I’m tired of people criticizing rap music. Parents and authority figures often blame school shootings and urban violence on rhymes. The media furthers this stance with various news talk shows.
“Scarborough Country,” hosted by former congressman Joe Scarborough, a one-sided windbag, posed the question, “is rap music bad for kids?” It’s a loaded question and has an inherent bias.
The show featured University of California at Berkeley associate professor of linguistics John McWhorter, who wrote an article for City Journal.
McWhorter voiced a negative opinion toward rap music in his article.
“By re-enforcing the stereotypes that long hindered blacks, and by teaching young blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly “authentic” response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards black success,” he said.
Although I know John McWhorter is African-American, I feel that these feelings towards rap music is a subversive form of racism against the black rap artists.
People listen to a couple popular rap songs about money and sex and stereotype the music. However, most rock and country pop music deal with many of the same topics.
Rap music should be viewed as a positive medium that flows more like poetry than any other lyrical genre. Most of the time rappers are the first to push social awareness and ethics on a culture that is fixated on immorality and selfishness.
There’s a plethora of songs that guide youth in the right direction. For example, the message is evident simply in the title of the Black Eyed Peas’ overplayed single “Where is the Love?”
The Black Eye Peas also question the violence behind the President Bush’s actions. NAS ponders the same issues in the song “Rule,”: “No war, we should take time and think, the bombs and tanks makes mankind extinct.” After listening to the songs the words of world peace reverberate through the minds of the listeners.
Another powerful forum for rappers and their lyrics is Def Poetry Jam, featuring artists such as Talib Kweli. Executive producer Russell Simmons says, “Def Poetry Jam will raise the Hip Hop Nation to a higher level of consciousness. Spoken word is one of the most powerful forces of social change.” (defpoetryjam.com)
Tupac Shakur was another rap legend, oft criticized for his violent lyrics. Ultimately a shooting led to his untimely death, beginning his legacy.
On Nov. 14, his life will move to the big screen in a documentary entirely narrated by the deceased. Even seven-years posthumously, Tupac is making a positive impact on society.
He focused on the problem of urban life and the violence and drugs that youth face, especially in one of his first released singles, “Trapped.” Many of his songs were the first to raise awareness of forgotten problems. In “Dear Mama,” he praised his single mother for her dedicated work. And in Brenda’s Got a Baby, he personalized the difficulty of teenage pregnancy.
Tupac often preached against evil, particularly in his posthumously produced “Changes.” His lyrics include commentary on the first Bush war with Iraq, which seven years later is still relevant. His heart was big and he had grave concerns with the defense and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms budget, that he felt could be put to better use in the welfare system.
The lyrics weren’t just of social problems, but also of strength, happiness, and optimism. “Me Against the World,” displays the importance of independence and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Additionally, in “Keep Your Head Up,” Tupac deals with his struggles. He raps, “No matter how tough it gets, stick your chest out, keep your head up and handle it.”
In addition, Tupac’s poems have been published in a book of poetry, “The Rose That Grew From Concrete,” which shows both his sensitivity, as well as immense writing talent. Poems include, “I Cry” and “The Rose That Grew From Concrete.” The rose in the poem, symbolic of Tupac growing up in the rough projects, grew wondrously, surprising everyone.
I would love to share all these lines and words, but the lyrics and poems belong to the artists. My only recommendation is to listen to these songs and discover that rappers want to correct society’s ills. Hear the compassion in the hearts of rap music, even if you don’t like the beats or sound. And definitely don’t blame it for society’s problems.