Cover Art: Alex Chen
Modern gangsta rap and hip hop are seen by many as genres that have deteriorated due to the repetition and supposed stolidity of many of today’s artists. Many believe that rappers nowadays focus too much on beats and 808s as opposed to lyricism. They argue that rap is supposed to be a combination of the two. After all, the word rap does stand for “rhythm and poetry.” This begs the question, can lyrics about strippers, gangs, and money equate to poetry? I believe that it can, and it does. A prime example is the musical career of Texan rapper Taymor Travon McIntyre, better known as Tay-K.
Tay-K was affiliated with gang activity since he was a young boy. His father was incarcerated for a large part of the boy’s youth, and his mother was involved with Crips. After his father got out of prison, he decided to move Tay-K to Arlington, Texas, where Tay-K quickly became friends with all the wrong people.
In 2015, Tay-K began to rap with a group known as the Daytona Boyz, including rappers Santana Sage and Pimpyz. On December 31st, former marine Eric Jamal Johnson, better known as Santana Sage, attended a New Year’s Eve party with Tay-K and Pimpyz. After the party, the three were driving home when they stopped at a red light, pulling up next to a black sedan. Tay-K got into a verbal altercation with the man driving the sedan, so Santana threatened to shoot him if he didn’t drive off. However, after the sedan drove away, Santana proceeded to drive behind it and fire shots into it anyways. 20-year-old Sara Mutschlechner was shot in the head, killing her instantly. Santana was sentenced to 44 years in prison, and Tay-K witnessed his first murder at 15 years old.
In 2016, Tay-K conspired with a group of people to rob 19-year-old Zachary Beloate. When Beloate and his friend Ethan Walker came back home with two of Tay-K’s accomplices, Tay-K and the rest of his accomplices broke into the house. Ethan Walker was shot and killed as the two men tried to escape the house. Tay-K was placed on house arrest, awaiting his certification hearing. Shortly before his hearing, he cut off his ankle monitor and went on the run. While on the run, Tay-K released his hit song “The Race.” He was captured by law enforcement the day the song was released. Shortly after, he was sent to trial and found guilty of capital murder and three counts of aggravated robbery. “The Race” was used in court as evidence against him, and, quickly after, the song blew up on the charts. He is currently facing his sentence in Bexar County Adult Detention Center.
Tay-K was the product of an environment that always wanted to harden him into the criminal he grew up to be. This does not excuse his actions, but his music reflects this. “The Race” is by no means a lyrically introspective song. The lyrics are simple; I’d go as far as to say they’re mediocre. But it’s the story that preludes the song, combined with a beat and an 808 that was well focused on, that made the song blow up. So many people see his song as a story within itself, just by its very existence. It’s a story that they might relate to completely, or perhaps not at all. Regardless, it was his story to tell and ours to listen to.
And that’s what so many people fail to understand about many of our rappers. It’s well within the frames of our culture to rap about strippers, gangs, and money because those are the artists with stories we haven’t heard before. Rather, they’re often the stories we haven’t lived before. Those are the individuals with the stories that we want to hear because they’re so dramatically different from the stories of so many other people. It provides a contrast to a lifestyle that not many of us get to live. Tay-K, like many modern-day rappers, might not be an artist with depth behind his lyrics, but he’s an artist with truth behind his lyrics.
Tay-K doesn’t need to be a masterful lyricist if he’s capable of properly telling his story, and his story is perfectly encapsulated by his music, provided you search for it. Similar to poetry, you need to find the meaning in his music, or else it may seem vague and unspecial. I feel as if this is applicable to all music, not just modern gangsta rap and hip hop. Our killers are not as repetitive and stolid as one might like to think. Tay-K’s story is a tragedy of a young man that grew up in a world of crime with nobody to guide him out of it. He fell deeper and deeper into this lifestyle that he laid witness to until he convinced himself that it was the lifestyle he always wanted. Once again, this does not excuse his actions, but it reflects the kind of mentality he has in his music. Because after all, his lyrics and his stories are genuine, and if you ask me, that’s poetic.