Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ May Prove Lyrical Influence of Hip-Hop

Published on December 8th, 2012

Current songs on top 40 charts raise questions concerning hip-hop’s influence on other music genres, even the country music superstar Taylor Swift.

“I’m really gonna miss you picking fights/And me, falling for a screaming that I’m right/And you, will hide away and find your piece of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine,” said Taylor on her country hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

The lyrics from this country starlet raise questions about lyrical similarities between hip-hop and other music styles.

Taylor Swift is known for her upbeat, funny, clever and radio-friendly sounding anti-dude anthems. A rapper never featured on any of her songs, and on the surface, it seems like her style of music has nothing to do with the hip-hop genre.

Esther Umoren, student at San Jacinto College sees no similiarities.

“Swift’s style of music cannot be compared in any way to that of hip-hop,” said Umoren.

Taylor Corprew, student at Howard University agrees.

“I don’t think hip-hop influences Taylor in any way,” said Corprew.  “Hip-hop and country are two completely different styles of music.  I don’t see how the genres relate to each other”.

Dr. William Smith, musician and hip-hop music professor at Howard University, thinks Swift’s lyrical content is influenced by hip-hop music.

“Swift is part of the hip-hop generation, her lyrics are very wordy, which can be compared to the lyrical content of hip-hop artists,” said Smith.

Since Taylor Swift is one of few country artists to cross into pop radio lately, her lyrical style may prove a trend in how music is changing lyrically.

“I think music has gotten better,” said Rachel Darrabie, a DJ in Washington, D.C. “Rappers are using more rhetorical devices, personifications, metaphors, punch lines, it’s gotten more lyrically challenging.”

For Rachael, hip-hop has improved music lyrically.  Corprew disagrees.

“I wouldn’t say lyrics are more meaningful, but I would say they’re more lyrically challenging,” said Corprew. “Everybody is trying to talk about the same thing. It’s more secular, all about women, drugs, money, everybody talks about the same thing.”

Hip-hop has lyrically transformed popular music, Smith believes.

“Twenty-five years ago music was more carefully written objective techniques, more repetition of lyrics.”

“Pop music is influenced by the blues, and you can hear the blues in any pop song, said Smith.  “If anyone is improvising vocally, that is basically the blues and is the foundation and singing style of African-Americans.”

Hip-hop’s roots in blues music may cause one to question if hip-hop’s influence will be as widespread.

“Future generations won’t be able to make music that’s not lyrically influenced by hip-hop,” said Rachael Darrabie, a DJ in Washington D.C. “It widened the norm and changed what you expect lyrically out of your music. You don’t have to have straight forward things, it could be simple, it could be ratchet, it could be meaningful, it could be serious, it could be romantic, and all these genres determine what ties you use.”

Nelly and Tim McGraw’s 2004 top charter collaboration “Over and Over Again” show how hip-hop and country often cross, as the lyrics maintained both country and hip-hop lyrical qualities.

Umoren mentioned the song, while saying it showed how hip-hop can help a song become a hit.

“This is the hip-hop generation, it is very popular and other artists want to connect with this generation,” Smith said.

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