The Sacred Arts

Reflections on Rap

This may surprise you, but I didn’t fit in the dominant culture as a young teenager.

Insert sarcastic comment *here*

At school dances – aka, social self-flagellation in the cafeteria to bad music – I didn’t know how to dance to the popular songs. I knew how to rock out.

Me at thirteen. Yes, I was freakishly tall.
Me at thirteen. Yes, I was freakishly tall.

Popular music in the mid-90’s was terrible, just to fill you in. The alternative music scene that had seemed so revolutionary in the earlier part of the decade swelled to a crescendo of icky, corporately manufactured rock, including Hanson. Yep, Hanson. Any other argument you have in favor of mid-90’s music is invalid.

But in my neck of the woods, hip-hop held supreme over all other musical forms. Maybe it was our proximity to South Central (15 miles) or Compton (12 miles), or maybe it was for no reason at all, but songs about guns and gangs played the soundtrack to my young teen years.


Rap music. I understand and appreciate this artistic genre in an intellectual way. I can understand the cultural value of this poetic form of expression. However, it does not speak to me. I don’t know how to move to it. It grates on my insides in a personal way, which I will explain shortly, but there’s also the rather extreme misogyny associated with rap culture. I hated the referrals to pimps and hoes, and I still don’t appreciate the pejorative term “bitches,” as in, “hey, look at all them bitches,” or, “my bitch better not mouth off.”

Just not my thing, the bitches and hoes.

So I was the sole misunderstood teenager pestering the DJ to play “In Bloom,” or at the very least “Black Hole Sun.” Even No Doubt would have sufficed.

Any time the DJ would take pity and acquiesce, the dance floor would empty, save for me and a handful of other rockers, to a rousing chorus of booing and “Turn this crap off!” After a minute or so, the songs from the hood would resume bumping out from the speakers, the dance floor would suddenly swell, and I’d be back holding up the wall.

Want to remember what was popular in 1995-7 suburban Los Angeles?

Bet you thought you’d never hear that one again.

I just don’t get it.

For clarification, we were not living in a gangsta’s paradise. Some of us were poor, but it was still the suburbs.

At least this one had humor value…I think.

This one has become less repulsive to me, and I can actually say it doesn’t make me want to vomit in my purse. That’s growth, people.

Hearing these songs from this genre still makes me cringe. It reminds me of gluing myself to the cafeteria wall, watching the other kids bump and gyrate to something that didn’t understand me, nor I it. I was foreign.

It would be good training for how the rest of my life would pan out.

– – –

Photo Source

Jen Kehl


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