We’ve come a long way since Chuck D proclaimed hip-hop was “the CNN of the ghetto.” Those of us who grew up on rap can often be heard lamenting the change in the music that over time has transformed from lighthearted party music to hyper-violent, sexually charged songs.
While hard-hitting, explicit rap has been around for more than two decades, there used to be a balance. At the same time N.W.A spit lyrics about Compton gangs and their hate for the police, the Native Tongues—a collective which included De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, and others—offered an alternative to gangster rap.
But these days, that balance has disappeared from the airwaves. Today’s mainstream rap is full of vulgar lyrics about non-loyal h*es and bad b*tches. Gone are the days when you could turn on the radio and hear emcees rap about needing love, today everybody just wants to get laid, or literally kill their competition.
Recently, writer Sebastien Elkouby penned an interesting essay for RapRehab.com arguing the music industry doesn’t care about Black people.
Citing the growing popularity of upstart rapper Bobby Shmurda, whose hit song “Hot N*****s” has spawned its own dance and earned the Brooklyn emcee an Epic Records deal, Elkouby writes: “Out of countless amazingly talented unsigned artists waiting for their big break, why would a record company sign yet another half-a** artist whose message is all about death, murder, guns, and more death?”
According to Elkouby, the reason record companies continue to promote artists like Shmurda is simple: they want to destroy Black people.
He continues: “If it really just came down to the argument that sex and violence in music sells, we’d see it equally produced by all ethnic groups and equally targeting all ethnic groups. However, besides Black people, I can’t think of another group, be it White, Asian, Latino, Christian, Jewish, etc, that the music industry feels as comfortable overtly disparaging without a second thought.”
Elkouby has a point. While rap music certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on questionable lyrics, it’s hard to find as much murder, misogyny, and unfettered horribleness in other forms of popular music.
And as the parent of an impressionable 8-year-old boy, the rampant crassness and the utter disrespect for Black women is why I—once hardcore hip-hop head—have chosen to turn the radio off.
Don’t get me wrong, I still listen to some rap music. If you catch me at the right time, I can be seen nodding my head to Nas, Kendric Lamar, ATCQ, the Roots, and a few others—just not when my son's around. When he’s in the car, we listen to NPR, podcasts, or XM Satellite radio’s Chill channel. Why? To quote De La, “the stakes is high.”
Though some will argue rap music is just entertainment and has no affect on kids, I call shenanigans. When you grow on up a steady diet of hit-it-and-quit-it lyrics about disloyal girls and tough guys that will not hesitate to kill, it gets to you.
When I taught middle school, I’d watch my students devour the latest songs like they were verses from the Bible, then use the flawed wisdom rappers doled out to relate to their peers. Even though they were just 12 and 13, several of my male students would complain that their female classmates didn’t have enough a** (or harass the ones they thought did), while my female students would gravitate toward the “ballers” who had nice sneakers or tough guys who could fight.
In a 2012 essay for the Washington Post, veteran music writer and MSNBC host Toure argued that instead of being the “tool of resistance” it could have been, rap music became “complicit in spreading the message of the criminalblackman” because the money those narratives generated were just too good to turn down.
In the end, Toure concluded hip-hop failed Black America, and you know what? He might just be right.
Do you think hip hop is bigger than the music and there may be another motive for producing such crime-ridden music? What are you doing to shield your young ones?