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    Music and the American Culture Essay

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    Music has played a vital role in human culture and evidence based on archaeological sites can date it back to prehistoric times. It can be traced through almost all civilizations in one form or another. As time has progressed so has the music and the influences it has on people. Music is an important part of popular culture throughout the world, but it is especially popular in the United States. The music industry here is, and has been, a multi-million dollar business that continues to play an important role in American popular culture. This is also a art form and business that is forever changing as the times and more importantly, technology changes.

    Technology has changed the way music is made as well as how it is produced, marketed, sold, performed and other various factors associated with music. Women’s rights have progressed over recent history as well as gender roles associated with both genders. The feminist movement has made great progress for the betterment and advancement of women in this country. Women are seen as equals at home and in the workplace because of this feminist movement and theory. Women are not content with being stay at home moms and are pursuing higher education and better professions, previously reserved for men.

    The feminist movement fights for women in all aspects and is not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. Over my generation I have seen examples and conflict between music and the feminist movement in multiple instances. The artifact I have chosen for this assignment is the recently popular Fat Joe and Lil Wayne song, “Make It Rain”. This song came out in 2006 but reached more popularity with the remix in 2007. This is also a song that was nominated for a Grammy award in 2008. This is a very catchy song that immediately became popular in the club scene, radio, MTV, and in popular culture overall.

    Many see it as a catchy rap song with a good beat, but the actual message it portrays would have many listeners and parents disgusted. The basic message of this song is that Fat Joe and Lil Wayne like to throw stacks of money at strippers and make it look like its raining in the club, hence the title of the song. These rappers are portraying the lifestyles of young, rich, defiant rap artists. A portion of the lyrics in the chorus are, “Got a handful of stacks better grab an umbrella. I make it rain, I make it rain (Oh), Make it rain on them hoes”. This chorus is repeated multiple times throughout the entire song.

    This type of message and song does not fit in with the messages, goals, values and beliefs of the feminists movement and we see a clash between the music industry, specifically rap music, and the feminist movement before and after this song. Since the beginning of its art form rap music has been subject to scrutiny throughout its existence. In a Theresa Martinez reading from the semester, the author describes rap music as a resistance. She builds on a theory of oppositional culture that was composed by Bonnie Mitchell and Joe Feagin (1995).

    In this article, “POPULAR CULTURE AS OPPOSITIONAL CULTURE: Rap as Resistance”, Martinez explains how African Americans, American Indians, and Mexican Americans draw on their own cultural resources to resist oppression. She states that this very resistance to the dominate culture in turn, influences popular culture. She goes into detail on possible reasoning behind rap music and where the attitudes and beliefs stem from. She briefly touches on the topic of women in rap and where the attitudes come from. This article gave me a different way of looking at rap music as a whole and the influences of it. In a genre that has tried to bring light to many social issues such as police brutality, poverty, healthcare, discrimination as well as others, I don’t fully understand why rap artists and record companies openly degrade and put women down.

    Martinez suggests that the misogyny of women can reflect ones family experience and/or structure as well as reflect the sexist American culture and music industry. This type of behavior and example that is being set for younger generations seems to undo all the positive messages and plights that was endured by generations and musicians before. Rap music with negative messages towards women, or anything negative, adds to stereotypes, puts an even bigger microscope over rap music and makes it more apt to criticism. In a similar article to the one mentioned above, the message and the articles focus becomes quite clear after seeing the title.

    “The Words Have Changed But The Ideology Remains The Same: Misogynistic Lyrics In Rap Music”, by Terri Adams and Douglas Fuller give a more in depth look at the mistreatment of women in the rap community. It is sad but the authors in this article state that misogyny in rap music has become almost normal. A very powerful point was made that I feel is vital for the topic and this paper, “Although music is powerful, music is only a reflection of social relations and culture; thus, misogynistic views have a cultural rather than a musical value” (Adams 941). I fully agree with the previous sentence, music is a reflection of social relations and culture and these negative views only add to the problem by influencing a culture or generation. If consumers, record companies and others involved in the production and sale of this type of music didn’t allow it, sell it, buy it, play it on the radio, or overall just encourage it, than I don’t think this viewpoint would be a norm like it is seen as today. To prove this misogynistic influence in rap music, chances are if you turned on a rap music video and you will almost certainly see a young, half naked women dancing and/or being put down.

    I guess the “norm” in the rap business is selling records no matter what awful message you are sending to millions of children, most of which look up to the entertainer. If the norm wasn’t misogyny in rap music than I don’t believe songs such as “Make It Rain” would even exist and these musicians (even though some shouldn’t be considered musicians) would have to find something else to talk about to put themselves on a pedestal. Lastly, in a journal article titled, “ Differential Gender Effects of Exposure to Rap Music on African American Adolescents’ Acceptance of Teen Dating Violence” the authors conducted an experiment to see the effects of rap music on African American teens. One group (male and female) was exposed to non-violent rap video (contained images of women in sexually subordinate roles) or they did not see a video.

    The results showed that women who watched the video were more accepting of use of violence than those who did not see the video, but the males respondents were more consistent regardless of the video or not. They also found that more and more young couples (18-21) were more likely to respond to physical tactics than older groups (22 and up). This small experiment doesn’t prove or disprove anything but it strengthens the argument about what children are exposed to and how they respond. If the males responded consistently despite viewing the video or not it reinforces the fact that this misogynistic mindset is almost a norm. It is sad to think that young teenage couples are violent with one another and that it is almost a norm in this country.

    Domestic violence is a serious matter but it seems like its not that big of a deal to high school kids nowadays. It is apparent that what children (especially young) view and see on a regular basis affects and influences them more than one would think. It may be harder for a younger child to differentiate between what is real life and what is entertainment. Discrimination and sexist views are supposed to be part of our countries ugly past. With such progress over the last hundred years or so in the Civil Rights movement and Feminist movement, it is sad to see forms of entertainment undo all the hard work and suffering that was endured by many generations before. Misogyny in rap music has become a norm and it is causing a lot of problems for a number of people and groups.

    Songs like “Make It Rain” would not be in existence if we (society, culture) allowed it. A lot of rappers are getting away with these messages because they disguise them behind slangs and other verbiage not known to the general public. Many popular rap songs you hear on the radio everyday have hidden, usually degrading messages behind it. Soulja Boy’s 1st single that made him a million was “Superman That Hoe”, which has a very sexually explicit meaning. “Toot it and boot it” and “Down on me” are other popular songs you hear on the radio many times a day but the messages behind the songs are degrading and disgusting.

    Young children should not be exposed to material like this and even more so, the general public and record companies shouldn’t endorse and encourage these messages that make these rappers millions in the process. “Make it Rain” is one song of the thousands that portray women in the light they do and that objectify them. The music industry is a business and these artists are going to put out whatever sells, and sex sells. I feel this issue could only be solved if our culture and society said enough is enough and banned all forms of entertainment that portrayed such negative images.

    If our culture keeps encouraging these types of viewpoints and it is constantly available to the masses then nothing will change and the problem will continue or even get worse. The American culture and society needs to make a change and get their priorities in order to make a change for the next generations. Works CitedAdams, Terri, and Douglas Fuller. “The Words Have Changed but the Ideology Remains the Same: Misogynistic Lyrics in Rap Music. ” Journal of Black Studies. Sage Publications.

    Web. 18 Apr. 2011.  . Johnson, James D. , Mike S.

    Adams, Leslie Ashburn, and William Reed. “Differential Gender Effects of Exposure to Rap Music on African American Adolescents’ Acceptance of Teen Dating Violence. ” Sex Roles 33. 7-8 (1995): 597-605. Print.

    Martinez, Theresa A. “Popular Culture as Oppositional Culture: Rap as Resistance. ” Sociological Perspectives 40. 2 (1997): 265-86.

    JSTOR. University of California Press. Web. 18 Apr. 2011.

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