- Apr 17, 2007
Censorship vs gangsta rap (re: Imus essay)
My thought was "Of course. All of it. Even the songs and artists which aren't. Especially rappers such as Public Enemy, Underground, and TuPac, and current artists OutKast, RasKaDee and Dead Prez with their "Mind Sex". Oh and the lyrics of the Fugees, Queen LaTifa, and Lil Kim, very offensive to women."
A little on the sarcastic side, obviously.
Point is, that is a really stupid question. Rap is not one song, one artist, or even one style. There are artists who objectify women in rock and country, and there are artists who do in rap as well.
The important question is, when there are so many political, and/or positive, and/or fun and upbeat, and/or meaningful rap songs and artists, why is it that NWA and Snoop Dogg are considered representative of the entire genre. Why are gangsta rap, hyphe (the glorification of stupid for its own sake), dirty south and crunk, the dominate styles in their respective times?
While there may be many complex reasons, it is important to remember that the promotion of a song or group is controlled by major record labels, radio stations, and concert venue owners. The vast majority of these happen to be white.
I'm not saying it is a deliberate conspiracy, but it is interesting that NWA got more air time than Public Enemy, when the former was hardcore gangsta rap, promoted violence in general, was disrespectful of women in particular, while the latter was purely political, and rapped about such things as the aftermath of slavery, alcohol abuse in the black community, and the use of the word "n***er" by ignorant black americans.
I used to dislike the entire genre for the same reasons; until I started to find the numerous exceptions to the generalizations expressed here.
Fact is, it is a style of music, not a type of content. Beyond the question of who chooses what style becomes popular, the question remains, why are so many rappers the way described? And in that, there is the same chicken/egg question raised by all of the media influences people arguments. Does the community build its morals based on the music they listen to, or do they choose to listen to music that matches their morals? Does art imitate life, or life imitate art? I think the question of why the community thinks this way is more important than why rappers do. If youth were offended by the lyrics, they would stop buying the albums, and the rappers would stop writing that way. I think internalized racism is very relevant, but not exactly accurate. It is more that many black people have bought into the idea that the black community is in some way fundamentally separate from society at large. While many sub-cultures in the US make some effort to assimilate, in a way blacks try to move away from the rest of society. Of course this is true to a large extent of youth in general. But when a punk or a goth or a skater white kid writes a note to a teacher, they generally do not use the sub-cultural words they use with their friends. Some black children seem unaware that they aren't speaking proper english, and use slang even in formal settings. Black youth are told that math, history, english classes are not relevant to their problems, to their community. This is an extremely destructive, but widespread belief. While the intention may have been valid, the result is not that kids do independent research and learn the history that classrooms leave out, the result is they don't try, or drop out, and continue a cycle of ignorance when they have children and fail to encourage them to perform well in school. I think we should consider it a problem that many blacks consider another black person who is educated and articulate to be "acting white" or a sell-out or not really black. This is a promotion of ignorance just as hyphe is a promotion of stupid.