Dear Mr. Man…

April 5, 2009

The Dangerous Side of Hip-Hop

Filed under: Pop Culture — P. J. Easter @ 10:02 pm
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Q: Dear Mr. Man:

I’ve been a longtime fan of hip hop. But, through the years, I’ve noticed a troubling trend of hip hop lyrics that objectify women to the point of being misogynistic. It seems like some of the songs that are played the most on the radio (“Blame it”, “One More Drink”, and “Crank Dat” come to mind right away) encourage men to see women only as sexual objects. While you see these types of lyrics in other genres, it does seem more extreme and pronounced in hip hop. Do you think that there is any way to change this trend in hip hop? And can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?

Note: This is an age appropriate post today. This is the first in a two-part series on this mixed bag we call “Hip-Hop”. I’d like for us to discuss that first question raised:

“Do you think that there is any way to change the trend in hip hop where women are viewed as purely sexual objects?

I am a product of the 1980’s. This is where I spent my adolescence. I became aware of hip-hop during the early part of the decade with the likes of Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambataa, and Grand Master Flash. The music and beats grabbed me. Then there was Run-DMC with jams like “King of Rock”, “Hard Times”, and “Rock Box”.  We were breakdancing and having fun because the music was fun. Other groups influenced my tastes as well (BDP, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, and Public Enemy just to name a few of many). This is music that I let my kids listen to today.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the rap scene began to change. My attention was drawn to the more “dangerous” side of rap music. Groups like N.W.A., Luke Skyywalker and The 2 Live Crew, Sir Mixx-A-Lot, and Too Short were coming from the underground into the mainstream. Songs like “F**k the Police”, “Cop Killer”, “Pop That C****ie”, and more were attracting the hearts and minds of millions of kids. Kids from all walks of life (including me) were drawn by the smokin’ beats and the “thug life” mentality that came with it. “Drawn to it” is an understatement. This type of music has become a part of our pop culture influencing everything from television to clothing.

Let’s not forget that the ’80s birthed MTV and the music video. This is when my pubescent mentality when into hyperdrive because of the images of scantily clad women moving in ways that I never imagined. I was a hormonal teenaged boy still not clear on the responsibilities of manhood, which include not glorifying violence and not viewing females as sexual objects.

Twenty years have past and I have since “manned up”. I have kids of my own. Hip-Hop has become even more engrained in our society. I get ill when I hear teenaged boys of all races calling each other “Ni**az” in the same way that you and I would call each other “brother”. I am disturbed deeply when I see a young girl, maybe 13 or 14 putting herself out there and showing parts of her body that should be reserved for the marriage union.

To answer the reader’s question (sorry for taking the long way to this point), unfortunately the sexualization of women in Hip-Hop–and other forms of pop culture–is not a trend. It is the norm. Foul language is prevalent on television and the radio. It was a trend in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but its wide spread acceptance of it has made it a part of the culture. Most music seems to follow the generation that grew up on it, but the hip-hop culture has been passed on to the generation that exists between us and our children. And it is attracting our children. It has permeated our sports, television, video games and movies.

My point is that society as a whole has accepted the dangerous side of Hip-Hop as a part of the norm. I don’t think that the practice of sexualizing women and glorifying the “gansta” lifestyle can be reversed. I do believe that it will eventually fade away as something new and possible more dangerous comes along to replace it. The decadence will be removed from our society when we stop buying it.

But we have been buying for almost thirty years now and it still is selling.

I am a fan of Hip-Hop. However, I am torn between my love for the music and disdain for the lyrics and the imagery. I will at times listen to some of the “harder” hip-hop songs when I am alone, because the music I love also shames me. My kids listen to Run D-M-C  with me when we are driving in the truck. We also listen to the Fat Boys and others that represent the days when the worst thing you heard in Hip-Hop was “My Adidas”.

Mr. Man

P.S. As I’m writing this post, my son just asked me, “Dad, did you know that they make cigarettes made of candy?” The worst in society always manages to creep into the places we want uncorrupted. Time for another teachable moment for him from me.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series called, “The Reformation of Hip-Hop”. In the meantime, please Holla at The Man and let me know what you think.

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