Music is an international language understood all over the world through its rhythm and the feeling it can give a person. It defines personality and demonstrates emotions better than any other means of expression, because the music subjects are so similar to the negative and positive aspects of life in today’s society, hip-hop give people something to which they can relate. Although it is not what anyone could call “clean” or profanity and subjective free music, hip-hop has made its imprint on the kids of this generation.
When people need to gain comfort or strength, they look to things they can relate to, which provide encouragement and motivation to ease their minds and go on living life. The people that are born in this generation have experienced life’s hardships much younger than past generations and hip-hop music provide reassurance that troubles will pass. Listening to famous artists who have become successful, they talk about their struggles and difficult times. Knowing that they were able to lead good lives helps kids these days to cope with their problems, which are all so similar.
Hip-hop has its own cultural impact, because hip-hop is also a generated culture of today’s society. There are African American artists such as, Russell Simmons, who seek to build a progressive political movement among young hip-hop fans (Roach). Hip-hop was born in fire especially from the ghettos of New York. That is when hip-hop was positive, such as the creation of a loop (of beats) which became the freedom; through movement, dancers stretched within space sculpted by the break. Hip-hop back then was a way to escape the chaos in the streets (Chang, 23-24).
Then DJ’s and MC’s were created to rock memorizing poems later known as freestyles. Artists such as, the Sugar Hill Gang became a sensational smash with their “Rappers Delight” hit record and Kurtis Blow released hip-hop’s first full-length album on a major label . During these times, the stage was set for hip-hop culture. In the 1980’s, the government’s administration was launching an attack on the welfare state, wiping out subsidies for the poor and closing down government programs. Hip-hop artist were on the counter offensive such as, The Furious Five warning: “Don’t push me ‘cause I’m close to the edge. I’m not trying not to lose my head. It’s like a jingle sometimes; it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” After this, gangs began to form and “gangsta” tales began populating society with drunken, high, irresponsible, criminal, murderous people (or known to black Americans as “niggas”) This type of behavior became better known as reality rap and reality hip-hop (Chang, 24).
When drugs, alcohol, and guns became popular in the world, hip-hop music changed the tone of influence that is given out to society. Conversely, hip-hop music does not only allow troublesome kids to relate to the music being played. The uses of drugs, alcohol, and guns lead to several songs containing lyrics that describe shooting a black man, beating someone up, sex or general pimping and booty shaking. Songs, such as “Just Put It in Your Mouth” by Akinyele is basically as sex song that describes exactly what the title says. The bad part of this is that it shows children that it is okay to have sex anywhere and anytime and society does not even bother censoring it, but they would censor the wrong words in the wrong song such as, Missy Elliot’s “Work It”. In her video they censored parts of her verse, “Is it worth it, let me work it I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it” Even though the world knows exactly what she meant, Missy Elliot did not even say an obscure word.
On the other hand, some hip-hop has a definite meaning such as, “Superstar Pt. Zero” By K-OS that talk about the hip-hop influence on the streets and where the energy of life comes from. Loyalty is also a big issue in many hip-hop artists’ songs because defending the people they care for and putting their loved ones’ lives before their own is most important to them. As with all performers, hip-hop artists have a lot of money, and they enjoy talking about their riches in their songs. Kids of this generation, as well, want to have chains around their necks that “bling bling” when the light strikes them, and “pinky rings [that are] worth about fifty” (Bling Bling, B.G.). If having a lot of money is a bad thing, then why does our society revolve around the producing and distributing of money? Having money is a necessity these days. Also cars and stereo systems in those cars are greatly desired in this time, both of which are very expensive. Whether the song is about bros or hoes, or “phat” beats, or “Air Force Ones”, most born in this generation enjoy the music that is displayed.
The hip-hop world is a complete evolution between “back in the day” and now similar to the world of jazz music in “Sonny’s Blues” By James Baldwin. “Sonny’s Blues” is originally a story about suffering and pain and about how different people experience these emotions and manage to overcome them. Hip-hop now relates to all the frustration and the negative effects that happen in the streets. Graffiti is also another form of expression towards hip-hop. Public walls have been used as a prime surface for the creation and communication of ideas. Hip hop graffiti and those responsible for upholding the hip hop culture use a vast array of tools (namely the spray can and microphone) to communicate the goals of this movement. (Element)
To comprehend the agenda of a graffiti artist, it is vital to understand the history of hip-hop and wall art. Graffiti is Italian for “graffito” that means scratching made on the surface. The simple tag evolved to become what is referred to as a “throw up”. A throw up is a bicolor tag written in bubble or block letters which are filled in with one color and outlined in another. The next logical step in the evolution of hip hop graffiti was the “piece”, a highly composed mural depicting a word or words, background, characters, quotes and messages. In recent times, graffiti has evolved to include any marking made in public and has recently become the source of many property owners anger. The graffiti artists are like the urban shamans and the streets are our modern day caves. (Element)
Suffering is the main focus this society of hip-hop music. Hip-hop artists these days talk about drugs, pimping women, abusing women, and violence. Children buy into the music and become violent, misbehaving, and become unbecoming people in society. The negative effects that today’s generation of artists have on children’s lives with subjective words like “pimpin” and “b****es”. Hip-hop is now sending out messages that men can beat their girlfriends, people can have sex anytime, and use inappropriate word to describe women and men, such as “niggas”, “b****es”, and “hoes”. Even though the language of hip-hop degrade people these words, however, do little more than sell records. It is the image that hip-hop artists represent as a whole that the youth of America buy. These words are considered tools of the musicians that helps give them an appearance of being beginner 2 gangsters, pimps, or dealers. (Roach, 1-2)
Teens that spend more time watching the sex and violence depicted in the “real” life of hip-hop music videos are more likely to practice these behaviors in real life. People should take into account that we live in a visual era and kids are affected by visual images on television and on the streets than anything else. If a kid sees some big hip-hop star on MTV or BET, with expensive cars, gorgeous and half-naked women, expensive jewelry and living the thug lifestyle, they are going to want to be just like them. Hip-hop artists decide to take their musicianship to the next level and become a “true player for real” by getting into the drug game in order to live the lifestyle that is so often projected in music videos. Too many kids are growing up without a decent education because they are dropping out to pursue a record deal, live a thug lifestyle, or choosing to become drug kingpins in order to “get paid.” (Toms, 2)
As African Americans we have been in the middle of cultural controversy around words projected in hip-hop. Hip-hop has also been creating gender battle between women and men. In hip-hop today, the way to be a man is to have power using obscure language, glorification of violence, and profound objectification and disrespect of women. This how young Black Americans get their gender messages which including their ideas about sex, dating, backstabbing, and some forms of relationship. The images of and casual references of violence and soft-porn visual are placed into the consciousness of young Black girls and boys at an early age. The lyrics of hip-hop lyrics are becoming more harmful to black girls and women in a culture that is already negative about our humanity and our overall worth. Hip-hop lyrics are also harmful to black men and boy because they encourage misogynistic attitudes and behaviors against and about women. (Cole, 90-91)
What value can there be in describing black girls and women as “ho’s”, “freaks”, “gold diggers”, “chickenheads”, and “pigeons”? What could be the value of hip-hop videos featuring half clothed women and gyrating obscenely and objects of lust? It appears that black men blame black women for treating them as part of the problem rather than as cherished friends and potential partners. Women have struggled with effects of disrespectful languages and images or many hip-hop songs. Sometimes, it is believe that men do not care how they treat women. I t is like “the system” revolves around the content and the ways of a man. In society, that perceives to be acceptable. The future of men and women has dramatically changes because of today’s society of hip-hop music and cutting the chances to build strong, healthy black families.
Given the roots of hip-hop, when did Black women become the enemy of Black male hip-hop artists and vice-versa? It seems be a never-ending battle between Black men and women. Hip-hop is claimed to be the voice of the people, but their messages shows depicting violence and hostile sexism. Kids of today’s society become more eager to be a hip-hop artist and believe it is acceptable to act how artist display in music videos. The power of words and the ideas they reflect cannot be ignored. Just as some words can motivate and teach, some can definite harm and disrespect people in the word of Hip-hop.
The “hip hop culture” has permeated popular culture in an unprecedented fashion because of its enormous cross-over appeal; the hip hop culture is a potentially great unifier of diverse populations. Although created by black youth on the street and the struggles that come along with them, hip hop’s influence has become worldwide. Hip-hop started from a freedom of expression to becoming harmful towards society. People used to gain comfort from listening to hip-hop and now it has grown to be a culture of obscure words towards women and tough act that male artists pull off. Hip-hop needs to return to the fun and creative side that is began back in the day.
Chang, Jeff. “Born in Fire: A Hip-Hop Odyssey.” UNESCO Courier July-Aug. 2000: 23-23. Print.
This is a fairly old magazine article that explains the emergence of hip-hop and the popularity of hip-hop music especially for one Jamaican immigrant with his transition from Jamaica to Bronx, New York. He learns how hip-hop is the dominant culture in society and what hip-hop really means. His influences will be useful for developing my idea for my essay because of his Jamaican culture and the learning of how things are done in the US with hip-hop music.
Cole, Johnnetta B. “What Hip-Hop Has Done To Black Women.” Ebony Magazine. March 2007. Print. 3 Nov. 2009. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=afh&AN=13087612&site=ehost-live>.
Element, Kevin. “Hard Hitting Modern Perspective on Hip Hop Graffiti.” Hip- Hop Network – hiphop-network.com. Web. 28 Nov. 2009.
Toms, Gary. “African American Art: Influence of Hip Hop in the Community -.” Associated Content – associatedcontent.com. 30 Aug. 2006. Web. 03 Nov. 2009. <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/54412/african_american_art_influence_of_hip.html>.
Roach, Ronald. “Decoding Hip-Hop’s Cultural Impact: Scholars Are Poised to Take a Close Look at the Influence of Hip-Hop on the Social Identity, Values of Today’s Youth.” Black Issues in Higher Education 21 (2004). Print.