Rap Music’s and Society: Exploring the Impact

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Updated: Sep 06, 2023
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John F. Kennedy’s Inspirational Quote and Its Musical Representation

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity,” is a quote by John F. Kennedy, and there are no better songs to stand in the musical representation of such words than “Same Love” by Macklemore and “ Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye. On the one hand, we have “Same Love,” a rap song supporting same-sex marriages that was released on July 18, 2012.

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On the other hand, “Inner City Blues” and R&B songs advocating for colored rights that were debuted on March 14, 1971.

These compositions were written by very established artists that were in search of speaking the truths of their society in their era and, in their way, created anthems for change. The history that resulted, the intense musical elements, and the striking social impact speak on the behalf that these works are inventive, formulated masterpieces all the way from their separated notes to the emotions they fueled. To start off, we have Marvin Gaye, also known as the “Prince of Jazz,” that was born on April 2,1939, in Washington D.C. He was brought up by Reverend Marvin Gay Sr., a minister in a rough neighborhood. In the search for peace, Marvin found music to be his best friend, so he concentrated on learning piano and drums. In the late 1950s, Marvin became part of a vocal group called The New Moonglows. In time, he and a band member, Fuqua, were discovered by Berry Gordy and contracted to Motown. As a beginner, he was a drummer for Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and the Vandellas until his personal hit, “ Hitch Hike,” reached the top 40 in 1962.

After this, he would show immense range with hit after hit, the biggest being, “I heard it through the grapevine.” A three-year partnership with Tammi Terrell would release the successful duets “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “If I Could Build My Whole World Round You,” but this would reach a conclusion after Tammi parishes because of a brain tumor in 1970. Marvin was so affected by this event he swore never to partner with another female singer again and even threatened to leave the stage. Yet violence and unrest over the Vietnam War brought Gaye to write the song “What’s Going On,” that after its favorable outcome, would induce the album “ What’s Going On.”

The Creation and Reception of “Inner City Blues”

This collection was full of risks both in music and politics, carving a new path of artistry for Marvin, and it included the song “Inner City Blues.” During an argument, Marvin was killed by his dad on April 1, 1984, at 44 years of age. “Inner City Blues” was composed by Marvin Gaye in collaboration with James Nyx Jr. and was one of the three top single hits of the album “What’s Going On.” In 1971, the song reached its peak on the R&B chart and No.9 place in the pop chart. If combined with the success of “What’s Going On” and “Mercy Mercy Me,” it meant that Gaye had spent nine weeks atop the charts with three singles from the album. Before the release and all these favorable outcomes, though, the whole album was believed by Berry Gordy (Motown’s CEO) to be a failure and was denied release. In the book “Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves, and Demons of Marvin Gaye” by Michael Eric Dyson, Berry admits to telling Marvin that he would ruin his career going into such deep topics when people preferred to listen to songs about love and sex. Marvin still persisted and refused to make music for Motown until at least the first single was launched, a boycott that lasted a year and a half. When finally aired out of the studio, “What’s Going On” had the result of selling 100,000 singles in one day, which left Berry baffled, opting him to release the whole album. “ Inner City Blues” on the separate accomplished becoming a protest song.

Analyzing the Musical Elements of “Inner City Blues”

An instance where this is shown is in the book “Inner City Blues” by Paula L. Woods, going over the struggles of the ghetto, where she quotes the song for support. The musical breakdown of “Inner City Blues” begins with it being introduced to us by minor chords on a piano, with triangle taps backed by a rhythm section of bongos that give the music an African inflection, glazed with a soft lingering sound of a bass guitar. Marvin Gaye then comes in at minute 0:40, transitioning from singing an instrumental part to singing very accusing lyrics such as “Money we make it before we see it you take it.” For he wanted to make the whites feel the culpability of the struggles of the dark-skinned crowd. Building on that, Marvin includes a crescendo that leads to the chorus of “Make me want to holler.” Right away, you can perceive that he emphasizes this part to show he is singing what all blacks want to shout. The pattern of enlightening stanzas followed by the strong chorus continues and forms a mood of reclamation that calls for a response.

Macklemore’s Early Life and Path to Success

Our second artist is Macklemore, who was born Ben Haggerty on June 19th, 1985, in Seattle, Washington. His mom was a social worker, which imparts encouraged her son to be open to and supportive of differences. In attendance at Garfield High School, he fell into liquor and drugs, so his parents tried to end this by making him change schools and take college credits.

The transfer brought him to Evergreen College, where he published the EP “Open Your Eyes” under the made-up name Professor Macklemore, which would become his stage name. Later, he would debut the full-length version called “My World” in 2005. Like most rappers, as he gained fame, he was consumed by drugs and sex allure, which made him downfall. Just in the wake of Macklemore reaching for soberness, he meets Ryan Lewis, a DJ, and producer. The two came together to release the “B’s Redux EP” in 2010, that, when completed in 2012, would be the album “Heist.” This album included the two recognizable hits “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t hold us” as well as “Same Love.”

“Same Love”: A Song Promoting Change and Acceptance

“Same Love” can not take the title of being the first gay song, there are plenty of many in our history, but it is the first to very openly embrace it and even promote change, not just acceptance. One thing that added a lot to this project was Macklemore had a point of including a gay singer, which would enhance the sentiment of the piece by fabricating a more personal view. This was almost done because everyone he asked was not comfortable with the role until they met with Lambert through producer Hollis-Wong. In January 2013, “Same Love” replaced “Thrift Shop” at number one on the Australia Aria Charts, making Macklemore and Lewis the third artists to replace themselves after Madonna(1985) and Black Eye Peas(2009).

On June 26th, 2013, after the ruling on two separate gay marriage dilemmas, “Same Love” subsequently reached the top 20 on Billboard Hot 100. But just like there are two sides to a coin, not everyone received the song with open arms. For instance, a Michigan Teacher by the name of Susan found herself suspended on November 2012 after letting a student listen to it in her classroom because of the “ song’s used of the words faggot and damn and its pro-gay and anti-church content.” We have “Same Love” introduced to us by heavy chords on an organ that resembles a “wedding sound.” At 0:08, the sound is broken into high, staccato piano notes followed by chimes and a sustained clarinet note that crescendo together. When the crescendo stops, a clear, strong, central piano piece takes over, and the rap starts.

The Lyrics: A Call for Understanding and Unity

The lyrics are story-like, with Macklemore using lines like “When I was in the third grade, I thought that I was gay…”, “A bunch of stereotypes all in my head…”, and “ A preconceived idea…”. In adding himself to the whole problem, he wanted to take home the concept that society is the way it is because we are so prone to judgment. When reaching 1:05, the song begins to gain momentum, then takes an instrumental rest from 1:28 to 1:31. Following, we have Mary Lambert come in with the chorus singing the memorable lines of “I can’t change even if I tried…”. These lyrics are very emotionally dawning for anyone that has felt like the odd one out in a situation. After those words, she sings, “My love, love my, love my she keeps me warm,” which conveys love as felt by anyone regardless of sexuality.

Macklemore comes in again with the rap, this time with more open lyrics than the narrative form he began with. A pattern is created from the stanza (Macklemore) to the chorus (Mary) and continues to the end. Towards the closing, Macklemore reinforces the notion of us taking a step into an embracive world in the locution of “A certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all, but it’s a damn good place to start” and “About the time that we raised up.” To wrap it all up, Mary ends with the aesthetic verse fading into the distance. Both of the songs have remained significant, for the very sad reality that there are still huge underlying complications in the topics they discuss, even if such things are not as imposing as their antecedents. “ Inner City Blues,” on May 31st of this year, celebrates its 47th anniversary of being a rights anthem, with the splendor of having the legend John Mayer do a cover of it in 2006. While “Same Love” gained the recognition of artist David Crosby after his grandson showed him the song, he couldn’t believe Macklemore had the guts to incorporate such context into a rap song and called it a “ game changer.” These songs do not have much in common they are makings of different times and genres, but they do share a platform in spider-webbing their way through all that and meeting at their mellifluous piano introductions to push for the equal rights of everyone.

Works Cited

  1. Serpick, Evan. “Marvin Gaye Biography.” Rolling Stone.
  2. Ritz, David. Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. Omnibus, 2010.Print.Rey, Coral. “‘Same Love’: A Song Review.” Latinitas, 26 July 2013,
  3. Hutchinson, Marcie. “Using Music as a Primary Source.” Columbia University, New York City, 2015. 
  4. O’Toole, Kit. “DeepSoul: Marvin Gaye – ‘Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler).’” Blinded By Sound, 2 Apr. 2013, 8:01a.m.
  5. Woods, Paula L. Inner City Blues. Fawcett Books, 2002.Print.Kay, Sean. Rockin’ the Free World!: How the Rock & Roll Revolution Changed America and the World. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. Print.
  6. Serrano, Shea. The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed. Abrams Image, 2015.
  7. Sexton, Paul. “Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues.” Google, Google, 9 Oct. 2017.Shmoop Editorial Team. “What’s Going On Meaning.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008.
  8. Dyson, Michael Eric. Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye. Basic Civitas, 2005.Print.Shmoop Editorial Team. “What’s Going On Meaning.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, www.shmoop.com/whats-going-on/meaning.html.
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Rap Music's and Society: Exploring the Impact. (2023, Jun 18). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/rap-musics-and-society-exploring-the-impact/