I love music. There is so much beauty and culture to be found in varying genres of music. Of course, we all have different tastes. I personally am quite partial to what is commonly known as “Indie” music. Artists like Lighthouse and the Whaler, Young the Giant, and Chet Faker dominate a large portion of my car time. I have friends who are more partial to country music, favoring relatable lyrics and catchy melodies. My own brother enjoys the incredibly rhythmic properties of rap and hip-hop. Even within these categories, there are thousands of sub-categories with tens of thousands of artists all with varying degrees of fandom. These fans swear by their taste in music and often belittle those who like anything else. Why is that?
I had a friend in high school who grew up in a very musical family. His mother and sister are both very talented singers and his father composed and recorded music for years. He played in concert band for much of his schooling and is an insanely good drummer. He has a rich background in music, but would often swear that rap and hip-hop do not qualify as music. This style was foreign to him. He did not enjoy it and did not see how it pushed forward music as an art form. It had no relevance to his culture, so he disregarded it.
Music has the unique property of being a sort of second language for a subculture. Rap and Hip-Hop are commonly tied to urban areas and lower-income upbringings. Country music is often played in the Midwest and South. This music provides us with an easy way to relate to each other and to interact on an emotional level with strangers. It can provoke a vast array of emotions from sadness and anger to affection and joy. I hear it often said that artists are influencing youth culture, but I would propose the exact opposite is true. Popular music is a reflection of the culture that produces it.
My friend grew up in a middle-class household surrounded by classical music. Rap was simply not relatable to him. However, my hope is that as he grew up, he recognized that what is often being rapped about in these songs is actually an amazing window into a different culture. Music is an incredibly easy, accessible way to learn about other cultures. I believe that, given the proper exposure, it could be one the most unifying tools our generation has to offer.