What do you hear rappers rap about today? It’s no wonder a lot of conservative America is quick to stereotype and denigrate hip hop with so little meaningful content hitting mainstream media waves. To be fair, I enjoy a catchy beat as much as the next person. But music needs to speak to people too. Whether or not I’m the intended audience, I feel like a lot of today’s music isn’t conveying as strong a message as music did in the past.
If you need an example of powerfully moving music, look no further than one of greatest MC’s of all time, Nas. His debut album Illmatic is lauded as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time as it portrays his gritty childhood in the Queens projects in New York. Though he also succumbed to the allure of big money commercialization in his later albums, he brought it back to his roots with his fifth album, aptly named Stillmatic. His track “One Mic” has alway stood out to me in particular. It’s an incredibly moving song, with verses that start slowly and softly, but crescendo in speed, volume, and intensity as he paints a vivid picture of life on the streets. Removing the gangsta rap persona Columbia Records had created for him, Nas made this song all the more impactful by keeping it simple. “One Mic” is Nas’s interpretation of reality in the ghetto as well as a testament to the power of a man and his microphone – the power to educate, to embolden, and to inspire.
Nas – One Mic