“Hip hop is now the most important musical idiom: what jazz was from the 1920’s to the 40’s, or rock ‘n’ roll was from the 50’s to the 70’s, hip hop has been from the 80’s on. ” Straus, April 2000 As the quote states, hip hop and its associate genres rap, urban, R&B is the dominant music in today’s society, particularly amongst young people to whom the genre is particularly popular. It can be said that rap is a fairly new genre of music that has grown since its introduction in the late 1970’s.
Since this time, it has been under constant scrutiny by the media mainly because of its controversial nature shown through the lyrics and the images portrayed through the music videos of songs. What sets rap music apart from any other controversial material is its seemingly carefree attitude towards the images that it is portraying and the messages that it is sending. It is the norm for women to be treated as objects, men to be head to toe in ‘bling-bling’ accessories and violence to be the solution to most if not all conflicts.Order now
From these and other visible images it can be argued that the rap point of view is like a whole other world where anything goes. The controversy that surrounds the industry is mainly focused on the effects that listening to the music can have on the genres main audience of young people. Many of these listeners don’t live in the same culture of the artists, in the poor, black ‘ghettos’ of urban America. Critics believe that the audience can be sucked into the rap world by listening to the lyrics and in doing so take on the ideologies that they are putting across.
Basically, a normal young person will listen to rap music and then start ‘pimping hoes’ and shooting at people in the streets. This when thought about rationally, is unlikely to happen, particularly in Britain where gun culture is widely non-existent. However the US is a different story, young people are probably more vulnerable to the exposure of these messages for many reasons. When a British person sees a music video of a rap Artist set in Urban America, they cannot really relate to it as they are in a different country and culture.
In contrast an American person can relate better as they are living in the same place. Other things also need to be considered such as the slacker gun laws and tougher way of life in inner city USA. It is because of this increased exposure and vulnerability that much of the research into the effects of rap music has taken place in the US where the root of the problem, if one exists, is present. Both the American and British media have a negative opinion of the rap industry. This is clear through their tendency to jump on any rap artist at the slightest sign of trouble. A typical example of this outlined by A.
Lewis of Georgetown University 2003 is the case of Tupac Shakur, the rap Artist killed in 1996. The case was escalated in the press due to the circumstances surrounding the incident; Tupac was allegedly shot in a drive by shooting by a member of a rival ‘gang’. Lewis states that the media were not in the least sympathetic towards Tupac saying that the shooting was ‘prophetic if not deserved’. This is surely a hint of double standards by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette who after being critical of what Tupac was saying in his lyrics were making out that he ‘deserved’ to be shot dead.
Nobody deserves to be blindsided and murdered the way that Tupac was, that is simple human nature. In her study, Lewis brings up the case from Tupac’s point of view: “Tupac Shakur was only twenty-six when he was murdered. He was a poet and budding actor, he was featured in several films. Tupac even had the makings of a social activist. His most compelling works dealt with issues involving the African American family” Lewis 2000 All these facts are truth; Tupac’s lyrics were a form of poetry put to music and it is tragic that his life was cut short at such a young age.
It is unfair for the media to have branded him and said that he deserved to die simply because his lyrics contained profanities and brought up issues that didn’t fit into the ‘norm’ of American society and ideologies. For the media to say such things they are surely stooping to the levels that they are accusing the rap stars of doing and are therefore massively contradicting themselves. Lewis mentions in her study the fact that crimes by artists in other genres are not covered as much in the press as those committed by rap artists. White musicians don’t face race based criticisms for committing crimes and often avoid hitting the front pages of the newspapers. ”
Chideya 1995 This is an interesting point and is further evidence that the media uses the rap and hip hop genre as a scapegoat for some problems in Youth society today. As mentioned previously, the ideologies of the rap industry make it seem like a different world. The rap artists are not all that they seem in their music videos. Although they appear clad in gold jewellery, with women falling all over them and mansions and cars surrounding them, this is not the case in reality.
This is a world of fantasy. This was recently exposed in a T. V production called ‘Hip hop dollars’ MTV Base, 2003. The programme exposed the real financial status of many hip hop and rap stars and outlined the contrast between their real life and the portrayal of them in their music videos. The text came to the conclusion that there were only a handful of artists that actually fell into the category of ‘rich’. This fantasy world cannot be taken seriously by the viewers, who are expected to believe that the artists live their lives the way their videos make out.
They don’t go out in the ghetto and ‘hang’ or ‘cruise through the Westside with their homies’, they record music and go on promotional tours. The media generalise the minority that are deluded into thinking this is the case and turn it into a sweeping statement that blames rap music for all violence in Youth society. In my opinion, the media makes too much of the controversy in rap music. It has done in the past and will continue to shock people as to where it pushes the boundaries. It is fair to say that the majority of people who oppose the music are of the older generation.
Right or wrong, boundaries have been changed in all forms of media and much more is accepted than it used to be. It is too easy to blame a form of music or something similar to the problems in society when it is obvious that the problem lies far deeper than Eminem using the ‘F’ word or Dre watching some women lap dance. Parental advisory can be continued, but should music be to blame, where can the censorship be drawn? Surely a new medium would be to blame for a new reason. Rap is just the current scapegoat as was punk in the 1970’s.