Recently, while listening to Mick Jenkins' debut album The Healing Component, I was struck by the prominence of the theme of love throughout the project (which fellow DJBooth contributor Tara so perfectly highlighted in her review of the album).
Love has always been present in hip-hop, but as the themes of Jenkins’ album stuck with me throughout the week, I noticed that many of my other favorite artists were exploring the idea of love just as deeply and elegantly as Mick, and in as many different ways as there are levels of love.
Man y'all don't hear me, if you've never been alone how you know yourself / If you ain't up on the water how you grow yourself / You should love you so much that you go Marylin Manson and blow yourself / It's some things that you gotta learn that only you can show yourself / Getting introspective, it can only go right like you ain't got no left - Mick Jenkins
The Healing Component touched on the unconditional love of others for sure, but there was also a large emphasis placed on self-love, a concept desperately needed within hip-hop culture and one that Jenkins masterfully champions. Another recent release, Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine, also explores love throughout the majority of its content, exploring the makings of a successful relationship with undertones of self-worth and appreciation consistently appearing throughout.
Elsewhere in hip-hop, artists like Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Chance The Rapper and more are presenting the ideas of self-love through their music on an increasingly accessible scale, both in an attempt to inspire and facilitate unity amidst a tumultuous racial experience, and to spread the knowledge gained through world traveling and the introduction of new ideas.
You love streets, you love runnin', duckin' police / You love your hood, might even love it to death / But what love got to do with it when you don't love yourself? - Kendrick Lamar
Regardless of the catalyst or intention, these messages of self-love being represented in hip-hop are definitely indicative of a growing need to balance the nihilistic attitude inherent in much of today’s street-bred hip-hop with a more universal need for personal empowerment, regardless of circumstances.
Everybody’s somebody’s everything / Nobody’s nothing - Chance The Rapper
Everyone should love themselves, period, yet that simple concept is foreign for so many, and self-love is, ironically, often confused with egotism and therefore rejected, leading to an unfairly negative view of ourselves. While hip-hop has had its hand in cultural revolutions since its beginnings, the music being created and delivered by today's new artists hints at a more internal revolution driven by knowledge of self, and a greater understanding of the true root of many problems plaguing people of all walks of life.
Look at all the lives that we lost ‘cause we fear love - Joey Bada$$
This new generation of artists is here to remind us that no real change can be made until we love ourselves enough to understand that we deserve better. We’re all deserving of love, especially from ourselves. Sometimes we just need a little reminder.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.