Going into writing my research paper, I knew that many many people didn’t understand rap, nor will they ever understand it. In the beginning, I just liked hip hop/rap because of the beats and the truth in the lyrics. But the more I listened to it, the more it spoke to me. I’m a very truthful person and it’s something about the urgency in the lyrics that makes it come alive for me.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve liked hip hop. I can usually point out an artist’s voice within the first verse of the song, and if I don’t know who it is, I look it up. It’s something about motivation in hip hop that keeps me listening to it. Not only are the beats head bangin’ but the artists delivery and lyrics make the song even more fun to listen to. Hip hop, for me, is motivation. Lil Wayne’s music can motivate anyone because his delivery in so distinct in the fact that he freestyles instead of writing anything down, just like Jay-Z.

They both represent different brands of masculinity which keep their fans intrigued. Their music is motivational because they’re at the top of their industry and they’re not afraid to brag about it. The fans enjoy listening to them because they aspire to be at the top in one way or another. It doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be rappers themselves, but rather be on top of their industry, occupation, or just life. The music is also motivational because we all have haters, but hip hop artists remind us that haters are motivation. They make you strive to be better.

The main topic of my research paper is how identity is established by artists in hip hop. I studied Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Jay-Z. Eminem was actually the most fun to study, although it was odd that I was allowed to study him in an african american lit class. But Eminem isn’t just any white rapper. According to 50 Cent, “the best rapper is a white man” referring to Eminem in The Anthology of Rap by Adam Bradley and Andrew Dubois. The reason  it was so interesting to study him, though, is that Eminem is the only white male rapper who is truly anthologized and discussed in critical literature about hip hop. The reason for that is that he incorporates three different types of identity within his music (Eminem, Slim Shady, and Marshall Mathers which is his real name) and because he is the only white rapper who has truly gained the respect of black rappers. I think he created those identities so that he couldn’t be denied in the hip hop world. His angry delivery makes his identity more noticeable and more relatable to others.

Lil Wayne doesn’t appear in such critical discussions as Eminem, nor does Jay-Z, but those two cannot go ignored because they’re businessmen and artists who claim to be the best rappers alive. Their hip hop identities are very similar in that aspect. Lil Wayne has preached the “best rapper alive” statement for as long as I can recall. He even has a song called “The Best Rapper Alive”. In “Dr. Carter” from The Carter III, he takes on the persona of a doctor of hip hop who in the end saves hip hop’s life.

This is a common theme in hip hop because some say hip hop is not the same as it used to be. There will never be another 2Pac or Biggie, though. The sooner people realize that, the better. We must work with what we have now, or someone needs to work on changing it.  Hip hop has changed because times and people change every day and every year. 2Pac and Biggie really lived the beef they rapped about, and that type of beef isn’t AS popular as it was then, therefore the lyrics aren’t as deep as what 2Pac and B.I.G. had to say. The industry has changed significantly because of technology as well. Nowadays anyone can jump on a track or make a quick album, even if they have no real talent. But Jay-Z and Wayne are not THOSE artists.

Jay-Z also reps the “best rapper alive” phrase. The two men have truly taken hip hop to another level. Both business savvy and lyric savvy, they are and have been at the top of their game for the entire time they’ve been in the industry. They won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. True mentors for other artists, Wayne and Jay-Z will help other talented artists rise to the top just as they have.

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