Rap: Modern Day Philosophy?
Is Wale the modern day Socrates? Maybe not entirely. However the up and coming rapper holds similar beliefs to the Socratic assertion that the unexamined life is not worth living. This is most easily identifiable in his freestyle “Aston Martin Music” in which he raps about his lifestyle that he has worked for and is grateful for. Perhaps the most telling line of the song comes in Wale’s first verse in which he sings, “life without dreamin’ is a life without meanin’.” It is easy to listen to a song and enjoy it without catching its message, but when examined one can see that Wale is actually delivering a philosophical message. In fact the introduction of the same song opens with more, similar thoughts:
In life, I think our aspirations should guide us
Even if there’s thing we could never provide or
Be beside, Lord, just give the right to desire or admire such
The finer things you know
To dream is to live life’s full potential
So whatever I’m into, I get it in too.
Through the rap industry Wale, and other rappers, are able to spread their beliefs. It is incredibly difficult for the average person to legitimately get a message out to the people, however artists who want to spread a message are able to use their musical and lyrical talents to gain a nation wide, or even worldwide audience whom will listen.
Another artist who portrays a message in his lyrics is Trey Songz. On his newest mixtape Trey sings his “Triggamix” version of “Runaway.” The message he portrays is that life is to be appreciated, whether someone is a multimillionaire rapper living a lavish life like he is, or an average person with an “average” life. He sings:
Momma said there will be better days
But when better days came
I knew there were better thangs
I hated me, you telling me this is everything
Now quit playing man where’s everything?
The women are amazing, the liquors always tasteful, the party off the chain
But emptiness remains,
Tell me where’s the love that I’m missing?
From every day kitchen, or a girl thats really down cause I know she’s been around
I feel like something wrong, but everything’s right
Hand quotes in the air read left right
I ain’t trying to b-tch I’m living the blessed life
Would I trade it in? Motherf-cker, yeah right.
Trey tries to bring people to the realization that not everything is positive about his life. He is missing out on a home in which he can return to at the end of the day to a loving family. Trey’s philosophical message is that the average person has things that they take for granted. That, yes, being famous is great, but so is living a “normal” life. This song will be listened to by millions of people, as will Trey’s message. Again, because he has gained an audience through his talents, Trey is able to spread his thoughts. In fact, Trey actually compares himself to Socrates at the end of the song, saying that people listen to him speak the truth.
Wale and Trey Songz are just two of many examples of rappers who use their songs to portray a philosophical message. Others, such as Lupe Fiasco and the ever colorful Kanye West are two others who like to speak their minds and ideas in their lyrics. Will rappers be known as the philosophers of our time? Who knows. Like many they have a message, but unlike many they have an audience who will always listen.