I'm sure you read the title to this piece with your fingers hovering over your keyboard, ready to call me an idiot. If you make music, I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt some type of way about me disregarding lyrics, especially in rap. Just keep reading and you’ll see the point I’m trying to make.
Why do we listen to music? To turn up, to help us get through our day-to-day problems, to have something to listen to while we’re driving… the list can go on and on. Above all else, we listen to music, whatever genre it may be because it appeases us sonically, no matter the setting or situation. This can be accomplished regardless of the quality, or even existence, of lyrics in a song.
If we go way back, like really far back, before our parents were born and beyond, music's focus was on the composition and quality in which various instruments came together to make one sound in unison.
I won’t even get into boring shit like classical; let's just take jazz for example.
Most of jazz has no lyrics. The emphasis on lyrics in jazz was minimal even when it was the most popular music of its time. It is just sonically appealing, making up the majority of samples used in hip-hop production, its sound lacing rap songs since the genre's inception. Jazz's influence is found in a lot of hip-hop, and I'm talking about, arguably, some of the greatest music, artistically and expressively speaking, of all time. This influence isn’t necessarily in music from the likes of Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert or 21 Savage aka 2016 rap, but I promise if you listen to more conventional rap you’ll hear it.
So basically, let's not act like I’m inventing some new concept here. Lyrics have been on the back burner for sonically pleasing music for a while now. Lyrics are not the reason you dance or screw up your face or involuntarily nod when you hear a new song. So why should it be the foundation of what people consider good music?
I’m well aware of the artistry that comes with lyrics and good word play. Im also aware of the importance of lyrics politically and socially in rap. Lyricism has been around way before Nas, Eminem or any other 90’s rapper came around, in poetry and story telling. There's no other feeling like hearing a tough bar that makes you pause and rewind the song. (If you have to go on Rap Genius you’re a dweeb.) Don't take this as me trying to eliminate lyrics by any means.
What I’m getting at, is, that you don’t NEED to be “lyrical” in order to make good music. You don’t NEED to listen to lyrical music in order to have good taste in music. It is only a component of music, it does not make or break a song in every instance.
So, you Kendrick Lamar fans, stop calling fans of trap music "stupid". Fans of trap music, stop calling fans of Kendrick Lamar "boring". Good music encompasses a variety of sounds. There isn't a blueprint to follow to determine what good music is and lyricism isn't the end all, be all of this standard.
Chief Keef and J. Cole can both make good music in their own right, with or without lyricism… well, not J. Cole, but that’s a different topic for a different post.