Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Criticisms of Hip Hop

“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. 


  1. I agree Allycia, I think that the entertainment industry as a whole is responsible for these masculinized images of men through guns and violence and the objectification of women. However, the scrutiny and criticism of these hip hop lyrics are rightly so because these words and phrases are repeated constantly. They catchy tunes are played over and over again without people even realizing what they are saying. Although I am not arguing that one has considerably more influence than the other, I agree that both forms of entertainment, movies and music, need to be reevaluated.

  2. This may go without saying, but because hip-hop, and Hollywood like you mention, are such highly consumer driven culture I think the consumers are responsible for many of the hardcore masculine themes seen. I think that, for whatever reason, listeners (even women and young, "white-suburbia" boys) expect and encourage these ideas and therefore drive the industry and perpetuate the violent, misogynistic, themes that get so much criticism. Until people don't desire the raw, violent, and sex driven themes that rap music can provide, these themes are just going to keep developing and rewarding "players" in the "game" with millions of dollars and surprising amount of fame.

    Like we heard in the movie... "This makes money. I'm gonna sell it"

  3. This is such a great point! Although video games and movies also get some form of a bad rap for the violence that they instill in our society, hip hop music does seem to get the worst end of the criticism. It is also interesting to consider that throughout history many bands and artists have discussed the exact same things that are discussed in today’s rap music and avoided the same scrutiny that hip hop does. One argument for why this is may be that the lyrics of hip hop music are completely to the point. The lyrics are often lacking in metaphors and say exactly what they mean. However, I don’t think this is the biggest reason for the industries bad rap. Hip hop is dominated by African Americans and the lyrics and violent themes that are often discussed seem to ‘match up’ better with African American stereotypes than with stereotypes of the white men in violent movies and video games.

  4. Allycia, I do agree that different forms of entertainment need to be equally scrutinized and reevaluated. However, Meera makes a point that I would like to add on to. The different between hip hop and other forms of entertainment is that, as Meera aptly stated, the hip hop lyrics can be repeated over and over again. I believe we all know that repetition usually fixates things in our subconscious mind. Imagine the effect this would have on children who are exposed to such lyrics which talk about sex, violence, etc. True these same images are portrayed in movies. But in hip hop videos, there is a double-edged sword effect from the video itself and the lyrics as well.