Today we speak, dress and drive what the stars do. Where we shop and eat even the types of homes we buy are dictated by what we “hear” the celebrities are doing. That is a powerful influence over an individual adult but only imagine what type of influence this has over an impressionable pre-teen. Due to the fact that hip-hop/rap music appeals to the thirteen to eighteen year old audiences and the artists performing come from very similar backgrounds of the listeners, rap music is able to control the way that youth think. Teens and pre-teens are using their part-time job paycheck to buy grills (a form of jewelry
worn in the mouth) and other types of jewelry. The “N” word, which once degraded African Americans, has now become an all too frequent word used amongst the younger generation and not only by African Americans. Hispanics and Caucasians greet and refer to each other using the word “nigga” as well. That comes as no surprise that according to 2005’s sound scan report states that suburban pre-teens brought just as much rap music as urban teens. It was tolerable when rap music affected fashion. It was tolerable when Will Smith
put out his hit record “Parents Just Don’t Understand” in 1989 and it was even tolerable with the introduction of Lil’ Bow Wow in 2000. Now, the new generation is taking the lyrics of rap music more literally. Without the youth being able to distinguish fantasy from reality rap music has turned the youth more violent, utterly disrespectful and it is teaching them that it’s acceptable to have multiple babies’ mommas, stand on the block and hustle or even kill someone over a minor disagreement. It’s easy to assume that I dislike rap music but it’s quite the opposite. Growing up my mother wouldn’t let me listen to rap because I discovered it in the era it began to turn violent. However, when I was old enough to listen to rap music I was amazed at how creative a person could be with words and music as a result I was inspired me to take my poetry
more seriously. In the same light, I saw a lot of my good friends not finish high school and get locked up due to following Master P and other rappers who made selling drugs appealing to my peers. It was bad then, now it is horrible.
On the fashion side, amongst the hip-hop generation white tees, made popular by drug dealers and rap group Dem Franchize Boyz, has been replaced by Trap or Die, Snowman and Rubber band Man t-shirts made popular by southern rap stars Young Jeezy and self-proclaimed seven-time felon T.I. The meaning for “snowman” is the “snow” which stands for cocaine, in translation is man who deals cocaine. Trap or Die means to “trap”, sell drugs/hustle, or die. That is sending a message that the only thing our young black males are able to do to acquire money is to sell drugs or hustle and the only alternative to that is to die, a lot of young men are taking this message to heart. I am only nineteen years old and a third of the male friends I grew up with are drug dealers, a third are in prison for dealing drugs and I just had two friends die over the summer and their deaths were drug related. What is the meaning for all of this? These are the T-shirts our youth are choosing to wear which is showing the mentality they have when it comes to street life and the neglect of their own.
Today’s rap music is bolstering with the fact that it is all right to have a court case and that it really isn’t a big deal. “Seven-time felon, what I care Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½bout a case man.” T.I. boasts in this 2004 hit single “Rubber band man” The point is that the next generation is being deteriorated by the lyrics and images portrayed in rap music and videos. Living in Philadelphia in a society and a community heavily influenced by hip-hop music I witness young African American males walking around as if they are in a 24-hour music video. They are wearing huge fake silver/gold necklaces, over sized glasses, and an outfit they had to work almost two months to buy. Then when they open their mouth every other word is a curse word and women are bitches and hoes. There is no desire for social or economic advancement unless it is attained through criminal activity. In my opinion rap music is influencing our adolescents to become hustlers, pimps and murderers and that can be seen by viewing the death toll in Philadelphia since the start of the year. How does this happen? How is rap so powerful that it can have a hand in violent confrontations? It may help if we start with a brief definition and history of what rap music is and where it came from.
The “Oxford English Dictionary” defines “rap” as a style of popular music in which words are spoken rhythmically and often in rhyming sentences over an instrumental backing. Viewing a rap documentary shot in 1999 entitled “Rhyme and Reason” I’ve learned that rap was created in the streets of Brooklyn New York in the early 1980’s as a form of expression among African Americans. The purpose was to showcase how creative an individual could be with words off the top of their heads or with enough time to write them, or the ability to tell a story to a beat. Back in those times (which seems like decades ago) a dispute was settled in one of two ways both of which called battling. One form of battling was two dancers would go back and forth to see who could dance most creative and originally, the second form of battling was a fight, but with words. Verbal insults directed at your opponents appearance, attire, girlfriend, mother, etc. The better man got the respect and the props and the loser left with embarrassment, but no one died. With artists such as Slick Rick, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Special Ed and Big Daddy Kane made popular non-violent mainstream music that spread throughout the world in a matter of two years. The music touched everyone, it was freedom of expression, it was in good clean fun and it created an entire movement in music. However in the early 1990’s with the release of a new group who called themselves N.W.A (Niggas With Attitude) brought on a whole new wave of music. These artist were fed up with police brutality and the oppressed conditions they were born and living in. That generation had grown tired and violent and rap music was a way as expressing how they felt. The west coast is credited with the birth of gangster rap with artist such as, Dr.Dre, Snoop Dog, Kurrut, Too Short and the most popular Tupac. These artists spoke to a frustrated, confused and sexually driven youth unlike the youth in the 1980’s and the youth brought it in the masses. Finally the youth had someone could identify with what they were thinking, how they were feeling and rappers said they did the violent things most teens wanted to do but didn’t. Not to mention that the rappers bragged about making a ton of money doing it, what teen wouldn’t those combinations appeal to?
Rappers are often referred to as MC’s. The meaning for the word MC is “to Move the Crowd. Music has a way of controlling the actions of people, more specifically teen’s ages 12-19 because they are at a very impressionable age and it’s hard for them to determine fantasy from reality. It’s just like the saying goes, “Music calms the savage beast”; music has the ability to create a savage as well. In 1988, rapper Ice-T came under fire by the media for his song “Cop Killa”. After the song was released to the public numerous police murderers said the song attributed to why they did the murders. Those men where influenced by Ice-T’s song and they were adults! Within that month of the song being released there were nine reported police officer murders in urban California alone. Another incident involved a group called Three 6 Mafia
who, in the early 1990’s, was banned from almost every state in the north and south because of their song “Tear the club up” due to the fact that every time they performed the song a riot broke out. Can you believe a song had that much power over young men and women, it’s almost unreal. A researcher “N.M. Weinberger” states that, “Music can rapidly and powerfully set moods and do so in a way not as easily attained by other means.”-“American Academy of Pediatrics”. Scientifically the brain already has a strong connection with music so powerful that a sixteen-week-old fetus being exposed to music can separate and differentiate melodies, and harmony and lyrics. That combined with the structure of rap music that consists of fairly low rhythms from a drum machine and lots of bass called “Sonic Valium”. The rhythm slows down the nervous system and the bass discharges the nervous system added with lyrics in a periodic cadence facilitate a trance. -“American Academy of Pediatrics”. All those elements delivered to an impressionable, sexually curious, destructive teen is very dangerous if unmonitored and it has gone unmonitored for the past sixteen years.
Rap music has control of the 12-19 year old crowd more than the parents in the household. It is popular because it speaks to a generation that can/wants to identify with what the artist is saying. They are fictionally living vicariously through the words of the artist. The youth are taking someone else’s experiences and making it their own just for the sake of being cool, being accepted or for the perception of being “hard”. The days of simply acting tough are gone with the wind. To make the transition more realistic more and more teens find the need to prove it rather than say it. More teens have held a handgun or carried a handgun before they have sat being the wheel of a car. Many have sold drugs, taken drugs and have committed a violent act against one of their peers. My boyfriend was arrested at age fifteen for resisting arrest and guess what? For a long time he was an aspiring rapper and he had to build a reputation as a bad ass. Day by day rap music is raising our adolescents to be gun toting, drug dealing, money hungry high school drop-outs who continue to blow their money on cars, clothing and jewelry all while still living at home and why? Why is this genre of music so influential? The problem used to lie amongst teenage boys but now even young women are being overtaken by the music. When I visit Harrisburg on my breaks off from school I see young girls, younger than me, with ankle bracelets on. Some girls have graduated from holding their boyfriends drug stash to selling it themselves. Self proclaimed best rapper alive Jay-Z, in his 2000 song “Girls, girls, girls” off the multi-platinum selling album “The Blueprint”, says “I got a gangsta chick that’s wit’ me from the start, hid my drugs from the narcs (narcotic detectives) hid my guns in the park”. Other rappers such as Philadelphia native Eve has contributed to women being “gangsta” even so Eve, along with female rappers Trina and Da Brat released a song called “Gangsta Bitch” on her 2002 album “Scorpion”. The female trio used examples of violence and sex to obtain wealth and power. Unlike the females rap pioneers such as, Queen Latifa and MC Lyte, the females rappers now; Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Eve, Da Brat, Trina, Kia, and Jackie-O are delivering the message that sex is the way to attract the attention of a man, money and personal advancement. Female teens are even more impressionable than the teen boys, especially when it comes to sex. Not many parents or young girls are comfortable speaking to her parents about sex so who speaks to her? Lil’ Kim. In her 2003 song “Magic Stick” featuring rap mega-star 50 Cent
she boasts, “I ain’t out shoppin’ spendin’ dudes C-notes, I’m in da crib givin’ niggas deep throat.” With lyrics like that blasting in the ears of our youth it’s no wonder why I see so many pregnant girls under the age of eighteen.
Rap music was once a way for inner city African Americans to voice their opinions and make a living using their talent but now it is destroying the future leaders of this country. What is going to happen to the generation who will be raised by this one? If rap music continues on the path our youth are traveling now the next generation will be unimaginably unsalvageable. The next generation will be born into a world where a gun will be as common as a pacifier; all because of the influence music has over teens.