Why I don't listen to rap

I don’t listen to rap music. Since from my limited window into the lives of young adults and teens, it seems ubiquitous, I feel a need to explain why I can’t stand the genre. I don’t really even understand the difference between hip-hop and rap. I’m sure there’s a difference; but I don’t really have much of an interest in drawing fine distinctions between them.

Am I a musical snob? Nope, I’ll listen to almost anything. I have my preferences, like anyone.

So, in no particular order here are the reasons I don’t prefer rap music. Don’t tell me that you know of one or more exceptions that disproves my points. I’m not interested in edge cases because I’m making generalizations based on empirical observations. A handful of exceptions don’t change the average case.

(I’m also not interested in assertions that follow the form of “If you don’t like rap music, you’re a racist.” It’s ludicrous. How would you label an African-American person who doesn’t care for rap? Are they self-loathing because they don’t care for this particular musical form?)


There are two problems here with rap. First, the artists seem to have a single dynamic - forte. Second, listeners follow the lead of the artists to whom they’re listening and amplify it further. The result is a loud bass-heavy thumping noise.

Of course, it’s not the artists’ fault that listeners seem compelled to over-amplify and otherwise distort their music; but it is a phenomenon that is largely restricted to listeners of this and related genres. Have you ever heard someone playing Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus at the highest possible volumn? No. There’s something about the music or the sensibilities of typical listeners that demands listening at the dynamic intended by the composer.

Dynamic changes are one of the elements of music that endow it with nuance and interest. A musical work that has a single dynamic is uninteresting to me.


Dynamic changes in music are closely linked to an emotion. The emotions I hear in rap music are restricted. Anger, frustration, stridency.

Historical music is filled with example of the entire range of human emotion. I worry that to the extent young people listen to rap and its related musical genres, they begin to mirror the emotions of the music that they incessantly listent to. As a result their on emotional range is restricted.

Absence of melodic value

I won’t get into a discussion about what constitutes “music”. And I wouldn’t kick the genre of rap out of the world of music. It’s has some of the typical elements of music; so I’ll agree that it’s music. But the problem with rap is that it has only a handful of musical elements - rhythm, mostly. Percussion is interesting; I can take a little solo percussion. But mostly it should be enhance an overarching musical thought. In rap, it crowds out melody. I wouldn’t argue that music must be melodius. But rap never is. Again, the restricted range of expression is rap’s most lamentable characteristic.

Lyrical content

I’m sure there a some deeper meanings that I’m missing here; but mostly I hear content about drugs, interactions with law enforcement, objectification of women, poverty, depravity, and so forth. There’s nothing uplifting or aspirational about the lyrics.

The lyrics are also based on a very restricted set of experiences that are relavent to urban culture. I’m perpetually amused by suburban kids who listen to this music and feel compelled to dress, behave, and speak in a fashion that resembles the lyrics of the music they listen to, addressing one another as “nigga”, etc. It’s an unnecessary adoption of a culture with which they are by and large unfamiliar. It seems to me that no small number of teens want to create their own versions of the distress depicted in rap lyrics so that the words are less irrelevant to them. Trying to adopt the culture extolled in these lyrics exposes young people to risks that aren’t worth taking.

The incessant use of profanity and ghetto code is gratuitous and alienating.


So much of rap (and hip hop?) seems to be self-directed egotism. I’ve even heard artists refer to themselves in the third person in the lyrics of their own work. A piece of music should stand on its own without the need to “market” the “brand” of the artist in the song. It’s very off-putting.

Yes, I’m old; but I’m not closed-minded. I have my preferences and I’m grateful to have been exposed at an early age to the types of music that have survived the centuries because they have the nuance and beauty to capture the heart and mind.