Hip Hop and Rap music are original American art forms and artists should be free to express themselves in any medium. I am not for censorship of whatever music adults choose to enjoy. This discussion is important on a political/governance blog because people make choices surrounding musical sub-cultures and the government is left to deal with the financial consequences.
In communities, we should be mindful that music can play a serious role in the development of young minds and establishment of value systems. Since colonial days, older Americans have been concerned with the messages in music. It seems that some current artists/entertainers inadvertently lead the youth down a negative path. But, old people were once young people and our parents had issues with Prince, AC/DC, Rick James etc.
I contend that the situation is much worse today than 30 years ago because technology can pump all kinds of thoughts into Junior’s ears while all we had was Soul Train and Bandstand.
Proper Context: People can listen to any music in its proper context. It’s art; it’s entertainment. If you stand on a strong moral foundation, exposure to ideas from music wouldn’t dramatically change who you are. We loved Prince and still love him but I never wore eyeliner or a Captain Crunch Pirate coat. Early rap gave urban youth an opportunity to battle with words and dance. Later, the gangsta rap of N.W.A. and Tupac explained the problems of some urban youth in a useful way. Again, the proper context was kids speaking about their circumstances and that’s why the L.A. riots were foretold by N.W.A. and Ice Cube.
N.W.A. was art imitating life. As middle-aged parents, the living members of N.W.A. (rest in peace Eazy-E) have their children and grandchildren in safe, comfortable environments—gated communities with cul-de-sacs. They want better for their kids and prisoners generally want better for their families also.
When real money came into the rap culture, the whole game changed. People would do or say anything to make more cash…with no regard for societal effects. Kids from good families made hardcore changes to their vibes to get a record deal. It was life imitating art to the point that many college students (black, white, brown and yellow) can’t be distinguished from common thugs and street walkers. As Gil Scott Heron said about another matter “it’s the ultimate realization of the inmates running the asylum.” But, in this case, the asylum is the whole community. Senior citizens lock themselves inside their modest homes and dare say a word about the kids with no shirts across the street blasting filth that would make the devil blush.
School kids seek to emulate pimps and pushers rather than positive, law-abiding members of the community. Rap videos actually have some youth ignoring education and training because the millions they plan to make in the hip hop culture will be much easier. Of course, a person who develops expensive taste without money soon considers illegal money-making options.
Understand, hip hop is a culture—not just music. It’s a way of life that involves dress and speech. Lord have mercy on my community because too many kids are spending their formative years ignoring the foundations of a healthy family, career and home. Instead, they are making themselves less employable if not unemployable—really, these fools are deployable. Hey, we had wild phases in our youth but most activities didn’t have permanent consequences. “NowhatI’msayin…Nowhati’msayin..naw meen.”
Of course, I am talking about the negative section of the hip hop culture and the positive section would be my selection if I was young today. I recently listened to a Breakfast Club radio interview with Kanye West. When Charlemagne told West that he should go where he is “celebrated not tolerated,” I thought about my community and both major political parties but we aren’t going there. When West said he listens to advice from Jay-Z and musical cues from new rappers, Charlemagne said that the Bible teaches “Old men for counsel; young men for war.”
1 Kings 12:8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him.
I love thinking about King Rehoboam’s situation and the current hip hop culture. This guy was the son of Solomon and the people asked him to make their yoke lighter. The old guys told him to speak good words to them and they would be his servants forever. But, Rehoboam listened to the guys his age and made the yoke heavier. When I was young, I would hang with the fellows but the real advice for living came from those older gentlemen and ladies. In college, I was listening to seniors, grad students, professors and young professionals because listening to other young folks primarily would be like the blind leading the blind.
If people don’t have solid elders in their corners, they live aimlessly and take advise from hip hop music.
I have lived in the “hood” a few times in life but I was never ghetto enough to love the struggle. Like the yoke in the Bible passage, the struggle can be one’s circumstance. Blacks in the South were generally striving for a better life…what’s the plan….what’s the good news? To be frank, those who loved being ignorant and those who loved struggling were avoided.
Today, music executives who are only interested in revenue promote ignorant entertainers (I won’t call them artists) who will do or say everything negative to get more money. As a result, we have a generation of youth influenced by ignorant peers more so than parents, the church or school. They love the struggle as a way of life and being incarcerated seems like a badge of courage. We know old prisoners begged the youth not the make the mistakes they made.
At times, it seems that the worst element of hip hop has a more detrimental impact on the community than the Klan. Chuck D and Public Enemy in 1991 had an interlude after the song “Shut em Down” in which “Bernie Crosshouse” of the Klan thanks negative Blacks for destroying the community.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nskZM74NKkc (at 4:30 mark)
I’d like to express our deepest gratitude at the destruction of the inferior n****r race, and I’m especially pleased to report that it’s destroying itself without our help. To all you gangs, hoodlums, drug pushers and users, and other worthless n-ggers killing each other, we’d like to thank y’all for saving us the time, trouble and legality for the final chapter of ridding y’all off the face of the earth. Your solution to our problem is greatly appreciated. So keep selling us your soul. Thank yuh
It turns out P.E. was correct in creating Crosshouse because certain elements of the community have us on self-destruct mode and hip hop music often glamorizes these elements. That glamorization isn’t necessarily a problem for the strong, grounded and well-balanced. But, folks who are weaker, people with questionable home training and unfortunately people who raised themselves (the half-raised) will be influenced by the street from these lyrics and hypnotic beats.
Club friends: In homes where youth are trained with deliberation, kids learn the levels of friendship because some people allow kid’s exposure to explicit activities before middle school. A young adult can kick it on the dance floor with wild friends but coming over to the table and hanging outside the club is a different matter. To cut to the chase, some folks take sub-cultures created by music (gangster rap, heavy metal, goth) too far. The artist themselves will admit that much of the image is pure fantasy but some people get wrapped up.
So, parents are teaching one thing and the hipsters on the corner are teaching something else. Dam, the lyrics said this would happen. Not a problem…just fire up a phat blunt and tune those haters out.
Solutions: We must have an honest and frank discussion about music and cultural decisions and possible impacts on individuals, the community and the nation. Paul from the Bible wrote a righteous second letter to the church at Thessalonica. I should have been reading this in my youth rather than listening to the same rap cds over and over but that rap had a message.
2nd Thessalonians 3:10-15 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.
And if any may obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Yes, we still love our wayward brothers and sisters including those of other colors. But if you are recreationally wreaking the community, I don’t too much mess with you—the disorderly need to get on the right path. When people in old age look back at their lives, they often find that they were their own worst enemy and some of the people they chose to be around brought drama and struggle into their world. The soundtrack to that drama might have been questionable music.
Since I got a little too preachy, I would finish this writing by saying thank heaven for the positive cool rappers of my youth—Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Brand Nubian, Rakim. I shouldn’t leave out the educational messages from rougher rappers like Tupac, Biggie and N.W.A. because Ice Cube was a poet before he became America’s dad. See, people grow up and the sooner that happens, the better you will be. The following are examples of the rap that I loved in the past and you should notice that rap from the 80s and 90s often sampled 60s and 70s R&B music. That’s called respect.
P.E.- Shut em Down https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wOcOBjB3uU
LL Cool J – The Breakthrough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0mk_RgA8-0&list=RDN0mk_RgA8-0
See, I fought with the devil, made a promise to God
I have experience in goin’ all the way to the top
It’s harder harder than hard all the suckers are barred
You used to try to talk down now your ego is scarred
See the problem is you want what another man has
His car, his wife, or his razzamatazz
But that’s weak, you gotta do work on your own
‘Cuz when you’re rich you got friends but when you’re poor you’re alone
So get your own on your own, it’ll strengthen your soul
Stop livin’ off your parents like you’re three years old
Instead of walkin’ like you’re limp and talkin’ yang about me
Why don’t you take your monkey-ass and get a college degree?
Or write a rhyme and ride a bike and try to live carefree
Hope my message reaches you before you’re seventy-three
A old man, when people ask you what you did with your life
You’ll say “I hated L.L. and I carried a big knife”
Brand Nubian- Slow Down https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAvetlQbrA8
Public Enemy – Brothers Gonna Work It Out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHxkPNx23Og
Eric B and Rakim – Move the Crowd https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyl_j0g9AwU
Gang Starr – Jazz Thing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is5xMd1nT5o
Guru – No Time To Play https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09WzUhMZmFo
Brandy – I Wanna Be Down (Remix) (feat. Mc Lyte, YoYo & Queen Latifah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LthQLQMilvo
2Pac – Keep Ya Head Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfXwmDGJAB8
2pac – I Ain’t Mad At Cha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt1XjVdyJ6o
The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JZom_gVfuw
3rd Bass “Pop Goes The Weasel” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzXI_ApY4dY
MC Hammer – Pray https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xNSgBkum7o
MC Hammer – Turn This Mutha Out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74OBaLLi3tY
Grandmaster Flash- The Message https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4o8TeqKhgY
Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lDCYjb8RHk
Afrika Bambaataa – Looking for the Perfect Beat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RJlYzBhLg4
OutKast – Player’s Ball https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFofKGKlWo4
Ludacris ft Field Mob & Jamie Foxx-Georgia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZW_VgFXm_w
Master P “Make’em Say UGH” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5ZvzIOO6aU
House Of Pain – “Jump Around” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZaz7OqyTHQ
RUN DMC HARD TIMES https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO2cakSiqDQ
Self Destruction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxyYP_bS_6s
NEWCLEUS – JAM ON IT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEmg5GaAHbk
De La Soul – Me, Myself And I https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJEzEDMqXQQ
Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BONgL61snlM
A Tribe Called Quest – Bonita Applebum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6oO-1iWc1c
De La Soul “Buddy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F69dt5clGPo
Black Sheep – The Choice Is Yours https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9F5xcpjDMU
Digable Planets – Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM4kqL13jGM
Arrested Development – Tennessee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VCdJyOAQYM
PM Dawn – Set A Drift On Memory Bliss https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5lByFc7HiM
Queen Latifah ft. Monie Love – Ladies First https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLB5bUNAesc