Quick Thought: Rap Acuity + Developing Insight


By Jaylin Paschal

Acuity is defined as “sharpness or keenness of thought, vision, or hearing.” Acuity is about the ability to provide insight. Insight is valuable in the sense that it reframes our perspective on an issue, putting into focus a viewpoint we had never considered.

Insight is one step further from observation and understanding. Coming to an insight means coming to a conclusion that offers an “ah ha” moment. It’s the “I’ve never thought about that before” revelation we get when we hear fresh ideas.

In Hip Hop, acuity adds texture to otherwise flat content. It’s critical to thought-provoking lyricism, creating dynamism through layering meaning and matter. Many of what rappers say is true, undeniably, but it’s not interesting.

We appreciate rap that stories our experience, but we love rap that reshapes our experience. When rap has a premise to prove, whether through an entire song or in a single line, we’re stimulated not only to understand, but to consider. More than a storytelling function, rap is a platform for consideration. Acuity is where narration meets provocation. It’s how Hip Hop becomes a natural, cultural think tank in which we’re able to challenge one another.

“I liked Kendrick’s album [DAMN.],” a friend texted me. “But the whole black people are Israelites thing is bullshit.”

Acuity gives us something to think about. It adds another layer to the listening experience and gives us a chance to agree and disagree. It’s the next step to processing: determination of validity. Without acuity, Hip Hop scholars would have much less to dissect. Fans would have less to listen for. And rappers themselves would have less to write about.

And, to be clear, its not just the Kendrick Lamar’s of the world who are acute. Any rapper reconceptualizing norms through their music is doing the work of stimulating stagnant subject matter.

Jaylin PaschalComment