I have been a die-hard Hip-Hop fan since I was a kid. I can remember my first pure experience like it was yesterday. The year was 1993 and I was in the 7th grade. Up until that point, none of my friends owned any hip-hop music. We watched the video’s on TV and consumed the limited amount of hip-hop that played on the radio at the time, but that was it.
Being from the west coast, our music scene was generating interest in the mainstream with artist like N.W.A, E-40 & The Click, DJ Quik and even artist closer to home like C-Bo and Brotha Lynch Hung. Even though I heard their music, I wasn’t truly impacted by the culture yet. That all changed one day when my best friend Toby made copies of Mac Mall’s debut album Illegal Business and brought them to school. He sold me one of the cassette tapes for 50 cents, and I can honestly say, that day changed my life.
It’s something about the one on one relationship you create when you discover an artist for the first time. From the creativity of the wordplay to the infectious base heavy instrumentals… I was hooked. Not to mention, the music illustrated what was going on in my neighborhood at the time, so that added to the level of relatability. Even though in the music rappers talked about selling drugs, violence, as well as speaking negatively about women, there was always a balance.
Groups like Public Enemy, Leaders of the new school, Brand Nubian, A Tribe called quest all provided a necessary perspective to counter the influence of those messages. Over time, corporations noticed the earning potential of the genre, especially Gangsta rap. At that point, when young and aspiring rappers saw the direction the record companies were going in, infusing gangsterism and violence in the music became commonplace. This way of thinking created an influx of individuals that came into the music industry caring more about financial gain then creative expression.
The advent of social media and other Internet-based platforms made things worse. Now, young people were able to create virtual identities based on attention and popularity. Also, the technology needed to make music became readily available for anyone one who wanted to take a shot at it, which in return lowered the quality of the product.
So, if you’re going to allow your child to listen to Hip-Hop, make sure they understand and appreciate the original intent of the art form. It’s pivotal that we assist our children with deciphering what they’re looking at. Artistic expression is considerably different than fabricating a story to gain popularity or sale records. In its essence, Hip-Hop is a beautiful thing. However, just like most things in our society, it has been co-opted by the white power structure to gain a profit.