Is Hip Hop simply a scapegoat for a larger problem?


Since its creation Hip Hop, as well as other aspects of the Black Community such as Blaxploitation films have been scrutinized for what some consider “questionable content.” This content included vulgar, explicit sex and violence driven themes and even themes considered too political and therefore a “danger to society.” The largest attack has been on Rap music, and while warranted in some instances, the attack is often used to mask a larger issue.

It is thought that Rap music has a negative effect on society. The lewd content is allegedly influencing America’s youth to seek lives of crime, violence, and casual sex. Now while it is true that all forms of media and entertainment have an effect on the viewer, can music truly compel someone to alter their life’s course? Not at all. Such “questionable content” would have to be reinforced by other factors and without rebuttal by socializing agents such as education and family. As much as America would like to blame Rap for the youth’s problems, society needs to come to the realization that Rap alone just is not capable of such an influence. If Rap were somehow abolished from music the youth would not change. We live in a culture dripping of sex and violence. Everything from President Bush wanting to “smoke out” the troops in Iraq and having the “terminator” for a state governor to movies like James Bond 007 and sex soaked TV shows like “The Real World.” Rap is a small percentage of all entertainment and media being produced in America. Only in the U.S. can we have sexy Colgate toothpaste commercials and blame promiscuity on Rap music. Sex and Violence is in every aspect of popular culture, Rap is simply a scapegoat for a larger problem.

Rap blamed for several crimes however, Rock and Alternative Rock are not given the same treatment. Columbine and Virginia Tech Shootings both featured assailants who religiously listened to Rock music with “questionable content” but in neither situation has Rock been blamed for those viscous crimes. Note the discrepancy. The themes in Rap and Rock are equally blatant, curses and all but they are not equally discussed.

When Akon allegedly “dry raped” a young girl from Trinidad the media immediately began to criticize Rap although the only connection Akon has with Rap is being a loyal fan with a few music collaborations. Akon is a singer from Senegal whose music can be considered R&B by some standards but by no definition, Rap. Every news outlet, specifically The O’Riley Show named Akon a rapper with explicit content and urged sponsors to back out of any endorsements and deals with Akon. Rap was used as a scapegoat for Akon’s actions without any valid connections. Akon is no more connected with Rap than Maroon 5. Both have collaborated with Rap artists and are fans but are by no means rappers themselves. They both even have sexual content in their music but coincidently or not, artists like Akon are the only ones targeted. It is instances such as this one that lead many to believe that the attack is race related and that artists like Akon are labeled rappers and critics assume they have lewd content simply because they are Black. Why else would the connection be made? What differentiates Akon from Maroon 5 or Kid Rock? Note the discrepancy.

Ludacris is a popular rapper known for his animated style of rapping. Never has he claimed to be a gangster or drug dealer however he is prolific for sex themed music. When Ludacris was considered for the Pepsi endorsement Bill O’Riley had a fit. He claimed Ludacris had explicit content and cursed much too much to be in the endorsement and pressured Pepsi to drop Ludacris. While his reasoning is warranted he is not consistent. If Ludacris is too explicist for Pepsi, why replace him with the Osborne Family? The Osbornes, Ozzy specifically, are extremely explicit and Ozzy has music that can be considered more vulgar than that of Ludacris yet O’Riley approved of the endorsement. Note the discrepancy. The only difference one cal pull from Ludacris and The Osbornes is that Ludacris is Black and a member of the Hip Hop community. Is there really any reason for why Ozzy did not receive equal treatment?

While Rap does have an effect on society especially in regards to how Blacks are stereotyped and profiled, the music artists themselves cannot shoulder the entire blame. Rap’s greatest shift in content (1993-present) occurred when Hip Hop culture became a commercial commodity. Corporations used Hip Hop as a cash cow and used it in everything from clothing to cereal and successfully sold more products to consumers because of it. The corporate interest created an inbalance between the “baller” and the “backpacker,” the gangster and the activist. Ballers and thugs are more controversial and make more money in mainstream society so a handful of record labels monopolized distribution and produced uniform cookie cutter artist modeled after groups like NWA and Ice T. Similar to Black actors participating in minstrel shows, Black artist participated in the new industry tactic. For every artist who opposed the artist mold there was another who was so desperate for funds that they would play along. Rappers wanting to express any inference of individuality were ignored by record labels and the ignorant were embraced. Financially, the “conscious” artist was not a profitable endeavor so many artist foolishly and some for survival adapted to the twisted demand, ignoring Hip Hop’s true foundation of knowledge and originality. If you want an artist to stop their explicit lyrics then attack the CEOs of their record labels. Attack A&R. Attack Management and Artist Development. Attack those who are profiting the most from the lewd content and are majorly White and not concerned with the fate of the Black community and its images. For many artists a change in content would mean a loss of a record deal or breach in contract. For real change the corporations have to be attacked, they are the ones with all the creative and financial control, the rappers are mere pawns. So why has the media yet to set up a round table with heads of all these record labels and distributers? Why not go to the root of the problem? There is not right or wrong answer. There are many reasons but the main one would be financial loss and a threat to the economy. If rap changed, then all music would change. If music changed then so would radio, television, movies, advertisements, etc. Money would be lost and the lining of corporate exec’s fat pockets would begin to thin.

Rap is not the bane of America’s existence. Pop culture is. Society is it’s own enemy. The media is a reflection of society and society reflects the media. If a conscious change is to occur successfully the attackers should also become the attacked. Stop supporting sex and violence driven content if you feel it is inappropriate. Why focus coverage on the death of a porn star and insult a Rapper for disrespecting women. In America there lies a double standard with what some believe to have racial context. We need to stop scapegoating and examining the real issues. Let’s be real, a sound education and proper parenting can refute the strongest of entertainment and media forces but society doesn’t attack parenting or values, we attack the entertainers so we don’t have to deal with ourselves and our dwindling society.

~ by neorealist on June 14, 2007.

One Response to “Politricks”

  1. Hello, nice post. Bookmark it.

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