Lyrical Dissonance: Hip Hop

"People get held back by the voice inside 'em, Yo! The voice said A voice to speak inside you! Rejoice and cordially invite evil, greed, and lies too. Yeah! Confusing days, he moved in ways he soon became a kuni BOOM BOOM BOOM. And knock on his door, his soul is no more. And knock on his door, his soul is no more..."

Yes, believe it or not, there are examples of Lyrical Dissonance that can be found in Hip-Hop. As a matter of fact, it's one of the reasons why so many people can listen to it without even realizing the song is possibly about drugs, sex, violence and other mature themes.


  • Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five classic "The Message" has a very upbeat tune and lyrics like this:
    It was plain to see that your life was lost
    You was cold and your body swung back and forth
    But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song
    Of how you lived so fast and died so young
    • The song itself talks about how horrendous New York and the ghetto is.
  • K'naan's most famous song may be "Wavin' Flag", the song you probably heard during the World Cup in 2010. The actual version still sounds cheerful, but can also be extremely sad when you realize what it's about.
    • K'naan was born in Africa. The majority of his songs, combined with his voice, sound extremely jubilant and bright, but the lyrics themselves are extremely sad at time.
    • He combines understatement and cheerfulness to emphasize the sad fact that Africa is a suffering continent and no one seems to care.
  • Lupe Fiasco creates songs that are darker than most, but he does have the occasional bright beat combined with Anvilicious lyrics.
  • How many Lil Wayne songs have you listened to? Go back and relisten.
  • Eminem has constantly had to answer to opposition who criticize him for his lyrics because many kids listen to him. His comedic voice in some of his earlier raps did not exactly help his case, even though he constantly said that his music WAS NOT for kids (even during the songs).
  • Where Is The Love? by Black Eyed Peas. But not as much as others.
  • "Fuck It All" by Childish Gambino may seem catchy and upbeat at first. However, in the song, he discusses his sadness and even brings up suicide.
  • The French rap group Sniper has a song called "Nique le système" (Fuck the system) that discusses the Crapsack World of the poor neighborhoods and political atmosphere the artists grew up in, but the beat is a rather pretty violin loop and the chorus has a catchy melody that contrasts with the violence of the lyrics. Of course, if you speak French it's rather hard to ignore the title and lines like "he who sows hate will reap fire, because whether you burn them or throwing in the Seine, our young people have rage in their veins."
  • "What's Up, Fatlip?" by... Fatlip has a happy, positive-sounding beat with laugh tracks in the background. Then you get to the lyrics...
    Feelin' downtrodden, fresh kid turned rotten
    I can't believe how naive that I've gotten
    Over the years seems like I'm gettin' dumber
    Reminiscing to a time when I was younger with a hunger
    Full a dreams, determination, self-esteem
    But now it seems they hesitate to be on my team
    You know the routine, when you winnin' and grinnin'
    All up in your face, like they was which you from the beginnin'
    But on the flipside, when you washed up like a riptide
    Fools clown 'bout how you slipped and let shit slide
    Who am I kiddin', who am I foolin' when they be like,
    "What's up, Fatlip?"
    And I say "coolin'"?
  • "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston is a cheerful, nostalgic ballad about a dying romance.
  • When I Was a Youngster by Rizzle Kicks is a happy, upbeat tune all about the author's disappointment at his failure to fulfill any of his childhood dreams due to his sense of ambition being eroded by his drinking.
  • Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's famous song "1st of tha Month", because of it's chorus and somewhat somber beat, seems as if it's about the sadness of having to be on welfare and rejoicing when you get the check that allows you to survive. The music video seems to reinforce this view. In reality, the song is about how drug dealers make the most money on the first of the month because that's when crack addicts get their welfare checks, and how dealers spend said money on partying and living it up.
  • This song by Cee-Lo Green.
  • ICP's "Another Love Song" is about the wrath of a lover's scorn where the original love song is about the tenderness a man wants to share with his date.
  • Kanye West's "We Don't Care" sports a playful, carefree tune, while talking about selling drugs for a living and making fun of people expecting black youth to die early.
  • Outkast's "Hey Ya!" sounds like a happy, upbeat hip-hop song — there's a famous YouTube video of the Peanuts characters dancing joyfully to it — but the lyrics are a moody meditation on whether it's worth staying in an failing relationship:
    "If what they say is that nothing is forever, then what makes love the exception? Why are we so in denial when we know we're not happy here?" (Yall' don't wanna hear me, you just wanna dance...)
    • Speaking of Outkast, the song "The Rooster" is also an upbeat hip-hop song in terms of instrumental, but the lyrics tell the story of a married couple on the verge of divorce.
    • Outkast even lampshades this phenomenon with "The Whole World", an upbeat song about how people love upbeat songs regardless of the message or lyrics.
  • The controversial "Read A Book" video by D'Mite gained a lot of attention on BET for its supposedly racist and stereotypical depiction of black culture, claiming it should be censored for children. Of course while the beat, rhythm and style of the song is modeled after dirty south (or crunk) rappers like Lil Jon, the lyrics tell positive messages and promote healthy lifestyle choices as well as a rejection of mainstream hip-hop excess in favor of reading, cleanliness, drinking water, parental responsibility and such.
  • "Fatima" by K'naan is sung very happily and has a joyful track, but it's about a childhood friend who was kidnapped. Possibly justified (and somewhat lampshaded) at the end of the song when he informs the listener to not cry because the song is meant as a celebration, not a form of mourning.
  • Eminem's "Superman" has a nice soft beat and sounds like a standard romance ballad and the lyrics lead you to believe that at first
    Eminem: I know what you wanna hear...
    'Cuz I know you want me baby I think I want you too...
    Girl: I think I love you baby...
    Eminem: I think I love you too...
    I'm here to save you girl
    Come be in Shady's world
    I wanna grow together
    Let's let our love unfurl
    You know you want me baby
    You know I want you too
    They call me Superman
    I'm here to rescue you
    I wanna save you girl
    come be in Shady's world...
    Girl: oh boy you drive me crazy...
    Eminem: Bitch, you make me hurl
    • Also includes such wonderful lines like
    Superman aint savin shit, girl you can jump on Shady's dick
    Bitch if you died, wouldn't buy you life
    But I do know one thing though
    Bitches they come, they go/Saturday through sunday monday/Monday through sunday yo/Maybe i'll love you one day/Maybe we'll someday grow/Till then just sit your drunk ass on that fuckin runway hoe...
    • And let's not forget "My Name Is", also by Eminem. It has an upbeat tune, and Eminem begins it in a friendly, somewhat silly voice...while talking about things like sticking nails through his eyelids and trying acid. Not to mention either stapling his teacher's nuts to a sheet of paper, or assaulting said teacher to get a better grade (depends if it's the clean version or the original).
    • "My Fault" is another example. The lyrics describe Em accidentally giving too many mushrooms to a girl at a party, who later dies after drinking lysol, but they're set to a dance-y R&B-like beat you might hear in a club.
  • "Up and Away" by Kid Cudi, total stoned apathy never sounded so jangly.
  • Hello! Project shuffle group SALT 5 released only one song, "GET UP RAPPER", which is obviously a rap song. However, the lyrics are about such things as wanting to eat banana chips, wearing beige knickers and how women "blossom beautifully".
  • Wale's "90210" is a minimalistic and serene song about a desperate aspiring actress in Beverly Hills with bulimia.
  • Sean Price's song "Violent", despite its title, uses a smooth, joyful instrumental and Sean Price, doing the title justice, lovingly unleashes these gems:
    All I is is all I am
    And, all you is, who gives a damn?
    It's like, wop-babalu-bop-doo-wop-bam-boom
    The glock, got a few shots, you popped, drop - oooh
    You act stupid, duke, I'm hurtin' your mother like "WHAT BITCH~!"
    Commence to smackin' her face
    Like a pimp, then put the old bitch back in her place
    Timberland boots I got, stomp out your grill
    Sean Price, the nicest nigga in Brownsville
  • Fatlip's "What's Up Fatlip" qualifies. The instrumental sounds nice and cheerful, but then you get to the lyrics:
    Feelin' downtrodden
    Fresh kid turned rotten
    I can't believe I'm like E then I'm coppin
    Over the years seems like I'm gettin' dumber
    Reminiscing to a time when I was younger with a hunger
    Full a dreams, determination, self-esteem
    But now it seems they hesitate to be on my team
    You know the routine, when you winnin' and grinnin'
    All up in your face, like they was which you from the beginnin'
    But on the flipside,
    When you washed up like a riptide
    Fools clown 'bout how you slipped and let shit slide