Hip Hop, You Have Our Attention, But What Are You Saying?

Do you think people would still listen to rap and hip hop music if the lyrics were set to songs like “The Sound of Music” or from the score of the opera Carmen? I mean, without altering the soundtrack of the songs at all – just adding rap lyrics?

What about if we kept all the hip hop beats, but used the lyrics from the songs above. Do you think people would still listen?

If you said no to the first question and yes to the second, then you are saying that rap and hip hop lyrics do not have to be vulgar, tasteless, negative, demeaning, insolent, or explicit to sell albums. The music is what draws people in. The voice of the artist and the way he or she executes the lyrics – holding that one word for an extra few beats, tempo changes, unexpected pauses and acapella rants – is what draw people in.

Could Hip Hop talk about an artist’s favorite childhood breakfast food, a memory from their teen years, or even an event they attended last month and still sell albums? Could they still tell their real, gritty stories in a way that doesn’t overuse explicit lyrics and images? Could Hip Hop point people to positivity? Could it point to positivity in a consistent way, as opposed to a once in a while thing?

Maybe so, but right now there’s a lot of “cooking” going on by people who are not chefs; “trapping” by people who are not hunters; a lot of “sagging” going on and I’m not talking about wrinkles; “raining”, and it’s not the weather; and a lot of “business” going on, but it’s not in an office building.

Hip Hop has spread across racial, cultural, and socioeconomic boundaries like a soundwave. But unlike air that is color blind, hip hop has damaged black youth more than any other demographic group, and by a wide margin. It has created a strong, negative image of African Americans that the world sees and uses to form their opinions of who black people are. Do you find it ironic that for decades blacks fought to change the negative image of them in film, only to negatively reinvent themselves through hip hop? Granted, blacks in early film were subservient and disrespected and now, through hip hop they are powerful, wealthy, and feared. Yet, still negative role models for the youth.

This is not to say that hip hop music itself is a problem. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the detrimental effects of instrumental music. It’s the lyrics that tell the stories, send the messages and create the images that drive the culture. So, what messages and images are being created in today’s hip hop?

Some of the predominant messages are:

  • women are b****s and h**s whose sole purpose is to sexually serve men;
  • cheating on your woman/man is expected and loyalty is a joke;
  • having kids from multiple relationships and not being in their lives is the norm;
  • drugs are a legitimate way to become a successful businessman;
  • extravagant clothes, cars and jewelry make you somebody to look up to;
  • there’s nothing wrong with using your body to get money and gifts, even if you have to put up with bad treatment and sacrifice your dignity;
  • violence is not only necessary, but fun and satisfying;
  • bragging about your illegal activities is how you show your status and get respect and admiration;
  • If anyone disrespects you, respond with violence;
  • ‘gang’ is just another way to say family;
  • cursing, derogatory language, and gutter talk is the only way to “keep it real” when expressing the truth about your life experiences;
  • breaking the law is satisfying and fun;
  • gettin’ that money is all that matters
  • for black kids in the inner city, thuggin’ and druggin’ is the only way out.

The images that go along with hip hop are not much better. They show women with little to no clothing moving in explicit and sexually suggestive ways; people smoking, making and taking drugs; weapons being toted, put on display, or used to exact violence; stacks of cash that even legitimately wealthy people don’t have laying around; deadly crime scenes; flashy lifestyles including fancy houses, cars, and clothes that they really can’t afford; and bling, bling, and more bling.

Since people learn what they live – in the physical world or through media experiences – it makes sense to pay attention to what our kids are taking in. Are these messages that inundate our children helping them?  With the constant connectivity of the internet and social media, they are being hit with these words, images and messages on a moment by moment basis, overwhelming them with a desire to follow.

Our kids and young adults are being shaped by these hip hop role models. Do you see Hip Hop putting out a good example of honesty, trust, respect, consideration, love, responsibility, and dependability? So what character traits are fans imitating?

Real life on the streets leads to jail or death. Hip Hop takes that hard life and falsely glamorizes it as fun, fulfilling, and long lasting. When today’s youth try to apply that false narrative to their everyday lives, they can end up in jail, with unwanted pregnancies, uneducated, sexually promiscuous, unemployed, lacking healthy relationships, addicted to drugs or dead. And did I mention how they become filled with envy and entitlement at all they do not have; or should I say all they have not worked for, yet think they deserve. What do we expect when hip hop artists inundate them with the never-ending call to be just like us. The Christian hip hop artist Bizzle said it quite poetically in his song Dear Hip Hop.

Perhaps it’s time we thought about how we can use our influence and popularity to make the world a better place by filling it with better people. And with all the ears on Hip Hop, it certainly has the audience to make a lasting difference.

{Disclaimer: I recognize that Hip Hop is a culture, but in this article I am using the term Hip Hop in regards to music, including rap in all it’s evolving glory.}

#notafraidtothink                     #notsheeple             #saveourkids

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