“If rap is an art, it’s an old art and it’s old-fashioned,” he says. “The old-style movement did things that were hard and fast and were not influenced by what was popular. Rap was about getting your ideas out without any boundaries. It was like the old-school, free-wheeling, free-associating, punk-rock movement.
“And I’ve got to tell you, that’s still true today. You still hear people do what they did a year ago when the whole notion of being an artist was very new on the scene.
“So I think that it’s an art form. I think it’s a form of expression that is more than just a performance, a music, a rap, a show. I think it’s more like a literary form or a poem or art. So if you want to call it anything, it’s an art form.”
So rap is an art?
“Well, a lot of the critics who say that are talking about hip-hop, not rap,” Mr. Green says. “Raps can be art. Not everybody in the world likes hip-hop. I don’t have a problem with anybody loving hip-hop – to the extent that they’re inspired by it. That’s perfectly fine. But if they don’t like the sound of it, that’s fine.”
A different sort of art
This is different from saying that rap music is art. This isn’t to say that music can’t be art. Music and lyrics are inextricably linked, as is life. And so the question is, how do such things differ? How do rap songs stand in the same relation to music as a whole?
There aren’t any easy answers. It isn’t easy to say that art can’t be music, and therefore that rap is an artform, while still being a genre, and still being a form of expression that should be treated with the same respect as a symphony or an opera (the music of Mozart and Beethoven).
The challenge, for critics like Mr. Green, is to see rap, like other expression, as art. A form of expression that does not rely upon any particular music in order to achieve meaning. But the same artists can also craft rap in any number of ways. It’s not all or nothing.
The way many listeners are responding to rap at the moment does seem to suggest that
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