It occurred to me this morning, as two songs simultaneously rattled around my head, it occurred to me how differently punk and hip hop treat pre-achievement status. You know – making mistakes, being unsuccessful. It seems to me most hip-hop (and of course, I’m generalizing here – my knowledge of hip-hop is mostly surface, so I’m going on what I’ve heard on the radio and from friends) is built to glorify the time after achievement. For example:
This contrasts with many punk songs, which are focused on the time before success – the fighting, the struggle, the mistakes. For example:
(and I recommend The Overton Window by Frank White)
Punk rock is the fight song; hip-hop is the afterglow.
I think it might be easier to find a punk song speaking to how you feel at this moment rather than how you wish you were feeling. As I recall, this is the reason so many people freaked out about Linkin Park after Columbine – a rock band was unapologetically screaming all the angst teenagers usually cover up.
When I listen to hip-hop, I sometimes get depressed because I haven’t yet “made it.” I’m not at the top yet. I don’t feel like I can look down at haters, or feel like I can sit back. How can a teenager relate to a millionaire rapping about his gold chains, or Nikki Minaj shitting on her haters?
Punk speaks to my anger, the fact that every day is still a struggle. I wonder if it’s changed as I’ve gotten older; do younger people need that affirmation, that understanding that they can (eventually) make it? Is it because hip-hop never minded going for the gold, where punks are embarrassed by success? Or does “making it” become the end all be all, forgetting that our struggles, mistakes and trials are also important and make us who we are, even as we’re struggling?
We’ll end with 7Seconds, who said it best. We walk together – why can’t we rock together.