Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts on Hip-Hop

By no means would I say that I am a Hip Hop expert. I’m like the majority of American listeners who listen to what is popular on the radio, hums a long with the beats and sings a long to the lyrics without actually knowing what I am saying. It is when we really take the time to figure out what we actually are listening to when we question the true meaning behind the words. The video we watched in class for the last two classes brought about the chicken and egg aspect. Are producers making music like this because it is what society wants or is society listening to music that these producers are creating? Are these rappers simply a product of their experiences? These are just some of the questions I asked when attempting to figure out this Hip-hop culture. I think what the director wanted to show was the nuanced responses from rappers, young and old. For some, people were just rapping lyrics that objectified women or promoted violence because they simply thought it was cool. Some others though, had these actual experiences and were rapping about what they had gone through. However, most of the time, these rappers seem to want to project this image because it makes them seem tough, manly, and hard. They believe it makes them cool because society tells them that. There is this perpetuation of these hyper-masculine images that surround this type of music.
Although it seems like some people do not have a problem with lyrics that reference “bitches, hoes, and niggers,” because they are not directed at them specifically, I think they are indirectly referencing women and African American. This indirect reference hurts these groups even more because it is a generalization of these groups and it is pervasive throughout society. Furthermore, it normalizes how this terminology is used. It then becomes appropriate for men to call women “bitches” because women are singing along to these songs. Additionally, it becomes appropriate for people to call African Americans “niggers” because these rappers are promulgating the word.  How can we go about changing what is seen as cool in hip-hop? How can society as a whole, stop referencing such derogatory language to get its point across? These are still questions that I am grappling with and am interested in seeing what the rest of the class thinks.


  1. People don't realize how influential they can really be. In the documentary, a few young men were being interviewed and referred to some women as bitches not sisters. This comes directly from the Jay-Z song "Bitches & Sisters." In the song Jay-Z says:

    Sisters get respect, Bitches get what they deserve,
    Sisters work hard, Bitches work your nerves,
    Sisters hold you down, Bitches hold you up,
    Sisters help you progress, Bitches'll slow you up,
    Sisters cook up a meal play they role with the kidz, Bitches in the street with they nose in ya biz,
    Sisters tell the truth, Bitches tell lies,
    Sisters drive cars, Bitches wanna ride
    Sisters give up the ass, Bitches give up the ass
    Sisters do it slow, Bitches do it fast
    Sisters do they dirt outside of where they live, Bitches have niggas all up in your crib,
    Sisters tell you quick you betta check ya homie, Bitches don't give a fuck they wanna check for ya homie,
    Sisters love Jay cause they know how hov is

    Because a prominent rap artist describes women this way in a song, his followers decided to as well. Would it not be hip-hop without this derogatory language and references? Or if this derogatory language and references were stopped by role models, would it stop completely?

    1. I believe that until the very women that these men are talking about stand up and stop fitting these stereo types, there will always be a stigma against them. The problem that arises is that we see too many video vixens and Nikki Minaj's and not enough Lauren Hills and Erica Badhu's. These women don't have to dress provocatively to sell themselves and this is mostly because the are comfortable with both the skin they are in and they respect themselves. At what price do we stop creating these fantasy settings and start teaching our youth that being a "bad bitch" is not a good thing?


  2. I thought the movie we watched in class was very interesting, and it did a good job of revealing and exploring some of the main issues circulating throughout the rap and hip- hop culture. When the director of the film decided to ask a few street rappers about their take on the use of illicit and vulgar language in rap music, they essentially said the popularity of the music was dependent upon the use of vulgarity. The street rappers also talked about how they want record deals and how they believe that the only way of possibly obtaining that is by feeding into the harsh and violent standard of rap music. This idea makes me wonder how these rappers would feel if the standard of mainstream rap music consisted of lyrics about politics, loving relationships, and respect? Would they decide to rap about that instead? Is rap music purely about exuding the image of tough masculinity because that is what rappers want to be seen as? Or is it because that masculine image is what rappers assume society wants to see them as?

  3. I think hyperbole and exaggeration pertaining to violence and women have been used in story telling and other forms of entertainment basically since the beginning of time. (Think about Greek and Roman epics or even The Bible...) I think the exaggerations, overmasculinity, and violent story telling in rap music today are purely for entertainment value. Yes they can be vulgar, but people like vulgarity. Yes they can be shocking and violent, but people like to be shocked. Yes they can be sexually promiscuous or even sexist, but there too is even some appeal in that. In most cases, I think that rap music is consumer driven and not that the rap music drives the consumers. Therefore, as much as it can be damaging to society, I don't see it changing any time soon.

    1. Hadn't read Peter's comment before I posted mine... You can't possibly be serious? Please do not reference the Bible and various Roman and Greek epics to justify violence (written, imagined, or physical) against women. If we're going to reference the mistakes of history to justify making those same mistakes in the modern era then we are only allowing history to repeat itself. History should be a lesson, something we learn and grow from. We can't just adopt this idea of "well it's been this way forever so there's no point in trying to change it anytime soon"... that's exactly why people stayed silent while members of their own species were executed, burned, and raped just because they were a different color.

    2. I agree that history should serve as a lesson for future generations, however I am merely identifiying a trend of hyperbole pertaining to violence and women that has been around since the beginning of time. And I may sound like a hardcore pessimist, but I think man's violent nature is permanent and will express itself though some aspect of society no matter what year it is. Currently, it just happens to be popular culture including the rap music industry. And compared to genocide, I think hip-hop is pretty damn innocent.

    3. I was thinking more misogynist but pessimist works too :)
      I worry that it is that exact mindset that is holding our society back. These artists are people's role models, little boys and girls look up to these people, they want to grow up and be just like them. Hip hop is innocent but the lifestyle it portrays is not.
      I wanted to say this in class but we ran out of time; you are right, the lyrics and music videos are exaggerations and not meant to be taken literally, and most people don't, but who this music is preying on are the under educated. Let's be honest, some of those people in that documentary seemed down right foolish while they were talking. Those people believe it, idolize it, aspire to it.

    4. That's the truth. I couldn't agree more

  4. The film we watched brought up more questions than it answered... No one wants to take responsibility for the hurtful words that rappers and hip hop artists are saying; rappers blame it on the "white business man" and the white business man blames it on what society wants to hear. Sorry guys, but regardless of what sells, rappers are saying and selling what they agree to or choose to sell. The artists claim to be so hard and tough and bad ass but they won’t even admit that they would sacrifice their integrity and the integrity of others just to make money.
    I agree with the "white business man"; this is society's fault, ALL of society's fault including the rappers and the listeners and even the business man. Not because this is what people choose to listen to, but because we're too busy being bitch ass niggas (meant to be ironic... not offensive) to realize that we are all to blame.

  5. I think changing the nature of hip-hop will take a very long time since there is no shortage of aspiring rap artists who are willing to say and do just about anything to get a record deal. Changing hip-hop will require a whole generation of artists who are dedicated to expressing themselves with more positive themes as well as trying to promote the message that black men do not have to be tough all the time and that black women are more than just props in music videos. I think it will also take a long time for hip-hop artists to become aware of some of the themes addressed in the documentary we watched in class. For example, when asked if they thought their music was subservient to the perceptions that whites had toward blacks, most of the rap artists in the video said that their music was an expression of who they were and that rapping about violence and sex was what they wanted to do, not what white consumers wanted them to do. By saying that their music was independent of the demands of white consumers, the artists interviewed were maintaining their edge and their identity as “gangsters.” Since music has been revolutionized before with genres like jazz and rock-and-roll, I think changing hip-hop is possible, but it will take time for rap artists to recognize that their music often plays into the negative stereotypes that still exist toward the African American community.

  6. In 1988, Chuck D - front man for rap group "Public Enemy" - coined hip-hop as the "black CNN.” His allegation was that in communities where prominent media coverage was lacking, hip-hop could be used as a means to propagate important information. Hip-hop's popularity and commerciality since then has increased exponentially, solidifying its place among the centrality of American mainstream music. However, the commercial appeal of hip-hop has subsequently resulted in its exploitation, lyrically and professionally, causing the music to be focused more specifically on profitability. This has manifested in a loss of integrity and what analysts believe to be damaging to the music's potential for positive social and political contributions.

  7. I’m going to have to agree with Regan on this topic, that consumers are the true reason for violent lyrics in hip-hop and rap. This is of course not to say that producers and the rappers themselves do not have an enormous role in exacerbating this situation, but without people buying this type of music, attending concerts, etc. there would be no market for it. This situation reminds me of the Wal-Mart episode for South Park. Essentially, Wal-Mart moves into South Park and everyone starts shopping there, due to their ridiculously low prices. This leads to small businesses throughout the community to close. Afterwards, everyone blames Wal-Mart, or the “business men”, for their current predicament, though they are obviously at fault for shopping there. I think that if people who blame rap executives for allowing such violent lyrics in hip hop would look it the mirror, they would see the true root of the problem.

  8. Another thing to consider when talking about rap music is women in the rap and hip-hop industry. I think another reason why it has become acceptable to call women “bitches” is because there are women out there calling themselves bitches. For example, Nicki Minaj sings, “I’m a bad bitch I ain’t ever been a mixed breed.” In order to get men to stop being derogatory to women, we must first have the women stop being derogatory to themselves.