Thug (The Hate U Give) Music References and Inspiations in the Book
“Pac said Thug Life Stood for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody” (Kahlil 17). From as early as chapter two you can see the author’s music motifs that talk about SES. This quote is later brought up in the novel where “Starr” and her father “Maverick” where Starr is asked what she thinks about the phrase Thug Life, “Black people, minorities, poor people. Everybody at the bottom in society” (168). It might not seem like a music motif but when you look at it, it is since the person who made the quote “THUG LIFE” was a person named “Tupac” a rapper who rapped about the “truth”. The author did an interview on January 12, 2017, with “Epic Reads” Angie Thomas later in the interview says how “Tupac was a huge influence” So this then makes you wonder how much more motifs of music are in the story that represent SES(socioeconomic status) and social class/status.
Rap/Hip-Hop was the only genre of music in the story but the fact that the author used rap music instead of another genre really helps bring up the SES and social class/status problems. If we go back to the 1970s where hip-hop originated from an economically depressed part of NewYork called the “Bronx”, hip-hop was an outlet the people that lived there, it let them express themselves how they felt the society they lived in and social issues. By 1980 it was classified as “Political Hip Hop” this was a form of activism to rappers. Specifically, they talked about Police Brutality and Racism. In the novel police brutality is what then took Starrs best friend away from her. Kahlil wouldn't comply with the officer so the officer started to get aggressive told him to get out of the car, he then told him to put his hands on the hood of the car, he then decided to ask if Starr was ok but it really wasn't the smartest idea since he then got shot in the back three times just because the officer thought he was reaching for a gun.
There were some pretty obvious music motifs in the book you could point out some showed SES and Social Class/Status and somewhere there to just show emotion throughout the novel. In the beginning of the story the first song referenced was “Started From The Bottom” this song was used in an interesting way to show social class, at the party in chapter one Starr says “Some days, we are at the bottom in Garden Heights, but we still share the feeling that damn, it could be worse” (13). This shows Garden Heights as a ghetto place that is far from a pleasant neighborhood. The next song to be referenced in the book was when Starr was with her father Maverick “rolling through the streets”(Starr 167) the song was by Tupac called “Keep Ya Head Up” Maverick was singing along while looking at Starr so it seemed he was speaking to her, the part of the song he sings is “I know you’re fed up, baby but keep your head up” this makes it seems like he's trying to cheer her up after the whole Kahlil incident this not not show any SES but it does show music motif in the novel. The “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” theme song was also mentioned in the story though it does not convey any SES or Social Class/Status it still shows a music motif in the novel as well.
Finally, the last song that was referenced was “Fuck Tha Police” this song was referenced when the protest was going on in the novel in chapter twenty-three. People were playing this while shouting out “Fuck the police”(394) but when you see the lyrics for the song you can see it is a perfect fit for the novel on the song itself Ice Cube says “Fuck the Police! Comin’ Straight from the underground, A young nigga got it bad ‘cause imbrown and not the other color, so police think they have the authority to kill a minority”. This is just what the people were all feeling the moment they found out that officer one fifteen wasn’t going to jail. They all felt furious this shows Status since the Police officer thought it was reasonable to shoot a young boy instead of saying “Drop the weapon” or intimidating him even though he didn’t have a single weapon on him, but the officer thought it was a good idea to shoot just because he thought he has the authority to shoot.
Some parts of the book can be seen as references to music as well, like for example Mavericks tattoo that says “Something to live for, something to die for”(200) this is a reference to Tupac's song “Something to die for” on the song Tupas says “ Deep deep, that's something to die for. Black, that's something to live for”(Tupac) in the book Maverick says “You and your brothers are something to live for, and something to die for”(200) you can see the music motif here on this page of the book on chapter eleven. There are many more music references in the book but most of them are associated with Tupac and they mostly talk about how black people are stuck in the cycle of society because of the location they live in where there is hardly any jobs but the only job they can do like sell drugs than go to jail. The song that summarizes this the best is “White Man’s World” in the conclusion part of it Tupac says “It ain’t them that’s knockin’ us off it’s us that’s knockin us off, I’m tellin’ you better watch it, or be a victim, be a victim, in this white man’s world”(Tupac). This is also mentioned in the novel where Maverick talks about how society is against them specifically “black people” how they have to sell drugs because of the lack of “Opportunities” he states “You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalil’s who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brenda can't get jobs unless they’re clean, and they cant pay rehab unless they got jobs. When the Khalil get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they giving us, baby, a system that is designed against us. That's Thug Life” this is a strong SES point in the novel especially since it shows the lack of resources in Garden Heights and how power is oppressing them to be in this never-ending cycle.
The 1980s in hip-hop wasn't the only time where people spoke up about the SES problems in the black communities there are also songs about that now in the 2000s. There is a song by Eminem called “White America” released in 2002 he talks about the racism how when he was in the underground no one cared that he was white and no one would sign him because he was white until Dre looked passed that and in the song Eminem says “Helped him get back to the top, every fan black that I got, was probably his in exchange for every white fan that he’s got Like damn, we just swapped: sittin’ back lookin’ at shit, wow., I’m like my skin is it startin’ to work to my benefit now?” this shows the racism in “White America”. There is also a bit of racism in the Novel “The Hate U Give” because of Starrs friend Hailey who was really against Kahlil just because he was a “drug dealer” and she then felt grief for the officer one fifteen for being hated on by people even though he did a horrible thing. Starrs friend Maya also tells Starr how Hailey made a racist joke when Hailey asked if Maya if her “family ate a cat for dinner” this shows how people of lower status are being discriminated in the story as well not just black people but other minorities.
There is also more modern music that talks about SES problems like the song Middle Child by J.Cole who Starr claims to be her “husband”. In one of the verses in Middle Child he mentions “Too many niggas in cycle of jail, spending they birthdays inside of a cell, we coming from a long bloodline of trauma, we raised by our mamas, Lord we gotta heal we hurting our sisters, the babies as well, we killing our brother, they poisoned the well distorted self image, we set up to fail, I’ma make sure the real gon’ prevail” this verse in the song just basically talks about how black people have in the never-ending cycle of going and getting out of jail and how that destroyed their self-image, and now they’re just made to fail. Since no one wants them since there deemed as “bad people” based on stereotypes about how all black people are “drug dealers” and “gang bangers” just like in the novel. Another modern song that portrays that black people are being oppressed, taken advantage of because of there status, there lack of “power” and “privilege” would a song by EARTHGANG called mediate where on a line on the verse they say “USA eat me like a cancer, UK eat me like a cancer”(Johnny Venus) the artist themselves says how the US feeds and “eats away” at black people but not just in the US and UK. It isn’t just these two countries but the society we all live in on a day to day basis The “eating away” analogy is perfect for what is happening to the main character Starr in the novel. She is being eaten away by the whole situation of Kahlil, her friends, her own boyfriend, the place she lives in, the whole situation with the King lords, and finally the double life she tries to live because of her low Social Class at school.
Overall you can see many interpretations and motifs in the book that can be associated with music. From old rap/hip-hop to more modern rap/hip-hop by artists like EARTHGANG and J.cole where they talk about SES and Social Class/Status. But when you look at the “Thug Life” as a whole it is not just about the minorities it is about how everybody receives hate from society in one way or another.
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