Who says hip-hop doesn't have a sensitive side? Lately I've been seeing a growth in rappers who aren't afraid to talk about their emotions on love and heartbreak. Let's start from the beginning shall we?
Yup. Kanye West started a change in hip-hop with this very album right here. In 2008, Kanye West released 808s & Heartbreak and got a ton of backlash. People did not anticipate a whole album where no song did not have auto-tune. People did not anticipate the lyrics to be about love, heartbreak (it's in the album title c'mon), or just emotions in general. People did not anticipate Kanye to call this hip-hop. But you have to understand why he did this. Kanye West is a lot of things, some of those things I don't exactly like. Yet you have to agree that one of those things is that he is a musical genius. T-Pain started to breakout with this new style of singing and Kanye was going through tough times and was in dire need of release. Put the two together and you got one of his most influential albums of his career.
The auto-tune and the electro-pop beats were the initial issues with the hip-hop scene back then because you just don't do that in hip-hop. It was weird, it was different. I think it was what the rap world needed, something fresh. I mean listen to Childish Gambino's Because of the Internet or Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap. If Kanye didn't make space for beats like this back in 2008, those two albums wouldn't be as appreciated as they are now.
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Then the biggest problem and the main feature that makes 808s & Heartbreak stand out are the lyrics. Kanye did not put any sugar coating on his pain and just said it.
What I had to do, had to run from you
I'm in love with you, but the vibe is wrong
And that haunted me, all the way home
- from Love Lockdown
But Kanye has moved on from this sound to a grungier one. That doesn't mean there aren't any rappers who are sensitive anymore. J. Cole has lately been making a name for himself with his new album 2014 Forrest Hills Drive. It's a homage to his childhood, the title being the address of his old home in North Carolina. With this album he says in an interview, "For the past four-five years of my career, I’ve always been very politically correct, riding that line. But at the end of the day, I realize I’m doing myself a disservice and I’m doing people a disservice because I could say one thing. If I’m speaking my mind and saying how I truly feel, I might say one thing that connects the dots for somebody, that might have been the right connection that was needed."
And say things he does. Below are lyrics from his song Wet Dreamz,
I wrote back and said "of course I had sex before"
Knowing I was frontin'
I said I was like a pro baby
Knowing I was stuntin'
But if I told the truth I knew I'd get played out son
Hadn't been in pussy since the day I came out one
There is fear in his verses and it's one of the realest things I have ever heard about life or about growing up. He says a lot of other things in his album that came from events that actually happened in his life, painful events.
Pick your poison tell me what you doing
Everybody gon' respect the shooter
But the one in front of the gun lives forever
And I been hustling all day, this a way, that a way
Through canals and alleyways, just to say
Money trees is the perfect place for shade and that's just how I feel
Where Kendrick grew up in the dangerous city of Compton, California. A little like J. Cole, he retells his past in the most poetic verses he can think of.