Hip-hop according to my perception is an identity, a way of life and culture. It allows for a freedom of personal expression acknowledging varied situations. It was born out of the need for urban young people to share their experiences and how they felt about them. Hip hop is not just another genre of music. It incorporates various components of art, emotion and expressions.
The original elements include the oral narrative, breakdancing, graffiti and finally the disc jockey known as the DJ. A voice for the poor, angry and powerless; hip hop imaginatively characterized the harsh reality of how many minorities were ostracized. Late 1980’s gave birth to renowned rap artists who produced socially awakening narratives’, addressed varied societal issues ranging from poverty to drugs and aggression to oppression by both political and authority figures.
Inexorably overtime, a lot of artists have fallen in the deception of money, fame, becoming futile and materialistic, consciously placing themselves above their spectators and listeners. Hip hop in recent years has an overwhelmingly negative impact on young people especially young black males. The reason it has this impact because these rap artists are predominantly black males, so the youth personally identify with them and fantasize the fast lives they keep mentioning in their narratives. I
n my opinion it is a disingenuous argument when, people argue that hip hop on a whole has a positive impact by cherry picking the rare instances in which it does alleviate the young people to a high level of consciousness and social responsibilities. It is akin to saying that drugs, smoking and alcohol are beneficial for our youth because it gives them energy but on the holistic end of the spectrum, the impact and cost of these drugs significantly outweigh any marginal benefit gained from increased energy.
The promotion of misogyny, violence and aggression towards law and order or people with authority affects the interactions that the youth end up having with these figures. Ultimately there is an inflammation in racial tension and with law and enforcement authorities that are in turn responsible to protect different communities. While art does imitate street life and hip hop, fact is a lot of artists are exploiting the gang using violent images and gangster talk to make more money. Popular culture has always reflected history and hip-hop music is just the latest chapter.
Rappers claim that they catch all the burning issues from the society while violent movies, TV shows and video games come under the same umbrella. Human beings are visual learners so why are artists choosing to emulate the piece of crime, misogyny, hatred, drugs and violence, and ignoring in many cases emulations of history that’s been positive. We must figure out, where does it go from art that speaks the truth of someone’s reality and not just a formula that is repeated like Hollywood.
Commercial mainstream American hip hop not only responds to a legacy of violence against black people, but it also exacerbates and glorifies it. It has rendered meaningful criticism of the commercial takeover of a black culture form designed not only to liberate but to create a critical consciousness and turned it into the cultural arm of predatory capitalism in the last few years. Hip hop was never just about reflecting reality it was always about a vision, resilience, or about how to move further. But hip hop these days, is simply indulgent around misogyny, is thuggish and seems to go nowhere.
Art always seems to touch the deepest and darkest emotions and hip hop is a form of art which particularly helped the African Americans, but the commercial part of hip hop has been pumped into the mainstream to perpetuate the stereotypes of African American men and women. The hegemonic forces have been pushing forth this agenda but from an oppressed stand point, the intention of hip hop as art form was to speak for and to the oppressed. It gave them voice, freedom of expression and it filled the gap that was found in the structure. However, when commercialization of hip hop started it became a global, multi-billion dollar industry it started burying the real art form underground.
For instance, sexism has been around for centuries but the most blatant and celebrated brand of sexism against black women and men are celebrated primarily when they are capitulated to these narrow images we are doing hip hop no favor by making room for that and allowing the mainstream media to ruin its true image.