So the other day, I was scrolling through my timeline and came across a tweet commenting on some of the trendier rappers in hip hop right now. The tweet, which I’ll paraphrase, said that people who listen to rappers like Kodak Black, Migos, Young Thug, Future, Fetty Wap, and Lil Yachty are people who subsequently have low IQs. This isn’t exactly an unfamiliar comment that can be found online. I’ve seen tweets before that have told me that I’m stupid for listening to more Fetty Wap songs than Tupac songs in the past year. I’m not a real hip hop fan, apparently. There are a couple points I want to get to about these sorts of popular, conformist opinions.
First of all, the digital era and internet presence of hip hop has made the genre as inclusive a community as I’ve ever seen it. Chance the Rapper made Free (Based Freestyles Mixtape) with Lil B. Mac Miller has a song with Chief Keef on his last album, GO:OD AM. Andre 3000 dropped a lengthy verse on “Sixteen,” a song off of Rick Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t. What haven’t 2 Chainz and Thugger not been featured on this decade? Rappers with completely different styles and interpretations of hip hop are frequently working together these days. Your favorite, thoughtful, wordy rapper could put out a song with your least favorite, struggle-bar spitting rapper. It’s only a matter of time before it happens (unless it already has).
So if a rapper like Danny Brown wants to hop on the remix for SD’s “New World Order” (as he did), does that mean that Danny Brown has a low IQ? Or even, does SD have a low IQ for rapping repetitive and simplistic lyrics in a sub-genre of rap (drill) that almost depends on recycling lyrics/themes? The answer to both questions is no. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if someone’s favorite rapper is Kodak Black or Kendrick Lamar—it doesn’t in any way reflect someone’s intelligence.
Now, I can’t really speak on the actual IQ numbers of the people I know, but I can say with confidence that I know a lot of very intelligent people who like rappers who aren’t considered lyrical rappers. My sister, who does have a gifted-level IQ, has become a big Future fan. One of my college roommates frequently listens to Migos, and he will be attending law school next fall. My girlfriend, who is an award-winning writer, and who could run laps around most people with her expert grasp of language, gets hype to Flocka like none other. My favorite hip hop project of the year (if I’m not considering the force that is Death Grips’ Bottomless Pit a rap album, which I’m not) is Lil Yachty’s Lil Boat mixtape, and I just graduated from my liberal arts college with departmental honors. And I think “Minnesota (Remix),” which ironically features Quavo of Migos and Young Thug, is one of the most fun hip hop songs I’ve heard all year. People with any level of intelligence are free to like any kind of music they want to. What’s wrong with putting Kodak Black’s “SKRT” and Kendrick Lamar’s “The Art of Peer Pressure” on the same playlist?
In fact, there’s nothing wrong with liking both Kodak Black and Kendrick Lamar. Speaking of Kendrick Lamar, I have a friend who told me once that Machine Gun Kelly was a better artist than Kendrick. Sure, I cringed and adamantly disagreed, but ultimately it didn’t make a difference what I thought. It’s never cool to make someone feel bad for what they like or love, even if the music they like might be unpopular, weird, or bad to you. It’s twice as lame to post on social media how terrible certain rappers are (rappers who could care less about the opinions of fans who they aren’t trying to attract anyway) and even worse to trash the innocent fans of these rappers.
There will always be pretentiousness when it comes to any kind of art. I’m guilty of it as much as I’m sure a lot of people are. But opinions on hip hop are subjective. It’s important to be open-minded. There are so many unique sub-genres of rap that are waiting to be explored that may not rely on lyrics, poetry, or message as much as maybe the sound, vocal delivery, or overall aesthetic. There’s a reason Common isn’t ever requested at the bar. I don’t hear A Tribe Called Quest during warmups for big basketball games. How does one dance to an Immortal Technique song?
Hip hop needs guys that make music with energy. Hip hop needs rappers who allow us to tune out their words and just feel their music. Hip hop fans don’t need to feel pressured to only listen to music that is considered smart. Smart isn’t everything, and just because a song is intellectually smart, doesn’t necessarily mean it is enjoyable to listen to. People have different tastes. A person’s music taste indicates nothing conclusive about a person’s brain power. So stop hating, throw on some Lil Yachty, and don’t be afraid to like it.