This is part five of a theGrio series on hip-hop and its cultural impact on black America. Click here for part one of the series.
Sometimes I think rappers are deliberately trying to get kids killed out here.
The influx of negative imagery in music increasingly has absolutely no socially redeeming value and resembles ancient Sodom and Gomorrah more than modern civilized culture. Fact: hip-hop will always be considered youth culture.
Sure, there are older rappers in the game doing it still, but most are either wack, washed up, or trying to act like they are the young bucks. And the young bucks are rapping as if their music – typically good – doesn’t have any effect on their listeners.
I love the old Arnold Schwarzenegger theory. “Man, Arnold Schwarzenegger can kill 100 people in a movie. I’m just rapping,” a rapper may say. Mind you, Arnie is 65 now and his greatest hits were in the 80’s and 90’s, right about when hip-hop was giving kid a well-balanced diet musically. Nowadays, it’s the equivalent of junk food. I mean, in my day to day, I love junk food. Chips, candy and, when I’m feeling particularly daring, a fast food burger. Only thing is, I don’t eat it the way I used to, because of the health detriments that come with it.
The same thing goes with commercialized hip-hop and kids.
Kids love it and consume it, because it’s so alluring visually and sonically. Honestly, it’s not that much different than America’s age-old fascination with the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. America loves these old guys so much, they still appear in present day shoot ’em up movies. (See, the aforementioned Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, who continue to appear in big-budget action flicks filled with mass murder.) The only thing is that mass murder is what happens every day, particularly in the inner city with African-American men.
In Chicago, deaths by shooting exceeded 500 last year and according to reports, they are trending to exceed that this year. Now you cannot blame hip-hop for this. But, while this remains part of American culture, why can’t we hold our artists accountable to produce some music that we know the kids are fiending to hear?
Take Kendrick Lamar, for example.
The young Compton spitter just surpassed platinum sales and everybody loves the 25-year-old. His album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, is a classic coming of age story about the trials and tribulations of a young man. It’s not overly positive, not overly negative…it’s just excellent. There are intricate tales woven in and out of lush audio backdrops. He’s an exception to the rule, but a good indication of what can be if rappers decide that it doesn’t have to be all booty music and shoot ’em up songs.
My kid is not allowed to listen to Kendrick, but if she did one day, it would be cool. Frankly, she can listen to whatever she wants when she’s grown. The problem is pre-teen kids are listening to this debauchery as if its the cool thing to do. Programmers and networks are putting whatever on TV and radio all day, in regular rotation as if it has no adverse effect on the impressionable listener. Parents need to be held accountable as well. Oftentimes, they are the ones that feed their own kids the “fast food” that will eventually lead to degenerate behavior and thoughts.
The sad fact is, I approach these sorts of external stimuli like they are attempts on my daughter’s life. If you are trying to teach her that she’s no more than a piece of meat for some man to get his rocks off on, that’s trying to destroy her well-being. I’m going to treat it as such. I’m not raising a vixen. If you are telling black men that killing or drug dealing are the only activities that we do, that’s also an attempt on her life. She has to live in the world with these clowns. I’m not raising a daughter looking toward thugs for love. The death rates and the AIDS rates are too high and the love and self-esteem are too low in society. It’s not just rappers either. You can barely get a love song from an R&B singer anymore.
It’s time that we treat these threats seriously.
Put on your vest and keep your eye on the shooter.
Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur is a father, son and the co-founder of AllHipHop.com. He’s a cultural critic, pundit and trailblazer that has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR), BET, TVOne, VH1, The E! Channel, MTV, The O’Reilly Factor, USA Today, The New York Times, New York’s Hot 97 FM and like a zillion other outlets.