11 Questions Hip-Hop Fans Have to Deal With All the Time


For some of the most popular mainstream music in America, hip-hop is shockingly misunderstood. It suffers rampant blanket criticism from pretty important people — people like the president of the United States, who dismisses a lot of the music for being "misogynistic and materialistic."

So often hip-hop fans, when faced with their elders, are put in the position either of having to argue in favor of misogyny or defend an entire musical genre. Here are the 11 questions you get asked all the time if you're a fan and how to handle them:

1. How do you stomach all the homophobia?

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It's difficult. There have been a lot of "f-bombs" thrown around in the history of rap, but the good news is the frequency of their use is decreasing.

Maco L. Faniel, author of the book Hip Hop in Houstonattributes hip-hop's complex attitudes toward the LGBT community to its origin in the idea that a disenfranchised man's performance of masculinity is all that's left to him.

However, that's not an excuse. And as society has become much more accepting of homosexuality since hip-hop's conception, a hip-hop homophobe is now largely seen as out of touch.

Until the tides fully turn, though, the best way to reconcile it is just to throw on some Le1f, an up-and-coming gay rapper from Brooklyn, or watch T-Pain's tirade slamming homophobia in hip-hop, and look forward to the future, when hip-hop hopefully becomes the all-encompassing, freedom-fighting genre it has always striven to be.

2. But what about the misogyny?

Just because you like hip-hop doesn't mean you're a misogynist. Though the word "bitch" is being used more frequently than ever in hip-hop, the genre's gender politics are definitely heading in the right direction. The word is being used more often in contexts that are empowering to women: Nicki Minaj, Angel Haze and other female rappers have started working to reappropriate the word, dubbing themselves "bad bitches" as a way to claim agency from a word originally intended to demean.

Actually, up-and-coming female rappers are reappropriating the word "bitch" just as N.W.A. reappropriated 'nigga' in the early '90s.

3. And what about the swearing?

Critics of rap music have taken issue with its profanity for years. Rev. Al Sharpton led a highly publicized protest against profanity in rap in 2007 called the "March for Decency," declaring: "I think it is important that we make a strong appeal as consumers to demand standards that will not offend us or dehumanize us based on race, gender or any other category."

Jay-Z probably had the best answer to these accusations on his track "Say Hello," which was significantly more fun to listen to:

"And if Al Sharpton is speaking for me,

4. You don't come from the streets, how can you relate?

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One doesn't have to deal drugs to appreciate the motivating qualities of gangsta narratives: We all struggle to overcome adversity in our occupations. Entrepreneurs could learn a lot of lessons from Jay-Z's music, and numerous professionals have written essays on the inspiration they draw from rap music. 

So, yes, you can love hip-hop even if you didn't grow up poor — it's about the story and the values, not about the literal circumstances.

5. Are there any rappers who don’t smoke weed?


There are a whole bunch of rappers who don't smoke or who have quit. It only seems like the whole genre is high all the time because those who do smoke are so vocal about their habits.

Kendrick Lamar, perhaps the most important rapper in the game right now, does not indulge. The way Kendrick describes his first experience smoking weed sounds like it comes straight from Reefer Madness-style propaganda. On the track "m.a.a.d. city": "And they wonder why I don't smoke now / Imagine if your first blunt had you foaming at the mouth."

But lo and behold, the man still manages to be extremely creative, edgy and well-respected without weed lyrics and smoking songs.  I guess there's more to rap than that.

6. Which rapper has the best ad-lib noise?

Everybody knows that crazy sound Kanye makes all the time on Yeezus. Turns out every rapper has one of those. At their best, they perfectly exemplify the personalities of the rappers that spit them. Observe:

Pusha-T's "Yyugh" reflects his venomous disdain for the social ailments he catalogues in "Nostalgia."

Schoolboy Q's "Yawk!" is at once intense, threatening and somewhat comical (see: "Los Awesome").

Chance The Rapper's "Igh!" adds that unique, fun bounce that makes his music so infectious.

7. What do you think of Macklemore?

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Even the hippest of hip-hop heads can't deny that Macklemore is talented. There are a lot of rappers who have tremendous respect for the dude, among them Schoolboy Q, Royce da 9'5" and Kanye West. Mackemore will definitely have a tremendous influence in determining the shape of mainstream hip-hop for years to come.

Macklemore's work to include other marginalized groups, including LGBT people and independent artists, is a big deal. But the tremendous success of his entirely self-released The Heist will likely also push hip-hop toward becoming more pop-centric, which is a good or bad thing depending on the kind of music you like. A lot that makes hip-hop culture sonically unique would be lost if rappers began to concern themselves with making sure their music is poppy first and foremost, Macklemore-style. 

8. Why do rappers rap about cars, clothes and jewels all the time?

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Yet again, Jay-Z provided a perfect response to this question in the first verse of "99 Problems":

"Rap critics that say he's Money, Cash, Hoes

The cars, clothes and jewels are only representations of success meant to inspire hope in the less fortunate. A lot of rappers have definitely abused the significance of these symbols, but they're meant to be aspirational, not shallow and unattainable.

9. Are any of these rappers as rich as they say they are?

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There's an oddly high number of young rappers with only one or two albums under their belt who nevertheless appear in their videos chillin' in mansions.

For the most part, this is show. For example, 25-year-old A$AP Ferg looks really out of place bouncing around that mansion in the "Shabba" video.

Some rappers really are that rich though. According to Forbes' Cash Kings 2013 list, P. Diddy is the richest rapper, and he hardly even raps these days. He rakes in most of his dough off the success Ciroc vodka. Profit margins are all about diversifying and merchandising. Take it from Wu-Tang Financial.

10. What is "swag"?

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Knee-jerk answer: If you don't know, you don't got it.


11. Who are your top 5 MCs?

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A good hip-hop head doesn’t touch questions like that. That's reserved for hip-hop forum dwellers and YouTube comment section folk. The variety, competition and collaboration between rappers is what makes the genre great, not the individual MCs.

I will say this, though: Wu-Tang forever.