Of guns and gangstas: hip-hop cultureFrom

“Hip-Hop Is Dead.” This proposition is the title of Nas’ latest hit. But is it really dead? Or is it dying?

On April 3, the Office of Anti-Violence Initiatives, alongside co-sponsoring organizations Alpha Kappa Alpha, Chi Upsilon Sigma, Black Student Union, Lambda Theta Alpha, Lambda Tau Omega, PRISM, Zeta Phi Beta, Phi Beta Sigma, Mu Sigma Upsilon, National Council of Negro Women, Sigma Sigma Sigma and Phi Kappa Psi, hosted an evening that shed light on the negativity of hip-hop that could potentially contribute to its demise.

The event commenced with a screening of the documentary “HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.” It was produced, directed and written by Byron P. Hurt. The goal of the film is to examine the representation of manhood in the hip-hop culture. Hurt posed the question of whether guns have become the symbol of what it means to be a man. According to Hurt, weapons such as guns have become representative symbols of contemporary masculinity, a blatant premise illustrated in the film. For example, in 50 Cent’s music video “Many Men,” a gun is used as a means to let out anger – an example which may potentially be perceived as proper and acceptable by young fans.

Another important point the film reinforced is the fact that hip-hop has had a significant impact on the desensitization of violence in contemporary society, especially among youth. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black men between 15 and 34. “We must challenge the notion that it is OK to kill or to die early,” a minister in the film said.

Hurt further augmented the powerful criticism by adding how hip-hop paints women as nothing but sex objects in the majority of its music videos and lyrics. According to Hurt, the normalized vulgar terminology that represents desensitized concepts must not be dismissed as it too often is. In the film, many young aspiring artists are seen emulating the true popular artists by using the same lyrical style and themes: money, drugs and sex. One of the aspiring artists interviewed said one must be “thuggish” to be successful.

The film also emphasized how one’s environment is a critical factor to consider when discussing people and violence. Where one grows up, what he watches (movies, films, etc.) and what others wear are all influential factors that could end up affecting an individual in the long run.

One of the many fallacies that has managed to permeate through the minds of many individuals is the notion that blacks and minorities are the ones who primarily listen to hip-hop. According to the film, this is not true. White men consume 70 percent of hip-hop. Throughout the documentary, Hurt stressed the idea that hip-hop reinforced many stereotypes and even contributed to furthering the concept of patriarchy.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion on the topic of “Masculinity: Men and Boys; Gender Violence & Homophobia and Media Literacy & Responsibility.” The panelists for the evening were Dr. Wayne Heisler from the Music Department, Dr. Paula Seniors from the African-American Studies Department and Andres Johnson, a well-informed insider from the hip-hop industry.

“The hip-hop culture is an easy target,” Johnson said, after discussing society’s aversion to hip-hop culture.

Heisler stressed how much the culture is expanding and discussed its globalization while Seniors addressed how important it is to consider how the overwhelming majority of the images depicted affect African-Americans and other minorities.