Rap Music and Society
Rap music has recently been under fire for its misogynistic, materialistic, explicit content and for delivering negative messages to today's youth. But upon deeper examination, one tends to see that those ideas are merely the same ones being transmitted to the society at large by the institutions which govern society.
The parallels between the ideas propagated through the mass media and other sources; and the ones rapped about on the radio by recording artists are not hard to recognize. While this society proposes to thrive on such "rights" as "freedom of speech" and embraces such abstract concepts as individualism, materialism, and using sex to make profit, it lambasts and condemns artists who are the products of such defunct ideas and who have chosen to endorse and promote them for monetary gain—similar to their capitalist counterparts and employers—only creatively set over catchy beats in rhyme form.
While the hip-hop/rap culture is made up primarily of lower-class, urban youth, generally from the New Afrikan community. the question that arises is: Why are these destructive, negative values so unacceptable now? It seems that as soon as these inner-city youth find a way to use this society's own value system to their benefit, and use their experiences an conditions of poverty, drugs, and crime as an avenue to create material wealth, they are demonized for their efforts. "Rap music" as a whole is condemned. This is as backwards a reaction as is a child growing up around parents who constantly use foul language, then reprimanding that child when he uses that same language, without holding the parents to account.
Before further analysis, the distinction must be made between what is referred to as "rap" and hip-hop. This may seem minor to some, but it is an important contrast in regards to the subject at hand. The difference between the who can be compared to saying "I love you" to somebody (rap) and being IN love with somebody (hip-hop). Rap is a more commercial venture, where the artists typically brag about who has the flashiest jewelry, the hottest cars, the highest body count, and the most extravagant sexual exploits. Included in this category would be such popular artists as 50 Cent, Young Geezy, and Lil Wayne. Hip-hop, on the other hand, tends to be the expression of the artist's perception of life, their experiences, and an art form where they can articulate ideas and feelings. Artists falling into this category include Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, and Dead Prez. Unfortunately, both categories are lumped together and branded simply "rap" by the mainstream.
Most of the concepts being attacked come from artists in the "rap" category. Here, one can find rappers largely objectifying wimmin, advocating individualism and gangsterism, and supporting their general materialistic message by endorsing such acts as murder, robbery, and deceit, among others. After identifying these trends in rap music, one can't help but see the similarities between rap and the society at large.
Every time one turns on the television, they can not help but notice the many overt references to sex. Wimmin are scantily clad in commercial advertisements to sell almost any commodity imaginable. Wimmin in bikinis walk around boxing rings holding placards showing what round has begun; reality shows televised with wimmin competing for some random guy while employing a wide array of seductive tactics; the list could continue much further. All this is available to a general audience at any given moment throughout the day. The underlying idea is that "sex sells," and this idea is overwhelmingly used by men to objectify and exploit wimmin participants for profit.
Then there is the main reason that these wimmin are objectified—money. They stand next to an expensive car that is supposed to be the fastest and most popular; are in advertisements selling the "classiest" jewelry and apparel; and generally promote obtaining as many of the newest, flashiest, in-style material possessions as possible. This idea has become so widespread and acceptable that in schools the youth who are found to possess the newest, flyest clothes and products are the more popular, while those without the latest trendy clothes and items are the less socially acceptable.
Then there is also the issue of crime. While rappers are being chastised for glorifying violence and criminality, the chastizers fail to confront the underlying causes of such crime and its solution, instead placing the blame on rap culture. From a young age, youth are taught by society that accumulation of wealth is the desired goal of life, to look out for yourself and obtain as much as you can. At the same time—through acts of war at home and abroad— our country reinforces the idea that during the quest for the "almighty dollar." any means may be employed to get more money, including violence, murder, and deceit (among others)—only accepting those from the lower-class. When a person not from a privileged upbringing and background employs these same tactics, even for the same objectives, they are labeled "criminals" and are subject to incarceration and, in some cases, death. The laws that govern this country blatantly display the fact that they were made to protect the privileges of the upper-class at the expense of the lower-class.
This is not a defense for the clearly negative aspects of a culture that influences people from all kinds of different persuasions and races. Objectifying and degrading wimmin, and glorifying drugs and crime are definitely counter-productive and really reflect a symptom of a far wider problem. I am simply attempting to show the correlations between rap music and society, how they both inherently share and promote the same ideas and values, and how by and from the former they are criticized and scorned, yet by and from the latter they are accepted and embraced.
If we want to get to the root of the problem, our attacks shouldn't be aimed at a rap culture that developed from the harsh conditions of this society and which only reflects the same backward ideas and values that have been indoctrinated into the masses since birth. Instead, our attacks should be concentrated at a capitalist system that institutionalizes these degenerate values and ideas, and the ugly conditions it has consequently created in this country. Only when we begin to confront the root causes of crime, poverty, unemployment and racism will we be able to teach and educate our youth, and society as a whole, to new positive and progressive ideas and values, based on people helping and caring about other people-in one world: socialism. Anything short of this is a failure to confront the real issues and is simply a step backward.