Do you really know what Hip-Hop music is telling you and your youngster?
Not all hip hop music is bad or bad for you or your child. As a matter of fact, even if you think most of it is noise filled with vulgarity and explicit lyrics and imagery, there is a deep message within each song. Are you listening?
Hip hop music represents a commentary on life-in the eyes of the artist. There aren’t just nice dance beats, but in each song, you will get a brief picture of the life experiences or the dreams of that artist, from their eyes.
It is about worldview. If you are an educator or a parent, you must understand the life being described to your child. Some can relate and some cannot. Some take it as glorified lies and some can verify what they hear as filled with truth. This is no fairy tale.
Beginning in the black community, rap music didn’t begin with negative associations with life as a drug dealer, stick-up kid, pimp, or stripper. Life was much more innocent then and thus the music had much innocence in message.
Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash-the originators all sang of life without obscenity, but they rapped about life nonetheless. These groups among other pioneers of the genre, warned against drug use, dropping out of school. They rapped about birthdays, and their self views. Who they believed themselves to be.
30 Years later, life must have changed drastically for the youth who are artists, because yes, it has gotten obscene. It is graphic, sometimes degrading, and shows life from a glamorously envisioned realism.
If you thought that hip hop music is not life for many, then you have had your head in the sand, or you have been afforded the privilege of ignoring the lives and experiences of others. What must have become clear to youth when they decided to say ,”F…The Police”?
When did selling drugs become a way of life, engaging in shoot-outs, women being viewed as prostitutes, bitches and ho’s? What was happening in society at that time? Even amidst the despair of the South Bronx, NY in the early 1980’s, rappers focused on dreams and a more innocent life. Rap was nonetheless dismissed by the ‘mainstream’ as underground music.
Between then and now, what entered the lives of these youngsters-what did they witness? The total desolation of their neighborhoods, white flight, disinvestment of business ventures, and the influx of drugs. Crack cocaine brought a new reality to their hoods. Who brought in the drugs anyway, just as all legitimate businesses and opportunities for gainful employment left their communities?
Life began to center around the few businesses enabling food and rent and basic needs being met. Just as Calvin Klein jeans and designer wear became in high view, commercialized to the masses. Television woke these people up to all they were missing in society, just because they were poor. America dangled a carat in the faces of poor people, especially those who were unemployed and unemployable, according to the powers that be.
The cost of living went up in America and in the hood and the chance of living went down-in a hurry. The means of obtaining gainful employment was reduced significantly, divisiveness grew across the country, and the over-criminalization of folks in these impoverished areas expanded exponentially.
Children couldn’t safely travel to and from the corner store, without being stopped and questioned and frisked by law enforcement. Children were being searched and patted down as young as age 7 or 8. Young men couldn’t travel home, day or night, with anything black or shiny in their hands without being shot by police. Life for youngsters of color and those living in poverty changed dramatically.
There was a time when youngsters, early in the hip hop era, were arrested for their ultra imaginative graffiti art style. There were no canvasses or legitimate outlets for their artwork, so they tagged trains, buses, building walls, etc…. They were, of course prosecuted for this, too. Now, the value of their art styles has also gone mainstream.
I guess when teachers in schools, the classroom, perceived and determined most young children of color as being disruptive and thus they were heavily disciplined, they were right. Black kids in particular, were and are disruptive. Their modes of expression does disrupt society and popular culture. Their artistic forms of expression and individuality has created an absolutely new wave in clothing style, slang, music, and has permeated every aspect of popular culture. These youth ARE trendsetters.
Like it or not America, we have created criminals out of those youth who have traditionally been punished for their individuality and statements made to society. This is a real phenomenon and society can no longer blame or judge them for it. Every youngster has been impacted by hip hop culture the same kids whom middle America tries to ignore, dismiss, punish and put down.
Youngsters in affluent areas are wearing their hats backwards, their pants sagging low on their butts, and blasting some form of hip hop music in their dad’s BMW. They are even trying to mimic and adopt body traits. Every white person now gets butt implants, getting lip injections to mimic fuller lips of African-Americans. They are wearing the same sneaker styles, braiding their hair and oh my, the slang has permeated society as well.
Hip hop has changed the world-the entire world. It can be heard everywhere now, from China to Charleston, from Calabassas to Canada, from the Hamptons to Hawaii. From your hood to my hood, hip hop, originated in those hoods you divested from and abandoned, and still found their way into your new oasis from it all.
What hip hop is saying to your child is that life is not just where and how they live, but you too. It can’tr be escaped from, and if you wish to silence the message, then you must go back and undo what you did to create their realities. Otherwise, America, your kids will continue learning to live together and sing the same message. They will see life, not as blaming the victim, but blaming you, your policies, politics and perverted views of persons of color.
As much as you gentrify neighborhoods left behind years ago, you will not be able to run away from the people whom are being displaced and squeezed out once again. They will still live in your communities, if not physically, but through the music your children listen to, the clothes they wear, and their body styles will continue to be idolized. Your children will continue to ask for lip injections, waist reductions and hip and butt implants. And, oh, you too will continue to visit tanning salons to achieve the beauty of the natural melanin people of color possess.
Messages of superiority are confusing to youth because, everything about black and brown people, except their economic status is being appropriated in your community, in your living rooms. Next time your daughter or son enters the room, look closely at their clothing, listen to their slang, think about the procedures they ask for, and ask yourself, did you really escape the influence of ‘the blacks’? Can you ever escape them?
Stop trying to find more ways to criminalize, malign, sabotage their futures, and embrace the diversity they bring into your home everyday. Your children will eventually. The world is global, connected and if we don;’t see it, as we age and our words mean less to our children, they will undo all that’s been done to separate us. Dating is no longer exclusively set to same culture or race. Children are more and more representing a most beautiful mosaic combining the best in us all. That my friend is the beauty of diversity-the message is love is universal. Show it to your kids or they will come to you some day and exclaim,”Guess who’s coming for dinner?”