Rap is an art form. Although in my opinion, it has been going down hill for the past few years, it is still great. Public Enemy, DMX, Tupac, Run DMC, Naughty By Nature, Bone Thugs-in-Harmony, and Eminem all use this art form, yet each is way different from the other. That is what makes it beautiful. I love it.
What makes it interesting is the transition it has made. Regardless of what some may say, rap is pretty old but it first became popular in the late '70's in places like Queens, New York. It didn't sound much like it does today. Unlike the popular rap that MTV likes to show, it started as freestyle poems with a beat about life- like Slamming. I think rap is important to American history because it educates. For years people didn't know about life outside the suburbs unless they lived it. People in Brooklyn didn't know how different their hood was from Compton, or Detriot, or Orlando, or Atlanta, etc.
By coming to the mainstream, rap opened eyes. Rap music didn't start social upheaval as the media likes to proclaim- they let it be known that whether you see it or not, it exists.
Lately this art form has hit rock bottom with people like Petey Pablo and that guy who names all of his songs thug this and thug that (I think his name is Trick Daddy) who are making all the popular lists. People who are probably dirt poor are renting jewerly and cars to make a video and talk about the "bling, bling" life that they have never seen. If they lived that lifestyle I wouldn't care, but it is all fake. In the old school rap videos, the location was usually the places where the rappers grew up- Hollas, Bed-Sty, etc.
Another thing I don't like is that rappers are no longer making their own rhymes or beats, but that could be said about all the other genres.
I respect real rap because of the truthfulness it is, it is something I can relate to with a sound I can bop my head to. If a person likes the sound of rap music or not, they should still appreciate that it is an art. You may not like Rembrandt, but his works are pieces of art nevertheless.