If you had told me a couple of years ago I would be listening to rap music, I would have told you you were crazy. Rap was okay, but it wasn’t music, was it?
That was before Hamilton (which at least one of my sons thinks isn’t really rap). (It was Broadway, so it didn’t really count for him.) More to the point, that was before the Hamilton Mixtape. The Red-Headed Menace was poo-pooing it — until I said that Nas was on it, and Wiz Khalifa, as well as a number of other rappers he deemed “legit.”
The show and the Mixtape break down the oddest barriers. Otherwise, I would never have sat in a San Francisco theater, waiting for the curtain to go up, talking to a white suburban woman my age about… Kendrick Lamar’s latest album, and whether it was better than To Pimp a Butterfly. And leaving me with a feeling that I was missing a lot — mainly other people’s experiences — by not listening to more rap.
Much more than the play itself, some of the songs on the Mixtape speak truth to power. It gives us messages we desperately need to hear.
I like a lot of the non-rap numbers on the Mixtape (Usher’s “Wait For It,” Alicia Keyes “That Would be Enough,” and the absolutely devastating “It’s Quiet Uptown” by Kelly Clarkson.) But my favorite song — as I mentioned in the previous post — is “Immigrants Get the Job Done,” by K’naan, Snow, Tha Product, Riz MC & Residente. The song names what is worst in this country — and by us, I mean white, xenophobic America, willing to look the other way as “Immigrant becomes a bad word.” And yet, in the song’s righteous anger, I find hope: “America’s ghostwriters” do get the job done, and the rest of us may yet come to realize that opening our arms to people coming to our shores and over our borders will make us stronger.
Rap music — like other music — has the potential for power. It can open eyes and change minds. I need to listen to more of it.