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Rap music gets a bad rap these days.:) Some of it is because of poorly constructed puns like that last sentence in the music, but it is more likely due, in large part, to the perceived “thug” or “gangsta” image. I’m not even going to attempt going into the social causes or origins of that. All I’m going to say is that image is something that repulses many from the entire genre. It is one that often portrays women in a degrading manner, can glorify violence, and has a very self-righteous, arrogant attitude on top of it.

And it’s unfortunate this surface image is what keeps some very good music out of the minds of many people. Truly good hip-hop can be deeply expressive, socially insightful, and enlightening as well as entertaining.

There is a poetic, immediate quality to the music where the cadence and rhythm of language and words are paired with the same cadence and rhythm of music. In many ways, hip-hop appeals to me a lot strictly because of the way it can utilize and explore language through music in a way that can’t be done elsewhere. Sure, there can be some great lyrics in rock or any other type of music but your focus isn’t on them. It’s much easier to enjoy a rock song for the melody without even paying attention to the lyrics. Only in (true) hip-hop are the lyrics front and center — a song is built around the lyrics.

And skilled, talented rappers can create some of the most musically powerful and poignant stuff through that structure. Now I’ll give some examples of what I believe is some quality hip-hop. These aren’t necessarily classic, “important,” or “essential” tracks. I’m not an expert by any means, but I do enjoy what I find, and these are just a few songs that prove hip-hop isn’t all about, in the words of Jay-Z, “money, cash, hoes”:

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