This week, rapper DMX, who lost both his wife and career to drugs, infidelity and alcohol, admitted on the reality show “Couples Therapy” that part of the reason for his dysfunction was the abuse he took from his mother who he said never loved him. On a new “Behind the Music” the usually private Nas talked about his mother’s death and his difficult divorce from Kelis. On “Love and Hip-Hop” Harlem rapper Jim Jones, never known until then for his soft side, admitted he loves his now fiancée Chrissy Lumpkin. Jay-Z’s most recently charting single was an ode to his then 2-day-old baby girl, Blue Ivy.
Now that rappers are getting older, are they becoming more sensitive? It seems so. And even the younger crew seems to be a little more introspective and nuanced in their music and lyrics. Drake and J.Cole are two of the younger rap stars achieving recent success in a genre that still has its hardcore rappers but has made room for a more balanced artist. As rap is still dominated by young black males, it’s interesting that the kind of music that they make is changing. Does this mean that black men are hoping to reveal more of themselves so that they can be better understood by the world? We’d hope so.
Rapper Common has certainly made a unique mark on the music world. Although all of his records haven’t been as “conscious” as others, he’s long been known for making music that is thoughtful. His “Retrospect for Life” (with Lauryn Hill) dealt with a man’s feelings about abortion, and songs like “The Light” and “Come Close” are odes to the beauty and desirability of black women.
But it was Common’s memoir “One Day It Will All Makes Sense” released last summer, that gave his fans more insight into the mindset of a young black man growing up in the hip-hop generation. In the book, Common allowed his mother, Dr. Mahalia Ann Hines, to add commentary and give her tips on raising a black man. (Common’s parents divorced when he was 6, but his father has remained in his life.) In the memoir, Common talks openly about his relationships, including ones with Taraji P. Henson, Erykah Badu and Serena Williams, his love for his mother and daughter, and his sometimes difficult relationship with his father. He expresses how vulnerable love has made him feel and the challenges and triumphs he’s faced in the industry. It may be one of the most honest hip-hop memoirs ever written. Anyone interested in the development of black men should check it out; mothers of sons, especially.
Yes, there’s more sensitivity in hip-hop. If you’re interested in finding some alternate voices to the Rick Rosses, Li’l Waynes and Wacka Flocka Flames of the world, then you can check out music by Drake, Roc Nation signing J.Cole, and even Wiz Khalifa, who had no problem putting a ring on girlfriend Amber Rose’s finger and publicly professing his love for her. Or you can read Common’s book and gain some understanding not just on what it’s like to create a rap career but what it’s like to create a man. We’re very often critical of rap and the young people who create and consume it. But if we can applaud the rap artists who are revealing more of their emotions in the same way we applaud them in clubs and in arenas, then maybe we’ll create more of them. We need black men to show their softer sides because only then can we give them the love and support they are asking us for.
And that can only improve not just rap music but our relationships and our lives.