Hip hop and rap as a musical genre is a very controversial subject for nearly everyone. Its influences are powerful, both positive and negative. There are many positive influences of hip hop, and a few examples are the breaking down of cultural barriers, the economic impact, and political awareness of pressing and urgent issues. Though there are many positive influences, there are many negative influences as well. Some of the more heated debates of the negative influences of hip hop are that it glorifies violence, and the fact that the music sexualizes women and degrades them as well.
Attached to the negative outlook on hip hop, there are also many stereotypes assumed by society towards this type of culture that just aren’t true. Much of the negative viewpoints of hip hop and rap are misconceptions, such as; speculators believe hip hop has a destructive effect on the youth, when in fact, that is a small percentage of the musical genre, and in reality it has many positive and uplifting messages.
Rap is a product of the evolution of hip hop throughout the years. Hip hop is where it all started and is the root of it all.
Hip hop emerged in the 1970’s in New York City, specifically the South Bronx. The pioneer of it all was a DJ from Kingston, Jamaica who immigrated to the U. S. to start a better life; this pioneer was named DJ Kool Herc. There were many inspirations and influences in the creation of the musical genre. Jazz, blues, country, and rock n’ roll were just a few of the styles of music that were influential. Influential artists include James Brown, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles to name just a few. Hip hop started small with funky, different beats resonating at house and block parties.
This was new vocal style where the artist could speak lyrically in rhyme/verse, and usually told candid stories of the rough urban streets they lived in. With its growing popularity in New York, hip hop was a new way that black urban youths could express themselves in rhythmic form and within no time was dubbed the poetry of the street. The term “Hip Hop” was coined by three NY artists that were essentially the front men of the development of hip hop and went by the names Busy Bee Starski, DJ Hollywood, and DJ Afrika Bambaataa.
Hip hop, as it developed over the years was an expression of former gang bangers like Zulu Nation, who when they had nowhere else to go for help in the situation, turned to hip hop culture in America to pull kids from gangs and violence. One of the biggest steps for hip hop culture was in 1979, when a group called the Sugarhill Gang produced the huge hit “Rappers Delight”, which gained a lot of attention. By the mid 1980’s, the music had started to evolve and become more aggressive, fast, and lyrically complex.
Today’s children have parents and even grandparents that grew up on and around hip hop. Rap does have many negative influences, one of which – gangsta rap – glorifies violence and focuses on the negative aspects of inner city life. This glorification of violence leads the youth to believe that it is cool and just a way of life and is necessary to survival. This mentality is thought to actually increase violence across America. There may be some rap artists that are opposed to gangs and violence, but the roots of the whole genre are tied to gangster culture.
Another major negative influence is on young females. The music exploits females, promotes unhealthy lifestyles, and females looking at the sexual imagery every day can impact the functioning and healthy development of teenage girls. Researchers have said that this type of music makes women and girls think that it is ok or good to use their bodies to get what they want. That they can use their bodies to get material things, and instills the fact that they cannot be successful at anything in life without exploiting and using their bodies sexually.
In an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the author writes about a researcher on the subject, Dr. West, who says that rap identifies women in five sexual personas. These personas are, Divas – who are women that trade sexual favors for luxury; Gold Diggers – who are women that trade sexual favors for basic necessities and leaves men bankrupt; Freak – who is a woman that is a sexual powerhouse; Gangster Bitch – who is a woman that is “tough”; and Baby Mama – who is a child’s needy mother. Researchers say that these specific negative influences are exactly what is destroying the younger generation.
Even with the seemingly endless list of negative influences, there are countless positive influences deeply rooted in the soul and culture of hip hop. Hip hop is facing the same criticisms that every new type of music has faced in the development of that genre of music. Blues, Jazz, and Rock (in their beginnings) all scared parents and were criticized by the media, but they are now widely accepted and considered “clean” music. New music of any generation is always scary to the non-youth in society because the media only focuses on bad points and downfalls, but always fail to mention the good being done.
Breaking down cultural barriers is the most positive influence rap has had on society. It creates/sustains community, is the voice of the people, defines generations, fuels needed protest, and calls attention to injustices. This new style of music allows anybody to control their destiny from the ground up, and has become a new medium for social commentary. Hip hop allows the underprivileged and discriminated to express their feelings, and call out their abusers to make the issue public; such issues rapped about are police brutality, social inequality, and race relations.
Hip hop over the years has united cultures that people once thought could never see eye-to-eye. Aerosmith and Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way” broke down unspoken cultural barriers between rock and rap. The positive influence that hip hop has had on the economy has been incredible. Since the boom of hip hop, there has been a 150% increase in record sales in the industry which has fueled the economy. Rap is the fastest growing genre of music in the world, and accounts for over 10% of the $12. 3 billion produced in music sales.
This acceptance has not only led to increased record sales but an increase in movie sales, new clothing brands, and new companies, which has helped out the economy tremendously. Another positive influence is through political awareness. Many artists use their lyrics to tell people about racial inequality, gender inequality, police abuse, voting, and education. Rapper Lupe Fiasco raps in one of his songs about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and for people to get involved, also he sings about stopping violence in schools, referencing events like Columbine or Virginia Tech.
Other artists that promote positive messages are Common, and Mos Def, who are just a few of the many great role models in the hip hop industry. One of the most incredible things about hip hop is that it has been able to give youths with troubles a new identity. Stereotypes are, and always have been deeply rooted within hip hop. The media promotes and projects many of these stereotypes onto society by writing and reporting about the violent and vicious rappers that are committing heinous crimes. They all forget to mention the hip hop artists that represent the positive and political side of the genre.
Many people believe that the majority of people who listen to rap are black, which is not true; over 75% of the hip hop audience are non-blacks. Thug Life is another stereotype that people commonly mistake for the life of a thug or criminal. Thug Life is actually the exact opposite, and was created by late rapper Tupac Shakur. It describes an individual who is the opposite of someone who has everything he needs to succeed. Thug Life is when you have absolutely nothing, and still overcome to succeed; it is when you have overcome all obstacles to reach your goals.
The codes of thug life were designed by Tupac, and were made to give order in the streets with the rise of gang violence and the dealing of drugs. It made immoral actions against the code of the street, which eventually led to a peace treaty between two rival gangs in California – the Bloods and the Crips – where both heads signed and agreed to a truce in 1992. There are many positive and negative influences of hip hop on society, but in my opinion these issues will always be present no matter what, and that the positive outweigh the negative.
Ultimately the control is placed in the hands of the parents of the youth to not only filter what their kids are exposed to, but educate them about the different issues present. Censorship is not the solution to the problem because with more resistance made, comes more controversy which makes people want to buy it even more. Censoring in the 80’s and 90’s of rap music only spawned more sales. Youths tend to rebel any chance they get, and if rap music is not condoned by the media and adults, the kids will do anything they can to get their hands on it to express their individuality.
Throughout history, from Grandmaster Flash to Lil’ Wayne, people have been trying to censor hip hop music, which only fuels the fire and makes the music more popular. The most effective way to fight rap’s negative influences is not through censorship, but through the original message of hip hop; which is to be able to express yourself and unite cultures despite their major differences.
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Cultural Influence of Hip Hop & Rap. (2017, Jan 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/cultural-influence-of-hip-hop-rap/