Among the most important rap albums released over the last year or so, one contains a song about Nas‘ complicated relationship with his teenage daughter. Another has a track in which Killer Mike outlines President Reagan’s contribution to the prison-industrial complex. A third disc finds Drake pondering the impossibility of real-life romantic connection in the age of the nip-slip Twitpic. The title of Drake’s record, which last week won the Grammy Award for rap album? “Take Care.” To say that hip-hop has evolved over the last 25 years — since the days when rappers such as Ice-T and Ice Cube were terrorizing the likes of Tipper Gore, who famously lobbied for the adoption of the Parental Advisory sticker — seems an almost-laughable understatement, equal to saying that the Internet has had some effect on the way we consume music. Once perceived as a site of uncut nihilism, hip-hop has made room, in a way that outsiders can’t ignore, for practicality and ambivalence and staunchly middle-aged concerns. Achievement too.
In hip-hop, violence is taking on a diminishing role