Many old-school hip-hop purists like to attack the message, creativity and lyricism of modern rap.
Although the genre’s radio prevalence has shifted towards favoring creative production and catchy hooks over lyrical hip-hop, it hasn’t meant a decline in lyrical, story driven rap. This is the golden age of music where we have more music available to us in seconds via the internet than our ancestors could have even dreamed of. Additionally, for artists, creating and sharing music is easier than ever, resulting in more music being made than ever, including an abundance of lyric driven rap.
Here are some of my favorite lyric focused rap songs that have been recently released:
Georgia – Kevin Abstract
Abstract, a founding member of Brockhampton, frequently addresses his homosexuality through his music, but this song specifically focuses on his struggles growing up gay in Georgia, as well as his transition to stardom. It’s introspective and raw, even for Abstract, who hasn’t been shy about addressing personal issues in Brockhampton’s music or as a solo artist.
Favorite lyric: “I often question, I often wonder, If I told this class I like the n—- that’s sittin’ in the back, how bad would they make me suffer?”
State of the Union – Jim Jones ft. Rick Ross and Marc Scibilia
Jim Jones may be best known for “We Fly High (Ballin’),” but he transcends that with some thoughtful insight on his political beliefs on State of the Union. Jones touches on Trump, the wall, legalizing marijuana and more. It’s still braggadocius, it still has stereotypical hip-hop elements — violent lyrics and lyrics about drug dealing from both Jones and Ross — but the social commentary is the best part of the song.
Favorite lyric: “You could build a wall as tall as the sky (to the moon), we all know the coke’s still gonna fall from the sky.”
Follow God – Kanye West
Kanye made his transition into gospel music with his “JESUS IS KING” album, which is beautiful and masterfully produced. While the complexity of the album doesn’t necessarily come from the lyrics, songs like Follow God, which uses Kanye’s own relationship with his father to address a larger issue of Christian hypocrisy, provide social commentary and criticism on an album dedicated to praising Jesus.
Favorite lyric: “Screamin’ at my dad and he told me it ain’t Christ like, but nobody never tell you when you’re bein’ like Christ.”
Middle Child – J. Cole
It’s hard to narrow this down to one J. Cole song, and while Middle Child isn’t J. Cole’s most raw, socially critical or even best lyrical work, it’s one of the newest additions to nearly a decade of music he has released with strong messages. J. Cole addresses the cycle of jail, taking care of his friends and family after reaching stardom, as well as his place within hip-hop throughout the song, all while keeping the song commercially attractive to a variety of listeners with a catchy hook and instrumental.
Favorite lyric: “I wish that he had more guidance for real. Too many n—– in cycle of jail, spendin’ they birthdays inside of cell.”