I brought this up at the end of class today, and I was planning on writing on it even before Professor McKinney mentioned that it would be a great blog post. Towards the end of “Beyond Beats and Rhymes” one of the interviewees stated that, it was deplorable and sad that the rappers and hip hop artists sung about sexual conquest, violence, and drugs, but they have no other choice and it’s not their fault. This statement resonated with me as something that was rather contradictory and worth further discussion. It is true that there is a system hip hop and rap artists must operate in, like all other professionally produced music genres. The question then becomes to what degree can the artists themselves be held morally or socially responsible for the lyrics they are rapping or singing?
The majority of the documentary focused on the hyper-masculine, sexually explicit, and violent nature of the popular hip hop and rap songs produced. Professors, students, students from our own class and the average casual listeners off the street all deplored the lyrics as derogatory and pejorative to the history and culture of African Americans and modern society in general. Even a few of the artists and several of the producers recognized the songs as different, less desirable forms of musical expression. So why do these songs continue to be produced by the most popular artists and dominate the iTunes Top 100 charts? Peter echoed the sentiment my friends and I feel when he mentioned in class the statement made by the white young man in his father’s truck; the music sounds good and that is what matters. We as educated young people know that the lyrics describing a thug’s life and hardships are exaggerated, embellished, or even down right false. But, we listen to them anyway. The same thing can be said of popular artists like Ke$ha and her song “Tik Tok”. Any intelligent human being knows that it is ill-advised to brush your teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, but the beat and music make the song irresistibly catchy and enjoyable. Ke$ha’s example is not uncommon. Many other artists have lyrics that differ from the appropriate societal norms, in many ways similar to Elvis’ suggestive dance moves and lyrics during the 1950s.
The question remains, should the artists’ songs be censored or should the artists not be allowed to produce that type of music? The right to create the music is protected under the Constitution but I believe that as awareness grows and the younger generation’s conscious grows, this type of music will fade and give way to a new form of social rebellion. Additionally, I think that the fact that many of the artists are African American is mildly irrelevant. A strong majority of the songs currently topping charts involve many of the same aspects under review in this documentary: sex, drugs, partying, and violence. I believe it is unfair to hold rappers and hip hop artists to a standard that is not being equally applied to pop, rock, or even country artists. Perhaps the rap hip hop genre is just a more concentrated version of the themes that spread around more evenly in other genres.