will's insanity

The Ramblings of a Mad Man

Month: October, 2015

Identify

In today’s lesson, which is another graded assignment (yeah, yeah, get over yourself), we are gonna talk about why rap, specifically gangster rap, is really not my cup of tea. In fact you could even say that I really don’t like it at all. Now, I will completely preface this with the fact that I don’t really know a whole lot about the genre, but the loose research and things of that nature hopefully there might be a little understanding, but it will mostly be personal opinion. Like me, hate me, I really don’t care. Anywho, onto the show.

So what’s bringing this up is actually a conversation that we had in the class about the rap group N.W.A., and I tried (and failed to some extent) to argue about what I didn’t like about rap. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t allowed to listen to rap as a kid, but I never had the exposure and experience with rap as others did. It really wasn’t a genre that I was interested in, even after the ban on the music had lifted. I didn’t enjoy the beat, I didn’t enjoy the speaking style, but I think overall I didn’t enjoy or even like the lyrical content, and that’s really the main point of this post. Why I don’t enjoy rap because of the lyrical content.

Now I know I was born with a certain “head start” if you will, being a middle class, straight, white male. However, with my dad being Navy, I moved like crazy, so my childhood was not the standard in the united states (third culture kids FTW). Classic rock and classic bluegrass was my music drug of choice because it’s what my family listened to, and I enjoyed it. When, however, friends wold play rap for me, the brassiness of the lyrics just threw me off. When you have lyrics from something like KISS that have innuendos (see “Black Diamond”) rather than direct statements of rap artists (see N.W.A. “I Ain’t Tha 1”). with something that direct from a person, it was a bit of a culture shock. And being cultured shocked is hard for me to be, having moved around a lot. I guess that just shows that the biggest shock of all can come from your own country.

Another point that I would like to bring up is the topic of relatabillity. From what little I know about song writing, it is generally hoped that  a song writer writes about what they know and their personal experiences, or of how they overcame certain situations. A lot of modern rock songs deal with being inadequate, depression, love and loss, and even some more political topics such as war and homelessness. Having a dad in the military, having had feelings of loss and inadequacy, I can identify with those. Some of the lyrics are definitely more direct than others, such as The Color Morale’s “Suicide;Stigma”, talking about the taboo surrounding those things, or Five Finger Death Punch and “Wrong Side of Heaven” talking about the mistreatment of veterans in the military when they get home. These songs I can identify with. However, I can’t identify with lyrics dealing with the drug industry, living in the ghetto, being shot at, and all of the themes that perpatrate the gangsta rap industry. They sometimes tell extremely interesting stories of growing up and their experiences there, but I can’t relate with something like that. There’s no common identity there for me to latch onto. Even looking at the little rap that I do listen to deals more with a personal internal struggle (Watsky ft. Kate Nash “Hey Asshole”) than anything else.

So yeah, that’s my “rant”(?) with all of this. I give credit where credit is due to lyricists and songwriters when they deserve it, even if it’s just a changing of a political area or the focus of the public, because they have far more talent than I do. I may not identify with the majority of the rap genre or even enjoy it half the time, but a talented lyricist and talented composers all have a creative get-up-and-go about them, guiding them to writing masterpieces and propelling them into history.

Just don’t expect to listen to it.

The content of the genre known as “Metalcore”

So this is an interesting post. Probably the first time a blog post has ever really been written for a class, at least for me. I’ve decided to take some of my favorite songs and analyze the content of their lyrics.

Now some people might be saying “Wait, metalcore has lyrics? I thought it was all just incomprehensible screaming!” and on the screaming part, you’d be right! Metalcore is defined as “a broad fusion genre of extreme metal and hardcore punk. The name is an amalgam of the names of the two genres, distinguished by its emphasis on breakdowns, which are slow, intense passages that are conducive to moshing.”(Wikipedia) There is usually a lot of screaming involved in this genre but it’s not incomprehensible, and depending on the type of song, there is usually a fair bit of meaning in these lyrics, and they aren’t as angst-ridden, although that seems to be a large theme.

Let’s start with the first song off of an amazing album: “Provision” by August Burns Red off of the album Rescue and Restore. Before we start, please go take a listen. it’s an amazing song, I promise it’s worth the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oaVSvi9L-M

Now that you’re back, we’re gonna be looking at the second verse. It goes a little something like this

“I am the deceiver, I’m not getting any better
I’m the thief, the whore, the murderer
It’s times like these, It’s times like these
you forget to remember who you are
The way up is down, truth is found when life throws you out
And kicks you to the curb
I’m just as much the problem as the man behind bars
He did with his business what I do in my heart
You wronged me, you crossed me, I’ll never let it ruin me
Lessons are learned deep down within my heart, in my heart
The worst men make the best stories come true
The past is a part of me
But not who I am”

These lyrics are about how the band was wronged by someone financially and they thought he was getting his just deserts. However, the singer and screamer for ABR realized that even though this man had cheated them out of a lot of money and had done them wrong, they had things just as bad going on inside of them. The Christian influence on the band is extremely obvious here when he talks about what he has done wrong in his heart. He uses these lyrics to show that even though he has done wrong, he forgives himself and is forgiven by God. But now, we are going to make an extreme tonal shift in lyrical content. We are now going to go to the amazing world of Atreyu.

Probably my favorite band of all time, Atreyu is back with an amazing album, called Long Live. Musically and lyrically it has really come into it’s own after the band has returned from a four year long hiatus. One of my favorite songs off of the album is the song “Do You Know Who You Are?” take a listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADSAww_42eY 

“It’s the end of the world and nobody cares
We got problems of our own
So nobody stares at themselves in the mirror anymore
A good hard look can shake you to the core, so,”

These are the lyrics that hit you when you first start the song. Alex Varkas, lead screamer for Atreyu has stated in his commentary for this song that it is about how “a lot of people need to look in the mirror and see if they’re doing something to make society better or even just help the small world around them… Or are you just a self-serving son of a bitch and a part of the problem.” Again, another song, albeit a little more straightforward with this idea of reflection and change. This song really gets you to question if you are doing things for the betterment of humanity as a whole or if you’re living on your own.

Honestly and truly, there seem to be a lot of lyrics about change rather than angst or self loathing. Suicide;Stigma by The Color Morale:

“When I speak such a word,
Are you uneasy with how it’s heard?
The stigma will never leave
Unless all of us can just start talking.”

Throne by Bring Me The Horizon:

“So you can throw me to the wolves
Tomorrow I will come back
Leader of the whole pack
Beat me black and blue
Every wound will shape me
Every scar will build my throne”

Again, change and continued improvement are the halmarks of this genre lyrically. Yes the screaming is there, yes it’s not for everyone’s taste, but the thing you have to admit is that lyrically, it’s better than the number one song right now “The Hills” by The Weekend:

I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me, babe

Something to ponder the next time something hits number one.