After speaking to someone who is a huge hip hop fan for guidance on conscious rappers I was lead to listen to Complexion by Kendrick Lamar and Intro and Love Yourz by J-Cole. I went on to listen to Lost Ones by J Cole and was so moved by it. Then I had an epiphany, I say I don’t listen to rap, but I have had several phases where I listened to Lecrae. After that epiphany I listened to his album Anomaly and was made to remember how much of a great lyricist he is.
But back to Lamar and Cole
I was taken aback by how much of a message there was in their music; genuinely taken aback. The awareness of human emotion and social issues and the ability to express them in such a raw and honest way is something I have always associated with spoken word primarily but to see that same thing in both Lamar and Cole’s work was amazing.
I went on to listen to Lost Ones by J-Cole, which is about unplanned pregnancy, and the intensity of the lyrics almost brought me to tears. There are very few artists who have that ability to take you on a journey with them and leave you open to feel whatever you want to about their actions.
I was upset that the man thought an abortion was a quick fix to the situation at hand but acknowledged that he felt bad about his past approach and thoughts. The most emotional part is where Cole expresses the girlfriend’s feelings about her boyfriend’s negative response towards the unplanned pregnancy. This part is so emotionally heavy and made me flinch because it was incredibly angry and filled with hurt.
Cole expresses this anger and hurt with his own voice, which is the most impactful part, as it shows that he empathised. The empathy expressed is not the diluted way we talk about empathy nowadays but it is a genuine act of ‘putting himself in her shoes’. It was like someone ripped open a gash and was mercilessly rubbing salt in it, that is how much you could feel the pain. I hope more musicians strive to express such a high degree of honesty in their work because it was so moving.
The only songs I can think that have moved me in a sort of similar way is ‘Imagine Me’ and ‘Let it Go’ by Kirk Franklin and on a more personal level ‘Sitting with me’ by Mary Mary. I would love to know how someone more closely connected to the topic felt about ‘Lost Ones’ however because if it moved me as much as it did, I can’t even begin to imagine how they would feel about it.
When asking for guidance on my conscious rap plight I asked to be only directed towards Lamar and Cole’s best songs. I was told, however, that ‘ both of them like to make their album tell a cohesive story so doing that (directing me to their ‘best’ work) would be a bit like telling you to read my favourite chapter of a novel you’ve never read’.
I found this whole analogy both beautiful and respectful of the work of the artists, and it served to change my perception of musicians and their music.
I have never ever considered an album as a body of work. Lyrics of songs, for me, have always been separate and unconnected, but the analogy urged me to think that maybe some artists work towards making their albums ‘tell a cohesive story’ or at least spread some sort of message. This has completely re-jigged my thoughts about music and musicians because I am made to think that possibly the reason I love the artists that I do is because I have subconsciously connected to whatever message or story they are telling.
WHAT A EUREKA MOMENT.
Kirk Franklin’s album Hero is my first memory of an album I purposely listened to. I received the album as a gift when I was about 8 and my favourite songs on it were ‘Looking for you’ and ‘Imagine me’. One thing I remember distinctly, however, was how the song ‘Let it go’ made me feel very uncomfortable.
After the intro ‘My momma gave me up when I was four years old She didn’t destroy my body but she killed my soul’ I would skip the song (imagine how just two verses, TWO VERSES can make your heart feel so weird)
In light of the eureka moment I recently listened to the whole album again and came to the realisation that my feeling towards the song was because of how honest it was. Franklin literally lays out his flaws and pain- which I really respect him for.
Kirk Franklin’s ‘Let it Go’ although incredibly personal to him, acknowledges and addresses that the world is full of flawed people like himself, and shows that with all your flaws you can still be accepted and have a relationship with Jesus if you want to.
The idea of looking at an album as a cohesive story is something I will always keep with me. It is amazing to see songs individually and consider their message but I am working towards listening back to some albums, looking at them as a body of work, and listening to the ‘cohesive story’ being shared.
and after all that I just have to share ‘Let it Go’ by Kirk Franklin- you can listen to it below.
How do you feel about Kirk Franklin’s ‘Let it Go’? Are there any songs that move you? Who are your favourite conscious rappers?
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