It’s Not Me, It’s You: Considering the Worthy Sacrifice Hip Hop Artists May Need to Make to Reclaim the Heart of Hip Hop, its People
The origins of Hip Hop evidence that the art form was intended to provide more than music to listen to, but instead offer art that delivers messages on behalf of people who were not always listened to. My thesis offers an analysis of Jay-Z and J. Cole's lyrical content and adds to an ongoing discussion of the potential Hip Hop artists have to be effective leaders for the Black community, whose lyrical content can be used to make positive change in society, and how this ability at times can be compromised by creating content that doesn't evidence this potential or undermines it. Along with this, my work highlights how some of Jay-Z and J. Cole's lyrical content exhibits their use of some rhetorical strategies and techniques used in social movements and their use of some African American rhetorical practices and strategies. In addition to this, I acknowledge and discuss points in scholarship that connect with my discussion of their lyrical content, or that aided me in proposing what they could consider for future lyrical content. I analyzed six Jay-Z songs and six J. Cole songs, including one song from their earliest released studio album and one from their most recently released studio album. I examined their lyrical content to document responses to the following questions: What issues and topics are discussed in the lyrics; Is money referenced? If so, how; Is there a message of uplift or unity?; What does the artist speak out against?; What lifestyles and habits are promoted?; What guidance is provided?; What problems are mentioned? and What solutions are offered? In my thesis, I explored Jay-Z and J. Cole's lyrical content in a deeper way than I had as a fan who believed that their lyrical content and use of their platforms as artists at times evidenced the ways they can be leaders in the Black community and shapers of society, but also evidenced how they delivered potentially counterproductive lyrical content that may benefit in them progressing in their own careers, but may not guarantee them serving as innovative problem solvers for their communities. I listened to and read the lyrics of the songs to document instances in the lyrics where the artists are potentially offering lyrical content that is helping and uplifting their community, or potentially hindering their community. My research questions are: Do the lyrics and careers of Jay-Z and J. Cole potentially suggest that you must rap about certain topics and issues or promote a certain lifestyle to be crowned the King of Hip Hop or considered an elite and successful rapper? Sub-question: What do the lyrics of artists like Jay-Z and J. Cole, who are crowned by some as the King or top M.Cs typically promote or speak out against? Guiding questions: What does it take to be crowned the King of Hip Hop? What type of lifestyle do Jay-Z and J. Cole promote and denounce in their art? What do their lyrics suggest or say about where they are from and their lifestyles? What message do their lyrics share about social issues such as poverty, health issues/disparities, race, consumerism and capitalism? What do these successful artists typically sell and promote in their lyrics to consumers of their art? When these artists decide to use their platform and the press to publicly advocate for those they identify as their audience, what is their message and perspective?
Botex, Sharieka. (April 2019). It’s Not Me, It’s You: Considering the Worthy Sacrifice Hip Hop Artists May Need to Make to Reclaim the Heart of Hip Hop, its People (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7268.)
Botex, Sharieka. It’s Not Me, It’s You: Considering the Worthy Sacrifice Hip Hop Artists May Need to Make to Reclaim the Heart of Hip Hop, its People. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, April 2019. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7268. December 04, 2023.
Botex, Sharieka, “It’s Not Me, It’s You: Considering the Worthy Sacrifice Hip Hop Artists May Need to Make to Reclaim the Heart of Hip Hop, its People” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, April 2019).
Botex, Sharieka. It’s Not Me, It’s You: Considering the Worthy Sacrifice Hip Hop Artists May Need to Make to Reclaim the Heart of Hip Hop, its People [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; April 2019.
East Carolina University