Mask Off: The Necessity of Conscious Hip Hop in Millennial Culture.

Mask Off Remix Song Art:

Before I continue with this article, there are a few things that I would like to clear up:

  1. I do not go out of my way to listen to trap music, but I don’t mind it.
  2. I don’t really like the subject matter in most trap songs.
  3. I can’t get over the mumbling.
  4. I absolutely loathe the fact that I can’t hear what the fuck these guys are saying and;
  5. Mask Off is now officially Kendrick Lamar’s song.

Modern Trap music is what happens when we all (collectively as a generation) stop caring about the lyrics on a song. We’d rather only focus on the dope beat and the catchy hook. Trap lacks depth, glamorizes social ills and lacks the skill and mastery of rap in it’s simplest form — bars.

With that out the way, I can now continue.

Mask Off is a hit. Metro Boomin’ samples Tommy Butler’s Prison Song, adds some snares, hi-hats and many other instruments and the outcome is a sonic masterpiece.

I do have an issue though..

I just can’t overlook the fact that Prison Song is an immensely powerful tune about the incarceration of black men in racist America, protecting black women, and what I interpret to be forgiveness. So it does somehow feel awkward knowing that such a song was reduced to drug-trafficking, gangsterism and misogyny. This is the type of music that has come to define us as the millennial generation. For those who don’t know the term, “Millennial” refers a group of people born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s.

I know, it is a really old debate, but I just don’t understand why we’re fine with it. In-fact, we are so fine with it, this music dominates our mainstream media. This is why it is so dope to have people who are trying to change the narrative, but we must reciprocate by allowing them the space to give us their art. This a huge contributing factor for why I’m prematurely giving Kendrick feature verse of the year.

Hot off the release of his critically acclaimed 4th studio album, DAMN., the Compton rapper was at least audible. The move came completely unexpected because who the fuck still makes remixes? It’s 2017. Moreover, even though the duo have collaborated before, they are now in two clearly different lanes. Also, I was not at Coachella so I had no idea the song existed until I heard it last night.

This remix is refreshing though. On his verse, K.Dot sticks to the flow that emanated throughout DAMN. The verse could slide seamlessly into the project, as he talks about the fact that he is now Greatest Of All Time (GOAT), remained conscious, stayed true to himself, and most importantly, has achieved an unprecedented amount of commercial success in the process. He sings, he raps and there are bars. Plenty.

(Please note: I shall not get into the mechanics of Kendrick’s verse because I am not RapGenius and I will address the perceived chauvinism on HUMBLE. in a later post.)

In any case, the point is this, conscious Hip Hop changes the narrative and this means that rap can also be a positive and educational tool. We need to stop with the misogyny. Rap did not come into fruition so men could use it as another platform to degrade and demean women. We need to foster positive images for future generations and most importantly, allow a space for these artists to exercise social responsibility. For a generation tauted as “less religious” than others before us, the very least we can do is understand that Hip Hop is sacred and conscious Hip Hop is being in conversation with God.

Simphiwe Nhlabathi

  • Freelance Writer
  • @SimphiweNhlabZA on Twitter and Medium.