Friday, October 12, 2012

Children and Controversial Music

I’m pretty sure we have all listened to explicit music that promotes some type of violence, offence, derogation, or other deemed low ethical values at some point.  Though this music is found among all races, it has been primarily noticed among black artists.  The lyrics allude to guns, drugs, sex, alcohol, destruction, derogatory names for women, etc.   They express powerful messages that the public not only hears and recites but also resonates with.   Some songs’ videos even vividly portray these themes which when viewed by the public, appear exciting and adventurous. 

While much of this form of music is enjoyed by older teens and adults, many of today’s much younger youth are also gravitating toward it for the styled beats, preference of artists, style and relation to artists, and ultimately, content.  Not surprisingly, a number of leaders of social reform have begun rejecting this music and looking to artists for answers.  These activists maintain that the cause of a lot of the violence and problems facing young people is learned and mimicked from the music they listen to.  Those opposing its longevity are deeply frustrated with these rappers and artists that children so greatly idolize.  They claim that artists should better regulate their music and impress more positive messages into their songs.

But should the music a child listens to really be the responsibility of the artist?  Does the rapper have an obligation to alter and mitigate his music and style based on what children might hear?  Though I understand how it can be frustrating to see young people personify what is rapped about in songs, I believe rappers and artists should be able to exercise freedom of expression and that parents should be the ones restricting their children from listening to certain songs.  Rappers are not these kids’ parents.  They are artists who enjoy what they do and enjoy making profits.  It appears that parents need to step up, take responsibility, and play closer roles in their children’s lives.

In closing, I saw an old interview about this heated epidemic featuring the rapper Nelly. The song in question was his 2003 “Tip Drill”.  The main controversy was the swiping of a card in between a woman’s buttocks at the end of the video.  I do NOT feel that this is classy, proper, or of high standards—by no means.  However, I feel that Nelly made an excellent point when he countered the interviewer’s argument by asking something along the lines of, “Why are these kids even up at 3am anyways watching my video?  It’s on “UnCut” (late night show for explicit music videos) for a reason.  Parents need to observe what their kids are watching.”  (The swipe idea was the woman’s idea, not Nelly’s—just an interesting fact).  I agree with Nelly’s statement, and I am a strong advocate of parents’ persistent presence in their children’s lives—especially at such a young age.  It is ultimately up to parents to have control over their children, not Nelly or any other rapper.  Obviously this credit card swipe was extreme, and things such as libel and death threats would not be readily tolerable, but should artists be held responsible for how audiences interpret/execute their explicit, controversial music, thus altering it?   I understand that rappers should remain conscious of what they are saying to a certain degree, but I am not convinced that parents or the public should place the blame on artists.



  1. Morgan, I completely agree with you. I think this has to go back to the issue of censorship. I think music is a form of artistic expression and should not be censored though I'm not advocating for explicit music. I agree with you in that I think it is the parent's responsibility to watch over his or her child if he or she is worried about what may be on the television screen at 3 AM. I'm not advocating censorship either, but that's what the parental controls are for.

  2. I do not agree that music artists should be punished for how an audience interprets the artist's explicit music. Determining artistic merit is inherently subjective and may be misinterpreted. More objectively, individuals are protected from government restrictions on free speech, including artistic expression, under the First Amendment. Those that are concerned with the negative effects of exposure to and interpretation of explicit music should take proactive measures to eliminate opportunities for children to hear the music. Parental controls can be set up on your TV, computer, YouTube and iTunes accounts, among others. In addition, Congress and the FCC have enacted measures to reduce the probability of early exposure to offensive and inappropriate material. To force artists to substantially alter the composition of their works unduly burdens the artist and shifts parental responsibility from the parent to the artist.

    When I was researching for background information and correlational studies on explicit music and youth behavior, I came across two articles that I wanted to share with you all to add to Morgan's discussion. One describes censorship's influence on hip-hop and rap music. The other discusses how race has motivated individuals and organizations to pursue censorship and to intentionally target rap artists.
    Here they are:

  3. I agree. It is not the artist's responsibility to monitor what the child listens to. This is the parents' responsibility; therefore, the artist should not suffer for it. Obviously, the artist makes his/her music with an audience and goal in mind. More than likely, the main goal is to make a profit. I find it interesting about the credit card swipe being the woman's idea. In my Women's in Music course, we analyzed this song. Everyone was quick to judge Nelly for this act, but it was not his idea. Would the reaction be the same if people knew this was the woman's idea? Either way, Nelly made his money. That credit card swipe was obviously one controversial deposit in the bank.

  4. Morgan I completely agree. All music is a form of art and expression and should certainly be protected by the freedom of speech. The interesting part of this debate is amazing racial bias that continually gets under reported. For years white musicians had been glorifying drugs and women, but it was not until 2 Live Crew that the first parental advisory sticker was attached to a record, and appears on almost every subsequent rap album, with use also being applied to some hard rock albums. Still is subjective use is applied disproportionately to rap albums made by predominantly African-American artists. At the same time country records about drunk driving and glorifying tobacco products go untouched. In addition where white rock bands get away with making references to taking LSD and smoking marijuana, and rap song that references marijuana or drugs, no matter the context, is automatically censored. There is clearly other concerns or motives besides the content, especially when rappers make positives song that do not glorify street life are still censored for radio play, specifically Nas and his song I Can. Despite being anti-drugs and about self empowerment required a censored version for a drug reference.

  5. I also agree with this post. Rapping is a form of poetry just expressed in an alternative way. What we view as traditional poetry can also be explicit and seen as risque; however, I do not feel that traditional poetry that is explicit is not criticized as rap music is. In general, rap has always been criticized and considered to be too rebellious. A large part of keeping children away from uncensored music is the parent’s job and it is not fair to blame the artist, because they are just simply doing their job by entertaining their audiences. They are multiple ways that parents can control what their child listens to or watches, so it is time for parents to take responsibility for the areas where they may be lacking as a guardian. From personal experience I was one of those kids that got yelled at for listening to explicit rap at a young age, but that was the extent to which the problem was taken care of. No one blocked the channels that were showing the videos, or had parental controls on what I watched on YouTube or downloaded on iTunes. It is not the entertainer’s responsibility to change their persona because parents are unhappy. The rapper is not the person raising the child, the parent is. It is also important to remember that these rappers are parents as well, and their music sales are the way in which they provide for their families. So forcing them to change their musical composition would burden the artist personally and atristically and have a detrimental effect on their family’s financial stability.