Why rap swept the nation | 1791

Why rap swept the nation | 1791

A man descends a golden cascading stairway.
It leads into a luxurious mansion stocked with scantily clad women. This is a man with
a taste for champagne, luxury, and all manner of excess. He takes orders from no one, takes
what he wants, and he wears his victories on his sleeve.
This man represents a player in what is the most successful genre of music today — a
genre that now reaches across both racial and economic lines. Is this simply because
of its catchy beats and clever lyrics? In part, but what may go unnoticed is the reflection
rap’s popularity casts on today’s society. Though many on both sides of the aisle are
unnerved and sometimes disturbed by its aggressive tone and lyricism, it reveals a culture that
is perpetually hungry for want of virility in its diet. Rap’s meteoric rise exposes
a cultural inflammation that stems from attempts to uproot the nature of man. The idea of what
constitutes masculinity is being strained and even suppressed. This is seen in academia’s
punishment of masculinity as being “toxic” and a newfound belief that gender is malleable.
In a world of such uncertainty, the unapologetic, naked masculinity of rap is predictably a
preferable alternative to a gender dysmorphic society. In the same way that the certainty
of tyranny may seem preferable to the uncertainty of chaos, the shattered understanding of what
separates the genders gives way to unhinged distortions of what masculinity is — distortions
that sometimes edge into absurdity. Take for instance a song from XXXTentacion and Ski
Mask The Slump God, two budding rappers rising to meet this demand for hyper-aggressive expression
that’s characterized by irrepressible sex lust.
One bad bitch on my dick, two bitches on my dick
Three bitches on my dick, four bitches on my dick
Count wit’ me nigga Five bitches on my dick, six bitches on my
dick Seven bitches want that dick, show yo’ ass
how to make a hit It’s easy to condemn music like this as
just being a byproduct of “toxic masculinity” or a contributor to moral decay, but these
limited understandings lead to attempted solutions that have a dangerous ripple effect on society.
To fully grasp why this strain of rap has surged to the forefront, we have to analyze
it within the full scope of modern American history.
We will begin with a 1958 Esquire series entitled “The Crisis of Masculinity.” “Today
men are more and more conscious of maleness not as a fact but as a problem. The way by
which American men affirm their masculinity are uncertain and obscure. There are multiplying
signs, indeed, that something has gone badly wrong with the American male’s conception
of himself.” A few years later, John F. Kennedy leveraged
this uncertainty of what manhood meant to propel himself to overwhelming historical
popularity. As historian Steven Watts explains: “He offered the public a youthful, vigorous
male image that stood in stark contrast to the back-slapping organization man, the paunchy
suburban dad, and the emasculated office drone [… He] added to his élan by launching a
national physical-fitness crusade in Sports Illustrated and promoting New Frontier male
heroes: the Green Berets and the Mercury Seven astronauts. His sex appeal and whispered-about
reputation as a Lothario only enhanced his image of cool, virile masculinity. It proved
effective: After winning a very tight presidential election, Kennedy went on to gain great popularity,
with an approval rating higher than any other post–World War II president.”
President Kennedy’s overwhelming popularity hinted toward a class of men desperate to
reinvigorate a lost sense of masculinity. The similarity between then and now should
be clear as day. The current President, Donald Trump, transparently represents a generation
of men so starved of masculinity that they swung the pendulum as far as they could on
election day. Another point of similarity would be President
Kennedy’s association with hyper-masculine cultural figures — the likes of Frank
Sinatra, Hugh Hefner, and James Bond. In a parallel way, rappers have frequently associated
themselves with Donald Trump. The similarities between this figure and rappers are self evident.
Excess. Women. Wealth. Luxury. Power. The obvious example would be Rapper Mac Miller’s
“Donald Trump,” but some would be surprised to discover that this association stretches
farther than the ear can hear. Though the cry for masculinity could be heard
in the 1960s, it was a much more muted one than today. This was a time before the epidemic
of fatherlessness had struck the nation, before academia had become fully rooted in anti-masculine
doctrine. It was just the beginning. By 2016, men had become all too accustomed to the idea
that they were the source of all violence, mischief and oppression. Their awareness of
masculinity was one of shame, not pride. Half a century passed since the printing of
the series titled “The Crisis of Masculinity” when Esquire again touched upon a particularly
dark form of this trend in academia. The magazine featured the observations of a department
chair of a liberal arts college. His observations revealed that the historical uncertainty of
masculinity had metastasized into something more repressive:
I watched as my colleagues expressed an increasing disdain for men in the classroom. I listened
as they moaned about seminars that happened to be made up mostly of men. I went to faculty
lunches dealing with disruptive students, only to realize that what we were talking
about was primarily male behavior, that men themselves were in some fashion perceived
to be the disruption. Men who seemed to have an answer for every question. Men who didn’t
listen. Men who radiated indifference. Men who griped about reading lists sometimes dominated
by women authors. Men who resisted the authority of the teacher … I watched as nearly every
significant social problem was laid at the feet of the male student population: sexual
violence, binge drinking, hazing, anti-intellectualism, homophobia, bullying.
The recent cultural upheavals are only the natural consequence of convincing men to suppress
and reject their very nature. Without understanding and consequently integrating manhood, America
has been told to treat it like a sin. As we’ve come to learn, the more you attempt to rid
man of his inextricable nature, the more animalistic it becomes.
In large part, this is because the value of fatherhood has been undermined at every turn.
In the absence of tempered men to teach their sons how to properly channel their masculinity
into disciplined honor, we have devolved to a culture of its most extreme manifestation.
The ripple effect of masculine absence is felt everywhere. In a twist of irony, even
the biggest critics of masculinity have to find an outlet. It’s no coincidence that
the violent, punch-happy hordes of Antifa are so frenzied with rage. They have lost
any sense of what responsibility entails, and for this they feel the need to devote
themselves to some grand cause. It isn’t one that’s disciplined, measured, reasonable — the
proper role of masculinity, but juvenile and boyish.
The boys being castigated for being unruly in the classroom will become men, unruly in
the public sphere and — perhaps “deplorable” — in the voting booths. Although the social risk
of being unapologetically “masculine” is high, it also bears the greatest returns — whether
those returns are ascending to the White House or topping the charts.
The massive success of those utilizing the most extreme, distorted elements of masculinity
teaches us the consequences of arrogantly trying to ignore our humanity — instead
of acknowledging and properly integrating it. By ignoring our humanity, one creates
a world where a select few flourish by rejecting an emasculated definition of civility. The
men who are too afraid to express their masculinity impishly slink away, while those who aren’t
shamed into submission run roughshod.

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About the Author: John Markowski


  1. A lot of rap is the black equivalent of punk and metal, especially from the 90's. Think Wu Tang. A lot of the garbage that swept the world in the 2000's when rap took off is just that, garbage feeding into people's ego and power fantasies. That's still out there today but not as frequently as back then. Some of the only quality rap in the 2000's was from the Twin Cities hip hop scene, and that was a bunch of lower class white dudes for the most part.
    Some mainstream rap started to get good again lately in the 2010's. Tyler the Creator, Anderson Paak, Kendrick Lamar, these guys at least make real music.

    Mainstream rap in the 2000's though, those were dark days. I still cringe when I look back on popular music from the 2000's. I hated most of it then, I hate it now. I swear every genre was in shambles. Fucking Nickelback.
    I might get into the video essay business just to talk about how fucking awful most of that music was. It was like the 80's but twice as bad.

  2. And now we see how women have come to accept that the absence of men in women’s lives is detrimental to female development. So the Boy Scouts now becomes The Scouts as the girls join.

  3. I've noticed for years that masculinity has been so demonized in our culture that one of the only socially acceptable ways to express it was through hip hop. Many white teenagers take on the black culture to feel able to be masculine.

  4. I came back to this after watching your "How Kanye Freed The Slaves" video. Truly well done. Hats off to you.

  5. Rap is just a symptom of social decadence. The way they glorify drug use and worthless female's favors bought with money is just a desperate way to try to compensate for their lack of real manliness through fake masculine sensations that they can't control because at the same time they're filled with female impulses. Lowest common denominator crap.

  6. I thought I'd seen all of your videos, but then I see this. Very timely, and every word is spot on.

  7. Make no mistake, the same, or should I say the opposite, is being done to women as well.
    While men are taught their nature breeds evil, women are taught that their nature is evil imposed upon them. Men are being robbed of their masculinity and women of their femininity, in this way feminism is about equality, they fight for a world where everyone is equally miserable, devoid of any human differences or deviations, and they are halfway there.
    The movement, even if it falls apart as it seems to be doing, has started the tumbling of a snowball that will grow until it devours all, the family is at the core of human civilisation, and with each one destroyed more will follow in the future.
    These are trying times, and we as a nearly unified worldstand on a knife's edge, balanced, but with the constant threat of being cut in twain. But if we look back at our past we will see that we have always been here, the problems we face are in essence the same one's we always have, and with that we know that if we fight back we will always win.

  8. Rap is so boring I don't understand why you would even listen to it (?) Just someone mumbling in a droning monotone over a mechanical & soulless beat with occasional samples from actual music thrown in. You would have to be an extremely boring person with zero imagination and no passion, a throwaway nothing listening to throwaway nothing recordings of nothing.

  9. Now here's a right leaning channel I can actually get behind.
    Rational beleifs and logic, Vox level editing and visuals, no soapboxing or ad hominem attacks and doesn't subtly call me a plague on society.

  10. i can't react to where the west is devolving other than just fuck, dude ~ every time i think about this stuff i go through cycles of depression, nihilism, and then anger. this gets me very emotional

    it sucks

  11. Bruh you clearly don't know too much about rap. Old-heads are always calling the new rappers gay and pointless. Look at lil uzi, young thug, and even xxxtentacion when he's not screaming. They're hardly your definition of masculinity. Your analysis of the culture is laughably shallow. Rap is popular now because as one commenters said its cool to flex, and brag on a nice beat

  12. What you do is you learn how to behave masculine and not the blanket aggression in rap. Do this by becoming confident, not too hard, find what you’re good at. Then you start to act that out, don’t let yourself be a weak person, workout and learn things. You’ll gain the confidence.
    Most of it flows from there, get the true confidence back, the one that you can let out when you need it, you need to make sure to develop other male qualities though, learn to use aggression right and not to overuse it, learn to be disciplined when needed, but not let it bleed into everything you do. If you’re young let yourself have fun, if you’re older set yourself down and tell it to figure things out.

  13. I disagree with this and alot of other videos on this channel, but I love how well articulated the arguments are and the vox-like video format. Keep up the great content!

  14. Idk, my problem with Rap is that so much of it is copy and paste, often very weak lyrics (if it's not about money and sex, then IG it's not rap?). I don't care if that's in your lyrics, but it's so copypasta that it feels like you're being spoon-fed music instead of picking what you like

  15. Not that it matters, but the rapper who was actually rapping in the part you included of 4peat was Robb Banks, not X or $ki.

  16. "why not novelist HG Wells, a eugenics enthusiast" oh yeah, the pacifist who wrote The Rights of Man, which paved the way for the United Nations declaration of Human Rights, who wrote 3 of the most influential science fiction novels ever? the guy who influenced Winston Churchill? the guy who pushed for advances in science (specifically physics) in the hopes it would promote world peace? the guy who co-founded Diabetes UK, that charity for diabetics? That guy? Yeah fuck him.

  17. I’m a little confused on the point.
    The way I see it as “Rap is a reaction to the recent “anti-manhood” mindset.”

    But with that then wouldn’t this be undermined by
    1) Punk in the 70s to the early 90s, before 1994s Dookie and Punk in Drublick (great albums, but not particularly aggressive or manly)
    2) Speed metal in the 70s, I mean Mötörheads first album has a track called “Vibrator”, and of course the metal classic “Orgasmatron”.
    3)Thrash metal in the 80s (Slayer says it all)
    4) Gangster rap in the 80s and 90s
    5) Crunk rap in the 90s to 00s

    I don’t know maybe I’m missing something, but this doesn’t seem new, just the same trends since the 70s and before.

  18. I don't dislike rap or accurately new rap because of masculinity or moral BS or whatever but because there's no intelligence or anything behind the music. There's some electronic generated beat and someone repeating a few words about money and muh dick.

  19. Appreciate the video, but I think you’re reaching a bit. There are no ‘universal tenets’ of rap culture. There is no conscious intent behind it. It is easy to grab onto because there is nothing to grab onto. It requires zero self-reflection.

  20. Rap is full of the spirit of tyranny. Rebellion against authority for the sake of rebellion. Its rise is a symptom of globalism trying to push everyone into the borg of obscurity

  21. Immediately I knew that these guys knew what they were talking about with regards to rap when I saw the thumbnail, not only because it was funny but because Ski Mask is still a somewhat underground rapper, thus the creators of this video must have done a lot of research to have found his album cover. Bravo.

  22. Can anyone dum it down for me a bit i slightly understand it as no pops no respect got ho hiphop take that idea and adopt it then express that as your own leading you toward a crummy route. Or do i have it all wrong?

  23. I have an issue with the current discussion of masculinity because it is an incomplete definition. It is ironic that the rap music example promotes certain masculine behaviors, yet none of those involve responsibility – for individual actions, for others, for family. The masculine traits are used for selfish and individual gain only. Women are seen as possessions, as is money, fame and status. It is a selfish version of masculine traits which belies the "real man" who uses the masculine traits in order to build, to create, to do the right thing and to work for the common good. That version of masculinity is the real one even though it may not sell magazines or get clicks on a web-page, but it is what real men do every day in this nation to handle their responsibilities at work and at home, quietly, doggedly and with no external acclaim. That version of masculinity is the true one – not a manufactured, media version of the most extreme examples of violence, greed, and power.

  24. I think this is only addressing once facet of the phenomenon. I think if you 'zoom out' on that a bit, you'll see that it's a matter of a weak self identity, to the point where people are being indoctrinated by these caricatures of what they perceive to be an ideal lifestyle. Hence why nearly every song lately has some reference to a popular brand. It's not just rap that does this. Country music is a major culprit as well. While hiphop is championing luxury brand like Versace and Gucci, country music is pushing John Deere and Coors Beer. It seems modern music is about promoting a vapid self image based on the accumulation and brandishing of status-related possessions. I do think that antisocial behavior is promoted as well(drug dealing, violence, etc), and that may be due to the matter you're suggesting, although it doesn't necessarily seem to be gender-specific. It could be that the female artists are mimicking the male artists because it's a known formula for popularity. Or it could be some sort of rebellion, due to the suffocating nature that this ingenious lifestyle promotes.

  25. I am intrigued by the link you've made between society's desire to portray distorted elements of Masculinity and single-parents household data. Do you have any other more detailed studies about that?

  26. Every negative comment on rap follows the same lines of “these damn kids and their rap music”.Music evolves get over it, more thought pieces have came out of rap and hip hop then any other genre, course you still have your mumbles and melodic but your unwillingness to search for the good ones proves your lack to actually come up with a good point even though music is up to interpretation you can go on genius and figure out yourself. If your looking for a project that calls out the trends in hip hop and talks about subjects that mean something while still manages to be audible; Ta13oo by Denzel Curry and Flower Boy by Tyler, the creator. Or you can just whine. This is not coming from a place of tradition my family raised me on hip hop, rock and pop, by hip hop I mean just Day and Night by kid cudi and from there I have built a love from the genre and the artists.

  27. This video gave me a headache. Society criticizing our definition of masculinity is the source of all our problems ? I have to laugh. As if our gender roles were great before… I forgot who said it, but people who can't accept a critique often like to portray themselves as the victims. The violence, sexism, aggressiveness and whatnot you mention in your video are real and have always been. We're just talking about it now as something morally wrong. I would wish there was more to men than those vices. I agree with your video that we are shaping men in something different than before, but you paint it as wrong or the source of you guys' pain….this is where I have to laugh. There should be more to you than that.

  28. Imagine a world where everything is the same, but rap and hip-hop doesn't exist… The thought of that makes me happy.

  29. Can you perhaps tell me where I could find a video course on how to do this specific type of video essay motion design? Really keen on learning how to edit like this.

  30. There are few channels that are as thought provoking as this. Your theses are well defended. Your use of ambient music is top notch.

  31. My gosh… rap is not a genre, it is a form of singing. If you rap, that doesn't necessarily make you part of Hip Hop. If you sing, that doesn't necessarily make you part of (insert genre here). Rap is not a genre, hip hop is. Rap is a genre to people who now nothing about it.

  32. just like all other political shit on youtube this is just pandering. Why does there seem to be the same narrative underlying all of these videos? Why does everyone have to pose progressivism or conservatism as some evil creeping force that will swallow up America. Everyone needs to get the fuck up out of their personalised communities and agendas and experience life….

  33. Interesting psychoanalytical take, but it isn't NEARLY as complicated as you make it out to be. Sure, maybe a few people, precisely the type to watch channels like this, do gravitate towards hip-hop because of their perceived 'suppressed masculinity'. But such a hyper-specific, niche motivation wouldn't nearly be enough to rocket the genre to the top by the tens of millions. Let's list the main problems with this theory:

    1. New rap listeners include plenty of females. Why would they need this masculine free space?
    2. Hip-hop has risen in popularity globally. Countless countries around the world don't have progressive SJW values promoted or even remotely talked about.
    3. Many people, and I'd argue most kids who listen to hip-hop don't give two fucks about politics or whatever certain progressives promote. Most listeners couldn't give less of a shit, and aren't even aware of this so-called war on masculinity in the first place. Even if they were impacted, they certainly wouldn't be emotionally hurt enough to gravitate towards a whole genre in droves solely because of it.
    4. This 'masculinity deficit' theory makes it seem like the whole of the US is subjected to this homogenous, all-encompassing regime of anti-masculinity that's always present in everyone's minds. Liberal colleges, maybe to an extent. Surrounding debates on politics and social issues, of course. But in most aspects of life, everyone is still perfectly free to be themselves as they always have been. You guys just feel like its more of a big deal than it actually is because you pay so much attention to it, hence it impacts your life way more than the average person.

    So why do more and more people listen to hip-hop? Probably because production in mainstream popular hip-hop (note the qualifiers, very important) has gotten so much better and more palatable to wider audiences over the past decade (try and compare rap charters in the Billboard Hot 100 in the early 2010s to post-2015). Partly due to artists like Drake who popularised the genre for non-hip-hop-fans. Partly because of how much it bleeds into social media culture (dance challenges, comedy, captions, etc.). A host of reasons. But most people don't even think about the stuff mentioned in this video, consciously or subconsciously. A HUGE stretch. Billions of miles.

  34. I take issue with your claim that we are told masculinity is toxic. The point of the phrase "toxic masculinity" is that certian expectations connected to masculinity are toxic, such as pressure not to show emotions or ask for help, which can lead to outcomes like increased rates of suicide.

  35. Antifa? Deplorables? Hahahaha you're busted you fucking Trump accomplice. Comparing JFK with Donald Trump is like Prime Rib to a rancid McDonald's cheeseburger.

  36. You're really stretching to accommodate rap in general terms as being related to historical ideas of masculinity. I hate to call bullshit on you for this video because it appears well made but what you're saying really don't mean shit at least compared to rap music. Do you even listen to rap? This is like when you're in high school and your teacher asks you to write a research paper and it's supposed to be 5 pages and your first paragraph is to the point but then you have to add extra words to make it seem like you finished the paper. I had to watch this on 2x speed because you're rambling on a whole other topic that if you really understand rap you would not have included. Rap isn't popular because of masculinity it's because of metaphor. All the rappers you mentioned i don't even consider as real rappers. Xtentacion was ok but a lot of his tracks were unfinished. And to be honest a lot of the best rap isn't even about violence it's just metaphors of violence that ultimately can be directed inward. Some of the best rappers get you to meditate on your own life and a lot of it is about rising above fear but if it's done well it's popular because metaphors and internal rhymes are often used so flawlessly that it seems like an organic flow of words. That has nothing to do with masculinity or any of the other shit you mentioned.

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