Rap Music: Is It as Bad as Some People Think?
A Look At How Rap Music Is Sometimes Misunderstood
Rap music has long had a reputation of being a form of music that represents violence, sexual exploitation and excess. The genre has been criticized in the media, associated with some of the nation’s social ills and seen by a good number of people as a bad influence on citizens in general. Although there are some aspects of rap music that can be construed as negative, blanketing the entire art form is unfair to the artists as well as the people who enjoy the music.
The reality is that rap music is greatly misunderstood. The media often portrays rap music as negative and focuses on rap music more when it is related to something undesirable. Many media stories identify rap music as a catalyst in problems such as teen pregnancy, crime or some other negative social issue that existed long before rap music became prevalent. The truth of the matter is that there is rap music that is positive and can serve the purpose of improving social consciousness by increasing awareness of some of the issues that many residents of our nation’s inner cities face. Just because a rap artist speaks of less than desirable subjects in his or her music does not mean that they intend to corrupt the minds of the audience. Rap music is entertainment and should not be treated any differently than any other form of entertainment out there. The bottom line is that all rap music is not degenerate and consideration should be taken when analyzing the message that the music is presenting.
There is some rap music that is created with the intention of sending a positive message to its audience. There are songs that denounce violence and call for more peace and togetherness in the inner city in an attempt to improve the quality of life. One great example of a rap song that sends this message is entitled “Self Destruction” and performed by the East Coast All Stars. Now for you Hip-Hop historians, I know that this goes back quite some time, but it is one of the best examples of the positive influence of rap music. A group of independent rap artists got together to make this song because they were aware of the great power and influence that they have with their music and were attempting to use that influence to make a positive change. This project served two very important purposes because it did not only create awareness of the inner city’s problems with violence, but it also showed that rappers could be socially conscious and make music that was positive.
When dealing with social problems, one of the most important ways of finding a solution to the problem is to make others within our society aware of it. Rap music is a great tool for facilitating that process because due to its popularity, it has the ability to bring a message to the masses. The vast majority of rap artists are from the inner city where sub-par social conditions and inequality can be seen the most. Many times, when a rapper writes a song that speaks of violence, drug use or other criminal activity, it is because it is something that they have seen in their living environment and therefore are in a good position to give a detailed account of how life is there. Some rappers may admit to participating in some of the aforementioned activity but again, it does not always mean that they are glorifying it. A certain story may be told to give hope and let a listener know that just because they have made mistakes in the past, it does not mean that they cannot change their life and be involved in something positive. The rappers use their music to raise awareness of these issues so that some focus can be put into improving them.
Even with the social messages of some rap music considered, rap music’s general purpose is to entertain its audience. Just because a rapper paints themselves in a picture of being associated in criminal activity, having sex with multiple women or spending millions of dollars on seemingly unnecessary items doesn’t mean that they actually do. Many times, the rap artist is creating a fictionalized account of certain events for the purpose of intriguing and entertaining people and sometimes uses characters to facilitate those accounts. Some of the more talented rappers are able to use their words to create these characters along with vivid storylines that often are related to urban subject matter. This is no different from other forms of entertainment, in particular, the movie industry. When our favorite actor portrays a gun toting, drug using, highly sexual character in a movie, it is not seen as degenerate. Some of the characters being created in these movies are no different than some of the characters that are created in rap music. Just because a rapper says that they do certain things in their music, it does not mean that they always do.
While the images that are presented in some rap music can
certainly be considered a bad influence, it does not mean that all rap music is
degenerate. Is it degenerate when
churches use Christian rap in their service to send a message? Is it degenerate when police officers, firefighters and teachers use it to spread their message and attempt to make a connection with the youth? Rap music is a great and powerful tool that can be used for good purposes. When critiquing rap music, one has to go beyond the surface of what they are hearing and attempt to ascertain the message that the music is attempting to send.