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Hip-Hop and Love: Those Odes to the Ones We Adore

If you have ever loved someone, had a deep-seated emotion towards another, been affected by a cosmos-based connection that can’t be put succinctly into words then you’re in chill company.
Rap, traditionally, doesn’t lend itself to the paradigm of caring about true love and real relationships, i.e. heartbreak from your lover and the demise of relations. In the early days of Hip-hop it was more about the pop-like sensibility that promotes a lighter and fun feeling. Not to discount the declaration of living the inner-city struggle; it’s just the struggle of your crush not paying you any attention, or how much you love a girl and it’s not working to its potential, didn’t show its face with such strength until Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde in 1992. With back-to-back tracks at number 12 and 13, “Passin’ Me By” and “Otha Fish” respectively, the odes to anguish over adoration were born.
“Passin’ Me By” takes on the there-goes-this-girl, this girl that I have some kind of affection for, and she may not know I exist, or she may be with another man and he is just no good for her. The chorus ‘she keeps on passin’ me by’ reverberates unreachable features, either her beauty or personality, of a transitory longing for certain girls, the proverbial crush.
Imani, the first rapper on “Passin’” explains his love for his teacher and states: ‘I was on her jock, yes in-deedy I wrote graffiti on the bus/First I’d write her name then carve a plus/ With my name last, on the looking glass/I seen her yesterday but still I had to let her pass’. Possibly an adolescent fancy but there’s still something genuine to his fondness; his love inspires him imaginatively and has an adoration for her from a distance but must let her go.
As SlimKid Tre, in the second verse, thinks about his appreciation over a girl who seems shoddy, or maybe she’s out of his reach, but how keen he is on her beauty still gets him hung up: ‘When I dream of fairytales I think of me and Shelly/See she’s my type of hype and I can’t stand when brothers tell me/That I should quit chasin’ and look for something better/But the smile that she shows makes me a go-getter/I haven’t gone as far as asking if I could get with her/I just play it by ear and hope she gets the picture’. This is the need-to-make-a-move, quit being casual, situation where the same thing that helps to get close also hurts in getting closer, a paradoxical nonchalance.
Emcee Fatlip has the most poetic and dire devotion for his sweetheart who is just too inaccessible: ‘…why does the apple of my eye/Overlook and disregard my feelings no matter how much I try?/Wait, no, I did not really pursue my little princess with persistence/And I was so low-key that she was unaware of my existence/From a distance I desired, secretly admired her/Wired her a letter to get her…’. Fatlip exudes the peripheral desire and the tenderness that conceivably has no chance at ever materializing. The line of getting a letter to her poses the love-note vulnerability, putting this earnest emotion on paper, taking an intangible feeling and expressing said feeling into a material capacity. If you write a girl something, note, letter, poem, et cetera, the return action is never known, or possibly not intended to do make her fall in love with you. Perhaps Fatlip would disagree and the letter should make her knees weak but you write to let her know how remarkable she is, and how you can’t vocalize this significance—you find it uncomplicated to take pen to paper and say everything you want to say.
“Otha Fish” continues more of the lost-love sentiment. The main message conveyed in this song is that there are other partners available and to move on, combat the fixation. ‘Next thing you know, we got together/word, I thought we’d be forever/Didn’t have an um-ber-ella, now I’m soaked in stormy weather’ positions that when breaking-up with your girl it puts you in a depressive state. The love that appears as eternal always seems more finite—all these fantastical ideas crash when the other person’s actions are different from their own feelings.
As the weight of love becomes too substantial with the girl who was thought of as more than what she was: ‘I reminisce, try to clear up all the myths/For an imaginary kiss with you again/Not even friends, though I wish that I could mend/Like a tailor and be Olive Oyl’s number one sailor/I ams what I am, still I falls like an anvil/She’s heavy on the mind sometimes it’s more than I can handle’. If only the identified romanticism could develop into a reality, then the emcee could treat his love with the utmost sincerity. Sometimes the illusion is better than what’s actual, something to the effect of it’s never as good as it is in one’s head.
This particular example shows that the girl who was thought of as a match may not have been true counterpart: ‘Because I slipped and I tripped into a shoe that didn’t fit/And now the next man is stealing my heart away/I’d charge him like a bull, but his pull never fades me/The kid is going crazy, they steppin’ with my lady/They’re workin’ on a baby, I’m pushin’ up the daisies’. This verse conveys another gentleman caller takes the emcee’s place, with the supposed love, and how the angst towards the next man conjures up hostility and implies sensations of bereavement.
The Pharcyde may have been the earliest example of posing hip-hop love-songs aimed at the aspect of melancholy with an authentic bearing. They paint a picture of the throes of love in a profound and sincere manner on “Passin’ Me By” and a more playful and candid way in “Otha Fish”. It could be posited that “Passin’” was the question as “Otha Fish” is the answer, a dualist take on love if you will, a cause and effect treatment. As independent hip-hop grew into the early 21st century there were more instances of how women muse males at their emotional core. Heartbreak makes for quality art.  This strain that stems from pining from afar or the lost-love manufactures artists to turn that strife, constructively, into the medium of music. Songs like “Broken Wings” by Sage Francis, “It’s You (I Think)” by Substantial, and “Love Ain’t” by CunninLynguists are only a few illustrations in the territory of dejection. Mainstream Rap shows a more love-em-and-leave-em portrait, where independent Hip-Hop reflects a literary composition, taking the stance of the brokenhearted feelings that shaped perspectives of love by artists and thus their art echoes this sentimentality.

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