Students analyze pervasive characteristics in rap lyrics

For a closer look and speculation on popular rap lyrics, a small group of enthusiasts meets on specific dates throughout October and November, known as the Cultural Lyric Conversation, to discuss these very topics. The ultimate key objective to these one-two hour meetings is to relate what popular, and non-popular rap lyrics boil down, their ties to the genres history, and conclusively what their cultural impacts are on us.

Artists the group discuss range from DJ Kool Herc, MC Busy Bee Starski and Kool Moe Dee all the way to Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and any other artist that attendees wish to bring to the table of discussion. 

“We go through songs and artists to analyze whether we listen to them because of how they sound, or because of their meaning,” said CLC host C.J. Harmon. “It’s kind of like a debate: you have to find a thesis and hold true to it. In hip-hop [and rap battles] you have to keep that style of thinking in mind.”

The group of students goes through a process to analyze either a certain hip-hop battle, or a certain artist and their style. After listening to a song all the way through, they go through a number of questions concerning a variety of issues, including: who won the battle, what kind of rhymes they used, describing their rap style, what they’re rapping about, if there’s anything positive in their lyrics and where culture comes into play.

“Competition creates innovation by creating a [need for] new styles into the game, and at that particular time hadn’t been done before,” said an attendee of the meetings, when discussion was opened up following a song by Kool Moe Dee. 

The conversation may start with the topic presented by Harmon, but can quickly and furiously takes off into a group debate when controversy brews. And despite a room with no empty chairs, the debate climaxes to a controlled chaos that does, in fact, discuss all of the topic questions presented.  

When discussion about rap battles opened up, another student commented “When you think of some old-school party rap, it differs from now-a-days where you build yourself up while tearing your opponent down, which there is nothing positive about.”  The conversation continued to conclude that rap battles created a competition, but a ”healthy competition” at that. 

“Growing up in the ghetto, it can be tough to find a way out. If you can’t make it battling on the corner, how can you make it in the industry?” Harmon said. “Hip-hop is competitive; if you say you’re number one, someone’s going to get smashed out. If you’re the nicest on the mic…that’s your opportunity and way out.”

The CLC program is sponsored by the Multicultural Center at SDSU. With three more planned meetings, the CLC meetings are free admission and open to new faces.

“We had a really good turn out the first time and hope to continue this for the remaining ones,” Harmon said.