Can You Understand The Message? Dating back to the times of slavery, the black community in America has historically used music as a vehicle for self-expression and introspection. The blues was the original form of musical self-expression, and was conceived from “field hollering”, the melodious manner in which slaves working the fields and forests aired out grievances and gave their opinions on their present situation. The use of music for communal empowerment and expression of self within the black community is still seen today, but is seen in the more contemporary genre of hip-hop music which originated in the early 70s in the New York Inner City. Grandmaster Flash is credited with being one of the original pioneers of the hip-hop
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Additionally, the instrumentation of the baseline and the chorus serve to augment the song’s message. The baseline, a perpetual, consistent descending chord progression, fosters the notion of life being a slow and steady dose of challenges that tend to weigh one down. The moderate tempo, marked by a drum and the baseline, form a consistent, steady beat that creates the illusion of time passing. The constant downward chord progression builds on this notion of time passing, and suggests that just as regular as the passage of time, is the constant necessity of dealing with problems. Additionally, implementation of the synthesizer to create a psychedelic chord progression that is heard exclusively during the chorus of “The Message,” creates an aura of instability and further amplifies the feeling of volatility that characterizes life in the inner city as alluded to by the earliest referenced metaphor of the jungle as rapped by Grandmaster Flash in the first line of the song.
While the aforementioned musical elements have the capacity to suggest and augment the thematic content, the lyrics are the primary propagator of the artist’s message in hip-hop music. In “The Message,” Grandmaster Flash seeks to heighten the awareness of the conditions of the inner cities, implicate the system that creates the conditions, and also illuminate upon the state of mind that results from living in such conditions, and its