The positive impact of Hip-Hop on urban culture

Loyal Ricks Jr.

As the world continues to experience change, the people inhabiting its environment are bound to change as well. The innovation of human perspective can be traced back to one of the oldest living doctrines the world has ever known. Commonly referred to as the “Bible”, this book is the home of the different perspectives of Jesus’ disciples, a perspectives that has shaped the lives of millions of people today.

These accounts have shaped the foundations of many different religions. It can be said that these stories have helped people persevere through tough times, served as a reminder of character or simply were enjoyable to engage with. Stories of struggle, perseverance and character are also told through the power of Hip-Hop.

The Beginning

When the first Hip-Hop song was released to the public, the Sugar Hill Gang had the rights to the smooth lyrics that were laid over a nice, rhythmic and funky beat. “Rappers Delight” swept the nation off of their feet as listeners everywhere could relate the to the lyrics of the song. Lyrics such as;

“Have you ever went over a friends house to eat

And the food just ain’t no good?

I mean the macaroni’s soggy, the peas are mushed

And the chicken tastes like wood

So, you try to play it off like you think you can

By saying that you’re full

And then your friend says, “mama, he’s just being polite

He ain’t finished, uh-uh, that’s bull!”


With rhymes that were easy to relate to and a funky rhythmic beat, people could not help but to move their feet to the new genre known as Hip-Hop.

It was not long before the next group of MC’s decided it was their turn to have their stories told. In 1983, a Hip-Hop group by the name of Run DMC decided to do a collaboration song with the well-known rock and roll group Aerosmith. “Walk this way” was the song of 1983 because for the first time two genres of music were able to clash together and create a new sound.

The lyrics of walk this way were sharing the story of this younger boy wanted to approach this girl and ask her to the dance. With another message that told a familiar story and a beat that Incorporated an acoustic guitar, it was sure that Hip-Hop was the new art of storytelling. Six years after Run DMC’s hit record, a new group of rappers came on the stage to tell their story that would ultimately shift the Hip-Hop culture forever.

Transition to Real Life Storytelling 

In 1989 a group called “A Tribe Called Quest” released their debut album “People’s instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm.” Similar to the funky sound that was birthed in the late 70’s and mid 80’s, A Tribe Called Quest decided to stay true to the mellow jazz sounds that kept the ear buds in tune. The groups lyrics focused on perspectives that was seen the most in the urban community just living a day to day life being African-American in America.

This was important for the culture of Hip-Hop because unlike Pop and R&B, this gave artist the ability to speak on issues that get swept under the rug so the public eye cannot see it. Conversations that were not usually broadcasted to the public were now seen for what they were.

It was not long before people all over began stating their opinions about the lyrics that were now becoming a part of music’s culture. For the first-time people were becoming familiar with the way Hip-Hop artist viewed the life they live. During the 1990’s, Hip-Hop underwent its most vivid lyrics change throughout the course of its history. References to drugs, homicides, sex and gambling could all be found in the span of a four-minute Notorious Big song. To some of the listeners, the choice of words was plain ignorance and lack of judgement. Many believed that with such a big population of listeners it was impossible for an artist to talk about something seen as so negative.

The Truth Told by Prophets

In 1994, a young rapper by the name of Nas released an album entitled “Illmatic.” On this Hip-Hop project, Nas was determined to show the world what happens in the ghettos of New York while explaining to people he is King, and he lives life as such. His lyrics involved the storytelling of the nightly shenanigans him and his friends would perform while also shedding light on giving back to the community in which he came from. In “If I Ruled the World,” Nas used word choice and an elegant flow to show the listeners his vision for the future.


“Imagine smoking weed in the streets without cops harassing’
Imagine going to court with no trial
Lifestyle cruising blue behind my waters
No welfare supporters, more conscious of the way we raise our daughters
Days are shorter, nights are colder
Feeling like life is over, these snakes strike like a cobra
The world’s hot my son got not
Evidently, it’s elementary, they want us all gone eventually
Trooping’ out of state for a plate, knowledge
If coke was cooked without the garbage we’d all have the top dollars
Imagine everybody flashing’, fashion
Designer clothes, lacing your click up with diamond vogues
Your people holding’ dough, no parole.”

The Afrocentric principles throughout the lyrics of Nas showed listeners that Hip-Hop was more of an art then just a form of music.

The Modern-Day Hip-Hop Divide

In today’s era of Hip-Hop we tend to see subsections of the genre. The mumble rap game that was introduced in the year 2014 has created its own rendition of what people believe Hip-Hop is. Artist such as Lil, Yatchy, Lil Uzi and the Migos all prefer to use their lyrics to express the message of living life and having fun while you are young.  Sound effects such as onomatopoeia and upbeat noises are usually the highlight of a mumble rap song. To some listeners who are not familiar with the foundation of the art of Hip-Hop, they might believe that this sound is the cause of so many gang related crimes, robbery’s and bad behavior. It does not help that artist that are associated with this movement do not pay respect to the artist who came before them.  Hip Hop Artist Lil Yatchy was found in a video on YouTube discrediting the career of Hip-Hop’s most feared artist, Tupac Shakur. This created a genre divide in Hip-Hop, creating the categories of mumble rap and Hip-Hop.


There are artist such as J. Cole, JID, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Smino, SchoolBoyQ, Earthgang and others who have used the teachings of the artist who have come before them to deliver a powerful message that they hope would change the perspective of a listener playing their songs. J. Cole once stated;

“Yeah, long live the idols, may they never be your rivals

Pac was like Jesus, Nas wrote the Bible

Now what you’re ’bout to hear’s a tale of glory and sin

No I.D. my mentor now let the story begin.”


What does hip-Hop provide for the urban community?


In a world where the youth can have access to almost anything just by a click of a button, it is understandable why parents would want their children staying away from negative messages. With the mind of a sponge it easy for children to fall prey to the words of any form without the proper understanding.

The misconception with the genre of Hip-Hop is that it is not seen as an art but as a conversation. In which a group of people are yelling, leaving the other side left with a choice of confusion or understanding. Dr. Eric Dyson believes that Hip-Hop has become a tool that has helped people try to understand the concept of “blackness.” “Hip-hop has globalized a conception of blackness that has had a political impact, whether or not it had a political intent,”



The genre of Hip-Hop has given individuals a platform to speak out against their troubles, whether they are external or internal. At the birth of Hip-Hop, African Americans did not have the opportunities to speak out against their living conditions, presidential elections, current living arrangements, addictions or achievements. With the platform so large and so influential now, anyone who takes the time and has the ability can move out the projects off the power of storytelling.

Nipsey Hussle is a big example of the power behind Hip-Hop music. He used his knowledge of the urban community to produce music at a great enough rate to give back to his community in California where he grew up. Although his lyrics may not have the cleanest of words, he was able to show the perspective of urban culture, make a living in a world where it is hard to do and produce job opportunities for the people around him.

The message behind Hip-Hop music is no different from a bible reference, it is a story that deserves to be told. Like the disciples who have had a turn to speak about what they have seen, artist deserve to have the platform to tell their stories as well. These stories often bring about a positive change in environments that need them badly and build hope when there is none to be found. Hip-Hop builds character provides for others A story is a story, a perception is either good or bad.


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