“Hip Hop Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” the documentary that we started watching in class on Monday, was very thought provoking. Men have always dominated the hip-hop industry, but I never thought of hip-hop as being described as a masculine performance. Rappers tend to fill their lyrics with issues related to violence, homophobia and sexism, and they do this to assert their masculinity and power. As the movie describes it, hip-hop is ego driven. Artists have come to the understanding that they have to prove how “hard” they are by dropping a beat and rapping about the amount of guns, girls, and money they have. Due to the frequency of these topics being mentioned in lyrics and seen in music videos, this method of entertainment has been greatly criticized.
Some people assume that rappers are violent and sexist, and therefore dangerous because of the lyrics in their songs. The movie points out though that many forms of entertainment feature the same topics that hip-hop does. So what really amazes me is the amount of scrutiny and decree that this music receives, because if you look at any other form of entertainment today you can see the same masculine performance with just as much sex, drugs, and violence that’s seen in hip-hop lyrics and music videos.
Hollywood movies are one of the major forms of entertainment mentioned in the documentary that are full of sex and violence. Jesse James was one of the examples. The idea of masculine performance dates back to James and the film based on his life. This movie divulges James’ experience of being a gang leader and professional criminal known for robbing and murdering. It is through movies like this that men claim the idea that violence and power is what makes them masculine.
Jesse James though was not seen as dangerous, instead he was a celebrity while he was alive and became a legend after his death. But what was he famous for, owning a gun and using it to steal and kill? So how does he not get the reputation of being dangerous but rappers do?
It’s amazing that these types of movies that clearly play a major role in influencing men rarely get any criticism, but hip-hop lyrics that display similar behavior are labeled as inappropriate. Yes, hip-hop lyrics and music videos tend to exaggerate gunplay, objectify women, and overuse violence but so do other forms of entertainment, like movies, television, and video games. Maybe the way in which men masculinize themselves needs to be reevaluated. However, this evaluation not only needs to be on hip-hop lyrics but on every other form of entertainment as well.