But maybe hip-hop is undeserving of its constant criticisms.
Today jazz is revered as one of the greatest genres of all times. However, just as rock and roll was coined the “devil’s music,” just as hip-hop is considered not to be music at all, jazz was also originally detested. It was a well-known fact that musicians of the 1940s and 1950s were heavily involved in drugs. Much of their life was spent playing music in nightclubs where drug life was rife. Some of the legendary jazz artists—Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker—struggled with known drug addictions. The difference is that, as influential as jazz was, it was not seen as the cause of everything wrong with the baby boomer generation.
The musicians our parents idolized did not lead exemplary lives. James Brown—women abuser. Ray Charles—heroin addict. Marvin Gaye—notorious womanizer. Etta James—heroin addict. But their music was respected without the assassination attacks on the art form, or their character, that many hip-hop artists receive.
As gruesome and vulgar as the lyrics of hip-hop can be—both necessarily and unnecessarily—hip-hop is poetry. Like every other genre, hip-hop is a form of artistic expression. The story may be unfamiliar to some, but it remains nonetheless real.
The influence of hip-hop culture on youth is undeniable. In the same way that rock and roll was associated with promoting sex and drugs, hip-hop is correlated with everything wrong with the Millennial generation. As easily influenced as children are, blaming the actions of rappers, their lyrics, and the image they portray for what is wrong with our youth, is a cop-out on addressing the root of some of the problems.
Hip-hop is often blamed when education, public policy, poverty, and the de-intellectualization of American culture should be held accountable. Hip-hop is the mirror in which American culture, Black middle-class American culture especially, detests the reflection that it sees. Be it in the pursuit of profit or class superiority, the message that the defamation of hip-hop at the hands of elders sends to youth is crystal clear. Black youth culture is disposable, and therefore, Black youth are disposable.
Parents have a far greater responsibility to raise their children then a rapper who half the time doesn’t even believe in, or live, the rhymes he spits. Indeed, some of the elements of the music are problematic. In particular, I take issue with the false image several of them present to the world. Case in point: Lil Jon, Plies, and others who all hold higher education degrees, but never rap about the importance of education. Yet I still cannot fairly attribute the societal ills that plague Black youth to hip-hop culture . CONTINUE READING...