(Straight Outta Compton)
Back in February while speaking to the Huffington Post, Geraldo Riviera stated, “Hip-Hop has done more damage to black and brown people than racism, in the last ten years.” Geraldo’s statement was flawed in more ways than one. First of all, Hip-Hop is a genre of many different styles of rap, and those different styles of rap contain different messages. In actuality, some of the messages are quite positive. Hip-Hop has a wide range of categories from Christian Rap to Gangsta Rap. It’s not fair to Pharrell and his song “Happy” to generalize all Hip-Hop as harmful and damaging to minorities. It’s plain to see that not every form of Hip-Hop contains a morally destructive message.
I would agree that Gangsta Rap and other morally void forms of the genre have done as much damage to the black community as racism if not more so. However, I would say this has occurred in the past twenty years, not just the past decade. This fact is no secret within the black community; it’s something of an unspoken evil.
Hip-Hop began as a subversive culture that, for many years, went unnoticed by the mainstream. Back in the early 80s, Hip-Hop did not in any way bring to mind genocidal, homicidal raps that promoted violence upon and within the black community. At that time, Hip-Hop was as much about dance as it was about rhymes. In fact, breakdancing embodied the name Hip-Hop.
Sometime during the late 80s things began to change, particularly when Niggas With Attitudes (N.W.A.) came straight outta Compton. It was around this time that blacks began to embrace the use of the word “nigga”. Before then, it wasn’t a norm, and it was fairly offensive for one Black person to call another “nigga,” “nigger”, or any other such word. Even the word “negro” was considered to hold a somewhat hostile undertone. However, N.W.A. played a crucial role in transforming Hip-Hop into a genre that frequently demeans women and promotes the genocide of blacks. The popularity of this music within the Black community does nothing to negate this fact.
About a decade after rap was introduced to the mainstream, the legendary N.W.A. released very entertaining music which reflected on their lives and the times in which they lived, starting a subgenre that would eventually take the music industry by storm. In the beginning, they clearly didn’t make music to intentionally reinforce the degradation or quality of life for Blacks. However, at some point in the early 90s all record labels wanted in on Gasta rap, and they begin to intentionally compete for the title of having the most violent and morally degrading music. Even Ice Cube, who left N.W.A. in 1989, says that his former group went too far with their last album Niggaz4Life.
The constant flooding of images by the media, including Black Entertainment Television (B.E.T.), that portrays the successful Black man only as a Gasta rapper has even caused many Blacks to cleave to these protraits, and in turn using them to determine if other Black men are “real” in comparison. The targeted marketing of major record labels towards Black communities for so many years has caused many Blacks to want to protect the very ones who seek to capitalize off of them accepting thug life and other stereotypes as “their” culture. I’m sure the Straight Outta Compton movie will be marketed well, and it will be laden with propaganda to exonerate N.W.A. from any backlash, but as stated before, their popularity does not negate the uncompromising truth.
In some communities, many people (Black, White, Latino…) can listen to Gangsta Rap and recite each and every lyric while maintaining a distinction between entertainment and reality. For many living outside impoverished inner cities with high concentrations of minorities, the words and messages go in one ear and out the other. When they rap lyrics that state they would “drop niggaz” or have been “selling crack since the fifth grade,” it’s all fun and games, almost like quoting a line from Scarface. However, there are hundreds of thousands of minority youth who are inspired to live according to the messages of Gangsta Rap.
Worse yet, there are many within the Black community who are out of touch with young people and have no clue how much influence Hip-Hop culture has on black youth. Those who are heavily influenced by Gangsta Rap perpetuate much of the violence that occurs in the Black community.
In many ways, Gangsta Rap and other morally void types of Hip-Hop have picked up where American slavery left off. These damaging forms of rap have enslaved the minds of many minorities who willingly embrace its mental bondage. Gangsta Rap has perpetuated a culture that has taken a great part of the Black community hostage. Many of these unwitting hostages suffer from a type of generational Stockholm Syndrome, as evidenced by their defense of their captors. A prime example of this is what happens when someone from outside the community points out the detrimental, hypocritical nature of Gangsta Rap and other destructive aspects of the culture. Many members of the Black community attack such persons and treat them as threats to their identity. They seem painfully unaware of the fact that these identities are fallacies that major record labels have marketed to them.
Regarding hypocrisy, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is perhaps the most hypocritical mantra used within the Black community. Black lives should matter in all aspects of life, including the kind of music that you are willing to support. Rapper Rick Ross went from being a prison guard who detained minorities in jail to one of America’s top rappers. He now makes music that influences youth to make decisions that land them in prison. The irony of this is astonishing.
The next march to express that Black lives matter should involve protesting Rick Ross. This protest must extend beyond Rick Ross, however, and include any rapper making millions for record labels at the expense of the lives and futures of Black Americans. Moreover, it’s time to stop protecting these swindlers when they manipulate the public. We have to stop buying lines such as “I’m just rapping about my life so others can see that they don’t have to do what I did.” That, of course, is just one of many common excuses for deliberately poisoning youth for money.
Gangsta Rap and its derivatives aren’t dominating Black culture just because of great marketing strategies directed at Black youth. It dominates in large part because of how many Black children are missing their fathers. Absent fathers plague the Black community at a level that is much higher than that of other communities. There are several reasons why so many fathers are absent, and many of these reasons link to a history of social injustice and 400 years of systematic, legalized racism.
Another part of the problem is the fact that misguided youths define Black culture. Even the Bible has something to say about this, as evidenced in the following verse: As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
It’s time for leaders of the Black community to end this state of affairs and to do so they must stop their cowardice and speak up. Despite how one may feel about Louis Farrakhan, he is one of the few people who dare to speak about the destructive nature of certain types of rap. More people in the Black community, especially pastors, need to step up to the plate.