Is Rap a valid musical form?

This has been way more than the progression away from tubes to SS!

Believe the world of Hip Hop has been around and evolving for around 5 decades.

And for most of that time I have dismissed and avoided that world and its “music”.

So angry, offensive and abrasive. Just a bunch of rhythmic yelling.

I believe my former thread was titled “Why Rap?”.  Through that discussion and somewhat of an understanding that this must be a new art form that engages and entertains millions if not billions. That and a long standing belief that if a type of music or a particular artist attracts many, many fans there must be substance and quality there. Even if I personally don’t particularly like it there must be something there.

Rap and the Hip Hop world was always so foreign and culturally untouchable.

Then my Rap thread and several others at that time got me rethinking my perspective and I watched a video of a group of student performance musicians at Juilliard all exclaiming their fascination with a Rap artist named Kendrick Lemar and his “masterpiece” “To Pimp a Butterfly”. I bought the double LP. Trying to listen to it turned out to be difficult because of my old view of Rap and that of the world of Hip Hop. But it was also becoming clear that this was truly something of significant interest. However, I just listened to the two discs only once-with some difficulty.

Today, after several weeks, I hesitatingly pulled the album out again. And to my surprise and actually delight hearing it with fresh ears it grabbed me and would not let go. I immediately heard the brilliance of a multi faceted, and to me, all new experience in sound. Not unlike great 20th century or progressive Jazz it evolved from section to section with a plethora of fascinating, yes musical, experiences. Tonal, atonal, percussive, rhythmic, breathing combined with incredible, energetic tongue twisting strings of mostly unintelligible words. And not merely angry yelling.

Sure, a ton of F bombs but words that don’t flow over you like lovely other genres but invade the psyche and don’t let go. Not particularly pleasant but gripping and interesting in its complexity. Words delivered with such power and drive which acted as a rhythmic counterpoint. It was impossible to turn away or turn off. 
And speaking of turned off, the experience was the opposite of that. Stories of life undeniable human. Yes, driven by bitterness, anger and raw emotion. Impossible to  dismiss it as not deeply felt.

I do think “To Pimp a Butterfly” is unique. But I also believe that there must be much more in this Hip Hop world that has deep musical interest. Some time ago I heard Drake on SNL perform a song that was amazing though not really Rap. Rather an advanced and unconventional musical form. I hear similar musical threads throughout “Pimp”. I did get a CD of Drake. “Scorpion”. I also could not absorb it in my first listen. I look forward to the next, fresh listen. I did try to hear several YouTubes of some very successful Rap artists. They mostly lacked the interesting musical themes threaded through. “Pure Rap” with just the rhythmic words-not my cup of tea. But a musically valid form none the less.




What's the point of tearing down one musical genre for another?

Remember "every generation throws a hero up the pop charts"?

Rap and Hip-hop speaks to countless millions of people. Just because it does not speak so much to me personally is meaningless. 

I've definitely found some rap/hip-hop that I find very worthwhile-- Kendrick Lamar, Blood Orange, The Internet, A Tribe Called Quest, and others. These are all accomplished artists with seriously formidable musical talents that span decades.

To each his/her/there own.

I like some, but most of what I heard the dudes talking they sound like retards, du, du,du, du. Makes feel like effing myself when I hear those retards sounding dudes.

Listening to Kendrick’s “M.A.A.D City”. There are comparisons to “To Pimp a Butterfly” but it pales in comparison. So far, it just moves from one musical line to another more like other Rap. However, it does add some spoken dramatic sections.

”Butterfly” evolves the musical lines and sound effects not unlike a form of 20th century Classical. Elements of a composer like John Cage. Don’t misunderstand, Kendrick is firmly Rap but even “M.A.A.D” is even uniquely Kendrick. I enjoy the way he delivers his rap lines in an interesting rhythmic way.

But M.A.A.D., I believe, is the album which set the Billboard record of 400 weeks on the charts. Hearing it now, my opinion is that the less complex composition must be more appealing to the masses. Whereas I was held and interested in “Pimp”, not so much with “M.A.A.D”. 

@holmz - More than just ’she’ - as the saying goes, ’Blondie is a group’!

Wow, I only saw one person all this time. 😁

I guess the “They” and “them” in this case is noun-verb coherence or agreement, and not political.


As said in my OP, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a 🦋 Butterfly” is as sophisticated musically as any music I know. The musical themes evolve and develop including a brilliant rhythmic rap and sound effects that create “deep and broad emotional and intellectual content”. If you check it out keep an open mind and judge it in its entirety. I think you will find it interesting if not gripping. In my superficial and introductory dive into Rap, it is firmly in the genre yet unique.

So, over the weekend, I had a chance to listen to most of it. 

jssmith207 did a pretty good run down. 

The sax player, Kamasi Washington, and the bass player, Thundercat, are good players, and I have recordings (non rap) with them, which are quite good.

And while I can say, this album might be creatively a step up from most rap I have heard, it still has all the drawbacks of the genre I have a problem with. Simplistic song structure, unsophisticated harmonies, mediocre musicianship (even though Kamasi and Thundercat play on this album, they don't do anything their skills require), repetitive, etc. Sure, there is some real creativity here, just not in the realm of composition and musicianship. 

Sorry if this sounds insulting, but rap, even this recording, is about as musically simple as music can get. Even, with the various layering, sound effects, and overdubs, etc. 

Seriously, there are genres and subgenres of music, with ridiculously complex time signatures, complex chord progressions (and more than 3 or 4 chords per song), with very little or no repetition, with musicians that have otherworldly levels of musicianship, and they are still able to convey deep and broad levels of emotional and/or intellectual content, even with no lyrics at all. 


@holmz - No seriously, in the earlier days, the band got so tired of everybody equating 'Blondie' with Debbie that they made up buttons saying 'Blondie Is A Group'.... 

@simonmoon - good that you checked it out! But does quality, enjoyable music have to be 'musically complex' or 'sophisticated'? 

Personally, that's not what I listen to music for. I've heard way too many 'virtuosos' who do not interest me even a little but cure insomnia for me very reliably! 😁

It's hard for me to care how well or with what sophistication they play their instruments if I don't like the music they play on them. Some music I love is like that; much of it is not. Nothing against it or any other genre; I don't require music to be to my particular taste to consider it good or valid. 

@holmz - No seriously, in the earlier days, the band got so tired of everybody equating ’Blondie’ with Debbie that they made up buttons saying ’Blondie Is A Group’....

When the lead singer is a stunner, it is hard to see that there is a group…


Old boss was telling me about his first date with his wife. They were in Santa Barbara and roller blading on the sidewalk. They passed a woman and fellow going the other way, and he said he just about fell over seeing the woman.
The (now) Mrs said, “You don’t see that every day!”
And he said, “I agree.”
She then said, “In fact I have never seen a one legged guy on skate(s).”
He said that he was surprized when he turned around and “shu-nuf” the guy was on one leg.



Seems to me that criticizing hip-hop for lack of 'musical creativity' or whatever, is like criticizing a symphony because you don't like tympani - it's not the point of the music. It's about rhythm and words and the rhythm of words....

I don't understand this post.

My criticism of rap and hip-hop is for exactly the reasons you mention. There is so much more to music than rhythm and words.

Why is criticizing rap for it's main attributes not fair game? 

I criticize pop for it's simplistic chord progressions, its repetitiveness, its reliance of a simple hook, its lack of harmonic sophistication. 

And I criticize country and mainstream rock, for much he same reasons. 




good that you checked it out! But does quality, enjoyable music have to be 'musically complex' or 'sophisticated'? 

It does for me. Obviously, it doesn't have to be for everyone.

I get bored unless music meets most or all of the criteria* I like in music. And it's not like I made a conscious decision to only enjoy complex and sophisticated music. When I was younger, I just found myself listening to more and more complex and sophisticated music, and getting bored with popular, mainstream forms of music.

*my criteria is: very high level of musicianship, complexity, deep and broad levels of emotional and intellectual content, avoidance of 'hooks' and simple to sing along with melodies, avoidance of verse>chorus>bridge song structure, avoidance of receptiveness, 


maybe try the group Tool?


I am already a fan of Tool. Not as big a fan as I used to be, but I still like them.

Post removed 

[I hate Opera, Heavy Metal, Grunge Rock, Post-Romantic Classical, Bebop Jazz, etc.


WOW that’s a lot of hate. And the etc. scares me to death.

"Tip toe through the tulips" how about "I like Beer"

How could someone not like "Da Club" or "I know You Want Me", your ears would have to be broke. :-)

Hat on the floor, that’s right. As I slowly walk around the hat to the beat of the music and my faithful dog follows me. I stop! I stomp my foot, TWICE. and we slowly back around the hat to the beat of the music.. OLAY amigo..

Come on dog, time to feed the chickens..


It is, the early stuff ,when political, stories of life, banging, etc were real.

not til late 90’s when it turned to tripe.


krs-1  was cool at DePaul university speach.

long story. 

Now having listened to many Rap artists I feel I can give a more complete evaluation. In general, Rap is not made for audiophiles. Mostly, it is electronically based. Acoustic instruments are mostly absent. Surely, I have heard some pieces that are musically brilliant. However, most are rather mundane and somewhat redundant and boring. Surely, there are words that are interesting but the bulk are still angry and/or confrontational. It is sad that there seems to be so much energy of expression devoted to negative societal statements.


It is sad that there seems to be so much energy of expression devoted to negative societal statements.

Indeed and well said. It is sad that there are material negative societal circumstances.


Protest songs in the 60's, punk rock in the 70's, hip-hop in the 80's and beyond - music has always addressed negative social circumstances; it's a great way of reaching a lot of people.... 


So true that there are “material negative societal circumstances”.

So much still and so disturbing. So much so that it is the underlying theme of so much Rap. 
I always thought that Nazi Germany was not unique and that it could happen any time in the U.S. … never imagined that it could manifest so quickly and completely.

70 years ago most Germans believed that their country was made great again.

@mglik + 1 Just finished re-reading 'Rise and Fall of the Third Reich', in fact....


The similarities to today are shocking. Cult mentalities. Propaganda.Violence.

And even worse, a propaganda machine unimagined.

On the Rap side, just learned that Kendrick Lemar won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for “Damn”. For “capturing the complexity of modern African American life”.

Started to listen to it. Seems like it is even more sophisticated than “To Pimp a Butterfly”. Starts with a narrative statement in normal, non rhythmic voice and evolves from that. 

@mglik - Alas, I've been watching it all develop over the past 6 or 7 years with a sense of 'deja vu all over again'. I guess 'instructive lessons of history' can go both ways. 😕

Thanks for the tip on Kendrick's 'Damn'! 


Bought "Damn" LP from Amazon for $28. 

Listening to the YouTube now. Super interesting and musically terrific. Drama and content!

If only there was no "Us and Them".

...cause hip-hop, rap music is REAL its musical and cultural expression is based on reality and at the same time JAZZ is real and based on reality...

All Arts Matter

RIP Guru


All Arts Matter

RIP Guru

@czarivey are you referencing Guru from Gang Starr??? If yes, this would be next level on Audiogon my friend.

@toro3 , I was quoting GURU Gifted Unlimited Rhyming Universal

Guru's Jazzmatazz albums.

@czarivey you made my day then. Gang Starr was Guru and DJ Premier. Agree that Guru’s Jazzmatazz albums were solid throughout. 

It's fascinating to see how your perspective on rap and hip-hop music has evolved over time. "To Pimp a Butterfly" by Kendrick Lamar is indeed a critically acclaimed album that has pushed the boundaries of the genre and is often regarded as a masterpiece. Your description of the album's complexity, the interplay between music and lyrics, and the depth of emotion it conveys is a testament to its artistic significance.

Rap and hip-hop, like any genre of music, encompass a wide range of styles and artists, each with their own unique approach and message. It's great that you're open to exploring more of this genre to discover the depth and diversity it offers. Drake, for example, has been known for blending elements of rap, R&B, and unconventional musical forms in his work, which can be quite innovative.

As you continue to explore rap and hip-hop, you may find artists and albums that resonate with you in different ways. Some artists focus more on storytelling, social commentary, or personal experiences, while others emphasize wordplay, rhythm, and flow. It's a genre that constantly evolves and incorporates elements from various musical traditions, making it a rich and dynamic form of expression.

Your willingness to give it a chance and your recognition of the musical and emotional depth within these works are signs of an open-minded approach to music appreciation. Keep exploring, and you might discover more gems within the world of rap and hip-hop that resonate with you on a profound level. It's a genre that has touched the lives of millions and continues to be a powerful voice for self-expression and cultural commentary.

As long as this zombie thread has been revived 8 months after it's demise, I might as well post again, also.

As my previous posts have made clear, I dislike rap and hip-hop, based purely on what I perceive, musically speaking, as simplistic, lack of instrumental sophistication.

But let me make this clear. From a political point of view, as one of the only outlets African Americans, had to get their word out about how they are mistreated, I support that aspect 100%.

Also, not being knowledgeable, nor a fan of spoken word art forms, I will not judge it from that standpoint.

I would guess lots of us have read the writings and seen the footage of people from the ‘50s referring to rock n’ roll as “not a valid form of music,” “lacking in musical merit,” “lacking deep and broad emotional content,” “obscene, vulgar,” “a byproduct of societal decline,” “a contributing factor to juvenile delinquency,” “something that degrades the moral values of our youth,” etc. etc.

Do you see and hear that stuff and feel a combination of pity and delight at the unintentional hilarity of it?

Do those people sound laughably ignorant, petty, and miserable, to a comical degree?

Are you glad that your parents or grandparents were not the people captured on camera saying those things, ultimately used as documentary fodder to be laughed at and mocked by later generations for their preposterous, hateful blather?

Don’t be the 2040 documentary versions of the turds wearing crew cuts and browline glasses embarrassing themselves saying unintentionally hilarious blather like rap is “not a valid form of music…lacks musical merit…lacks deep and broad emotional content, blah, blah blah…”
thusly embarrassing yourself and your grandkids.

You sound exactly like those turds from the ‘50s.

Finally, it’s just f***ing music, man.
You either like it, or you don’t.
It’s not a sociopolitical movement, it’s not a political platform, it’s not a religion, it’s just art. A person is not some demon worthy of chastisement and slander if they don’t like it, and a person does not deserve a pat on the back if they like it, or “gave it a try.”