Rap Music Lyrics

Rap music lyrics are also many times called hip hop lyrics interchangeably. In rap music, it is one of the few genres (other than perhaps folk) where the lyrics are more important than the music.

Rap music lyrics feature primarily a storytelling of the black urban experience, though a few white rappers have arisen to prominence as well. The lyrics of rap music started out as a boastful response that an MC (emcee) would have to a DJ (deejay) who was playing music, scratching records and later sampling and mixing sound as well. This kind of boastful repartee would develop in lyrical quality and content to the point of urban poetry and storytelling.

Rap music lyrics have the feel of improvisation but with rhyme and some have even attributed the spontaneous poetry of boxer Muhammad Ali in the 1960s as an influence to the lyrics that would develop in the 1970s. A mixture of poetry and gritty language, rap music lyrics have caused a wave of censorship seldom seen in any singing circles this century.

The profanity, violence and sexual nature of some rock and rap music lyrics were one of the leading causes for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to establish the Parental Advisory on albums in 1985. Explicit lyrics were labeled as such and were sometimes called Tipper stickers because of Tipper Gore’s role in the labeling, though rap had not really come into its own at this point.

Later, gansta rap would come on the scene and cause a backlash among critics that the lyrics were inciting violence and inappropriate sexual behavior with its younger listeners. Artists like Ice Cube, Ice T, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur were accused of glorifying urban gang life and the search for bling bling as the ultimate goal in life.

In the 1990s to present, rap music lyrics have competed with rock for being the voice of anti-establishment, rebellion and giving a voice to the previously voiceless. White rapper Eminem has repeated stated that his rap music lyrics have given a voice to young urban kids who would study his phrases under a microscope since they didn’t know the words previously existed to express their culture, situations and feelings.

While much of the words of rap music can be gritty and violent, others ironically can feature lyrics of love and relationship as well. Some of the Akon lyrics point to this as he can sing about the desire for relationships as well as booty calls.