook to create the smoothest flow possible. The talent it takes to make magic out of mere words is a thing of beauty.

If hip-hop isn't real music then nothing is.

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Hip-hop lacks substance.

(Photo © Rick Diamond/Getty)

 People who say this are simply looking for validation of long held misconceptions. So they wait for the white noise, pounce on it and say “See? See? I told you so!”

There's also the issue of false representation. Bun B sums this up perfectly.

"You can always pick the worst example out of an element, use that to represent the element, and say that that is what the element is. That's what people are doing with hip-hop," said Bun B explains. "They're taking the worst example of expression and entertainment in hip-hop and using that as a litmus test, so to speak, to basically say that all hip-hop is like this."

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Freestylers flow off the top.

People assume the art of freestylin means you have to go off the top. Rappers get dissed for pre-writing some of their rhymes.

This is misguided. Look no further than the word “freestyle” for its true meaning. The word freestyle means that you rhymes are free of style. Hence, the art of freestylin’ with or without a beat.

Now, I'm not saying you should go all Canibus and bust out a notebook in the middle of a freestyle battle.

That's wack.

I'm saying, a freestyle is a freestyle whether you thought it up on the fly or before you left the crib.

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Your Citation
Adaso, Henry. "5 Biggest Hip-Hop Myths Debunked." ThoughtCo, Jul. 10, 2016, thoughtco.com/biggest-hip-hop-myths-debunked-2857972. Adaso, Henry. (2016, July 10). 5 Biggest Hip-Hop Myths Debunked. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/biggest-hip-hop-myths-debunked-2857972 Adaso, Henry. "5 Biggest Hip-Hop Myths Debunked." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/biggest-hip-hop-myths-debunked-2857972 (accessed November 19, 2017).