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Toxic lyricism: The Double-edged sword of hip hop

There is just something downright and undisputably captivating about a lyrically vulgar hip hop song. I mean a track so nasty with toxic lyricism that you curl up your nose and scrunch up your face while bobbin’ your head along to it.

That feeling of sheer invincibility on the track provides listeners and artists alike with a unique sense of power. Toxic lyricism reigns audiences in. But of course, it is a double-edged sword, because are these lyrics really what we want to spread to the masses and youth?

toxic lyricism
Toxic chemicals, like anything toxic, have lasting effects (pexels)

Give-and-take mechanisms

The artist feels magnificence. Catching different breath pockets, coasting upon different stanzas while feeling untouchable and of a different elk.

The fans feel elated to hear their favorite artist continue to impress by walking all over the recording in a multifaceted manner.

This is the world provided to us through a mutual trust and affinity toward established artists. For any person, it is not easy to do the same things year after year. And continue to improve and reinvent themselves. 

Yet, successful artists manage to stay current and adapt their individual sound to the changing times surrounding them. Hence, new fans jump on board and original fans continue to tap in.

Toxic lyricism goes hard, but what are the lasting impacts?

Nowadays, the problem with many hip hop artists’, deals with their derogatory and also aggressive use of toxic lyricism. 

America seemingly has a deeply rooted obsession for violence and toxic lyricism. Thus, when artists spit lines about robbery, mistreatment, or other toxic vocabulary, people tend to chalk it up for what it is – a part of the genre. 

The hip hop genre is diluted by foul language, misrepresentation, and cut-throat practices by nature. The top-tier executives are also a major reason for these toxic tropes. After all, they set the standards and decide what music sells.

Guard yourself against anything toxic in your life, and be aware of repeating lyricism that follows a toxic trend (pexels)

It is evident that violence, machismo and arrogance are three components that can bolster a hip hop artist’s credibility. Of course, actions to match words help for clout purposes.

The problem is still that many artists stand firmly on this idea that, “I actually live this life and everything I talk about is what I have done or will do.”

toxic lyricism
The World is Yours

Nobody is actually verifying whether or not these actions are carried out like they are performed within the song. The fact of the matter is, why is it important for hip hop artists to be considered reputable threats in order for them to be taken seriously as a force within their industry?

The answer is simple: records that question or pose a challenge to the status quo are not given financial backing. Thus, the music that people want to hear is actually spoonfed via carefully constructed formula and has been that way for years.

Therefore, artists perpetuate limited means of expression based upon the fact that specific lyrical criterion sells.

With the exceptions of aficionados, rap will never be taken seriously by the masses

It is difficult to improve and change the trajectory of a genre that is embedded with bloodsuckers and leeches. Hip hop is marred with animosity and desensitization. And this makes it incredibly difficult to be heard if you decide to variate from the norm. 

What is the norm? Fast cars, designer clothes, scantily-clad women, big jewels, stoicism, and also a preoccupation with violence.  

Why might violence increase the selling power of a hip hop artist? That is the easiest way to boost your stats and be seen as lyrically credible. 

Artist types 

There is something to be said for the downright disrespectful artist. The one who will say anything or take it intentionally too far as a part of their delivery style. This person does not follow any codes or rules, rather they are trying to be as blatantly disgusting as possible. 

This artist still practically uses their lyrics as a way to spit venom into your face and operates on the most competitive possible platform.

A lot of people tend to flock toward the braggadocious artist because their fortified exterior and tough talk gets us hyped. 

The artist who flaunts their content in your face only to still snatch it right back in an instant. Many people tune into artists with the slick ability to talk trash with toxic lyricism simply because they want to hear the off-the-wall sentiments that person will come up with next.

More artist types: Do they all engage in toxic lyricism?

A well-polished city-slicker that is flyer than you, has more money than you, and has also been more places than you and they know it.

Every word uttered is worth a pretty penny and they also often take a step back in the body of the song to gauge their audience’ jealousy meter? Oh you mad? I thought that you’d be happy I made it.

With the Escape Artist, hip hop creates a fantasy world where we are all allowed to exist in the slightest sense.

This artist is also often elusive in nature, does not make many public appearances, and provides his listeners with the ability to become apart of a space they normally wouldn’t receive admission to.  

Brutal Humilitarian –  A humilitarian is a humble humanitarian. Some artists are just so incredibly honest that there is nothing else you can do but respect them. No toxic lyricism here folks.

Humility is one of my favorite hip hop novelty devices because it represents honor, background, reflection and provides the closest connection between listener and speaker. 

“My pops knew exactly what he did when he made me – Tried to get a nut & he got a nut in – What!”

(Jay Z, Reasonable Doubt)

Many artists sacrifice integrity for the almighty dollar that toxic lyricism presents

Why is it that we are attracted to those who might be deviant? People are ‘fascinated’ with serial killers because it feeds some sort of innate obsession.

It all boils down to one thing: the allure of the illicit. Being a bad boy character and doing things that buck the trend provides quite the emotional appeal to hip hop consumers.

The unfortunate part about it is that many artists do not differentiate between reality and descriptive character. Many people are great hip hop artists because they draw a clear distinction between the lyrics and persona they pose in songs versus who they are in real life.

Some people struggle with drawing that line. And let dispositional attitudes taken up for commercial success blur and infiltrate the lines of their on-Earth relationships.

Aspirational endeavors

The reason why hip hop as a whole identifies with individuals like Ralph Lauren is that the genre discerns great similarities between storylines. People coming up within the commercial industry of hip hop and fashion often pursue delusions of grandeur.

These illusions may cloud the vision of some, while it makes the foresight of others absolutely crystal clear. The fact of the matter is: We all want to make it and go from humble beginnings to the upper echelon. 

Many hip hop purists will straight up tell you – there is nothing better than a grimey spitter. One who will cypher for hours, continue to piece words and sounds together and do so in the only way they know – eye for an eye.

There is no replacement for that superior confidence boost feeling that reinforces the notion of man as a conqueror. 

Technology, education, transportation, and telecommunication may all change – but one thing that will always remain the same – the nature of man.