Rap music has been around for years and certainly shows no signs going away in years to come; however, does the rap music of the present provide a negative precedent for future generations? Rap music has been said to be the fundamental basis of many violent cultures in America- one of these being urban gang culture. People are the products of their environments and music is no exception. Possibly the most affected audience of this type of music is the youth of America.
Many kids and teens are conditioned to walk, talk, and act a certain way according to those people and things around them. Although this is not something inherently bad, the consequences of it can be. When lyrics like “’Bout to f*ck this n*gga take his money- pimpin’ ’till I die,” from the song “Badd” exist, many people believe they are one of the leading causes of crimes committed in the US especially by the youth. If people want to see a change in the way society perceives rap music and the people and actions affiliated with it, we need to first decide whether it’s lyrics can be considered as freedom of expression or hate speech disguised as a form of art.
The fact is that many people validate the violent lyrics by suggesting they are a form of artistic and cultural expression supported by the first amendment; however, where do we draw the line between freedom of expression and hate speech? What is known as “Gangsta Rap” (a form of rap) is known to have much more harsh, vulgar, controversial, and even cruel lyrics with descriptions of things like rape, murder, hate crimes, and drugs.
When we talk about songs that incite violence this is typically the type of music that is being referred to. So how can we discern hate speech from that of which is protected by the first amendment? Hate speech, as defined by Merriam Webster, is speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people. Most people would admit it morally wrong to hate a group of people based on blatant generalizations, so why do we let so much of this get through under the veil of artistic expression? According to an article written on The Conversation by authors Alexander Crooke and Raphael Travis Jr., “There’s no denying that the lyrical content of hip hop is confronting, and in many instances, it includes the glorification of violence, substance use, and gender discrimination. But while many people struggle to look past the profanity, materialism, and high-risk messages often celebrated within mainstream rap music, hip hop culture at its core, is built on values of social justice, peace, respect, self-worth, community, and having fun. And because of these values, it’s increasingly being used as a therapeutic tool when working with young people”.
One major concern with rap music is its excessive advertisement of alcohol and drug use. According to an NPR news article, recent studies done by Research and Evaluations Prevention Research Center done in Berkley county California, there is a large correlation between rap music and the abuse of drugs and alcohol in the youth. “The rapper’s a very powerful role model. They are also people that were trying to get ahead and trying to get underwriting for their music, and alcohol advertisers provided some of that–some of those resources. So that almost every major rapper had some kind of a relationship with an alcohol company,” says Mrs. Denise Herd, the Associate Professor of Public Health at the University California. Although, another study done by the Rap Research Lab Project showed an inverse relationship between rap music and crime rates.
As rap music grew in popularity, both crime rates and violent crime rates decreased. So, is this proof that rap music does not have a negative effect on society, and that the correlation between rap music and increasing crime rates is a myth? Not according to several sources depicting graphs and charts that show the increase of substance abuse in children between the ages of 12 and 16 that listen to rap music. A study done by NIDA showed that approximately 11.8% of all kids had experience with some type of drug by the time they had reached 15 years of age.
Having said all this, there is no doubt that rap music can and often does influence aggressive behavior and accounts for a percentage of all crimes, even if only a small percentage. So, what are some viable options to help diminish the amount of crimes committed because of the culture surrounding rap and hip-hop music? One largely talked about idea is the censorship of specific words and phrases encouraging drugs, alcohol abuse, homicide, etc. However, this is a very controversial topic as it delves into the realm of politics and thus many people have many different diverse viewpoints and opinions on the subject. Some people claim that censoring music is a violation of the first amendment- being the list of inalienable freedoms granted to those who live in the US, one of which being freedom of speech/expression.
Even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled hate speech as protected under the first amendment, it is in no way supported or encouraged and therefore has the potential for censorship and moderation within pieces such as musical compositions. Many people theorize the outcome of such an action. Some people believe it could greatly help the American populous as it may lead to a decrease in overall crime rate; however, others strongly disagree and say it would simply anger avid listeners of the genre and cause an outrage worse than the original repercussions. Being said, I still strongly believe we cannot presume the outcomes of censorship without first attempting it. Although many believe censorship would ruin the purpose or feel of a song, it would probably go unnoticed; we often do it unconsciously throughout our day when we choose not to say what’s on our minds because we know the negative affect it will have on others if we do. Censorship is not a bad thing when done for the right reasons and I believe in this case the ends justify the means.
In conclusion, rap music, however you see it, has had, has, and will continue to have a significant influence on modern day culture and society. Whatever kind of music listener you are, surely you have had experience with the vulgar content of many rap songs and the fanatics that listen to it. Rap and hip-hop music often features inappropriate content that encompasses many controversial topics from rape, to drugs and alcohol and more. Censorship is one viable option to help prevent more crimes affiliated with the production of said rap and/or hip-hop music and the culture that surrounds it.