Do you understand the power of music?
Do you know what listening to the same words over and over again does to your soul, to your unconscious? The French General Napoleon did. He once said,
“Give me control over he who shapes the music of a nation, and I care not who makes the laws.”
The Greek philosopher Plato did. He had his own take on the same theme. His words,
“Let me handle the music for one generation, and I will control Rome.”
The New York Hip-Hop legend KRS-ONE did as well. He said,
“You be the king, and I’ll overthrow your government.”
You may ask how a rapper would be able to do this? I’ll tell you how. He had the people’s ear. Ask Limp Bizkit and the crowds at Woodstock ’99 who felt as if they were being ripped-off and left to their own vices by the promoters in the scorching heat when they sang ‘Break Something’. Ask the youth who felt abused by the police when NWA said, “F*ck the police”. #Blacklivesmatter didn’t start last year. Now, imagine if there was an artist today who could tap into the angst of America’s youth. Who could bring it’s frustration to the forefront? Maybe that’s why they will never let another Bob Marley happen. Unfortunately, there are no artists like that today. Maybe that is what they want; all this party music with no substance. That’s great, but where is the other side of the coin? Maybe they want nobody left to rile up the youth.
Why do you think ‘they’ hated Hip-Hop back then? Artists used their music to tell their audiences that what was happening to them was wrong. Artists told them to fight back, and the people listened over and over again—ingraining the message into their souls. Hip-Hop was revolutionary. It had the ears of the kids, and it fed them unapologetic truths. That truth spread, and that, is the power of music. The power to spread a message. The power to get masses of disparate people to listen and feel the same way. Different backgrounds, same response to the call.
Everyone has heard the phrase, “Music calms the savage beast.” When you’re sad, you listen to sad sappy heartbreak music. When you’re mad, you listen to aggressive music. The power of music is in its ability to make you feel. Now, no, music doesn’t create an extreme feeling or an emotion. However, it does enhance the emotions you have already simmering inside you. If you are already feeling a certain way or in a certain mood, it can and it will intensify your emotions to unseen levels. Ask yourself when you’re in a bad mood what does your favorite long song do to you? It calms you down. If you’re in the same bad mood, the bass is pounding, and your speakers are ready to explode, then how do you feel? You feel like those speakers, you’re ready to explode. Music is like a magnifying glass for internal emotions. Ask yourself one more question. Why do you turn off certain music, music that you like? Ninety percent of the time it is because “you’re not in the mood to listen to that song.” That’s what you do. You search out music for the mood you are in or more importantly the mood you want to be in. That’s why words are so important. The beat only gets you hype. The music is the message.
Outside of schoolwork, the first words I ever wrote were rap lyrics. I was the new kid in a new school. I was bored in class. They were discussing something I already knew, had already learned, and understood. I couldn’t draw, so I started writing rhymes. I still remember the first two bars I ever wrote. “I flow like a river you’re just a stream/You beating me not even in your dreams”. It was 7th grade, and it wasn’t lyrically great by any means, but I kept working and the pen game got tighter and the lyrics got sicker. It got to the point where people were telling me I should try and get signed. I even had an A&R guy show some interest and talk to me about my music. Later, his label folded, he needed a new job, and I never pursued it after that.
That’s how I got here, to where I am now. A kid writing rhymes in class trying to be introspective before I knew what the words meant. First, rap lyrics, then came poetry. It was an unknowing natural transition. To me, poems were just rhymes written in a different format. Poems were rhymes that made their own music. I even wrote some cards for some of my friends in college for their girlfriends. Now, I write blogs and books. Same style though. Very subtle. I would hide the jabs in the middle of the verses, but now they are in paragraphs. Catch their attention with the music and the hooks or what’s now the title, cover, or genre. Maybe even a clever #hashtag.
I believe musicians are truly our country’s best poets. If you’re looking for the Langston Hughes’, the Maya Angelou’s, the Shakespeare’s, and the Sylvia Plath’s of the world today, look no further than the writer’s behind great music. Music that tells a story. Music that has an emotional connection with you. Music that you remember for years and decades.
The most powerful part of music, “The power to get masses of disparate people to listen and feel the same way.” That is scary power. Look at those who wield it today. Music; it has no boundaries. If you can relate to the words in the song then you can relate. Love is love. Pain is pain. Heartache is heartache. Tragedy knows no color, no race, no gender, no status, no economic standing. Music is so in your face that at some point you can’t ignore it. You can’t even claim it doesn’t happen. However, here’s the bright spot, the joy. Music can be and does act as the bridge between the divide of people. Music, good music, music that creates an emotional response, has the ability to reach people when nothing else can. It allows you to understand the inner working of others. It allows you to look into the mind of another human being and understand what they are going through. It allows you to feel empowered by the repetitive words of someone else when maybe you can’t get that elsewhere. It crosses boundaries. Take a look at someone’s iPod or playlist—there’s music on there that you would never think they listen to, but they do. People, we all have one thing in common: words. Music, in its simplest form, is just words played to a beat. Now, what is the music saying?