Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Music: It Makes the World Go 'Round

Music has always been a passion of mine ever since I can remember. I loved listening to music as a child and through out all my years. Music has a power to affect my mood within that moment of listening. There is that power to change a sad moment to a happy one, just by listening to a song that elevates my spirit and uplifts my soul. My mood may also be happy and instantly change to sad, by listening to a song that connects me to a sad memory or brings me back to a particular time in my life of feeling sad. Everyone has been affected by music in this sense and this is a very powerful phenomena. I have always felt a connection with music and music is a passion that engulfs my spirit. I can completely divulge myself into a song and not have any other thought in my mind or worry-just a feeling of contentment and awareness of only the notes played by each instrument, and the song’s melody to be my main focus. This experience can be through listening to a song, without being a participant in playing an instrument, but only a sponge absorbing the complete sound of the song. To play an instrument is also an incredible feeling that engulfs my complete spirit and is an amazing creative outlet. The action of strumming a guitar and having my physical body help produce a beautiful sound, by playing the instrument, is amazing. To be free of stress and heavy thoughts, and only focus on my fingers picking the notes, my hand strumming the strings, and my ears listening to the sound of the music, can be a spiritual experience. The feeling can be almost meditative, with that rush of energy and lightness of the soul that is like no other type of experience.
Musicians have the ability to affect others in a powerful way and people can become very emotional and full of passion when experiencing a live concert. Concert goers can do very extreme things while being “moved” by the music. Women throw their underwear at rock stars and men dance in "mosh pits." Women can faint by the site of certain musicians and men want to be like the rock stars they see on stage. The lyrics in songs can also have a very profound effect on the listeners. Rock stars can send a message to the world through their lyrics. Songs can speak of politics, love, hate, death, and anything people can relate to, and have millions of listeners that are affected by the song. Artists like John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix (above image) had the ability to “move” people and they still do today, even after they are dead. NeilYoung (left image) can be very political in his lyrics and people really listen to what he has to say in his music. Some artists are able to affect the public more than the President or any politicians. This type of power and phenomena that is involved in music, musicians, and fans is very appealing to me and I love being around this type of energy and genre.
Everyone needs a creative outlet and a sense of feeling connected to something, and music has always been that for me. People should do what’s in their heart and soul and not be afraid to follow their dreams. Our souls can become lifeless and without passion if we don’t follow some type of dream or have some sort of creative outlet. Life is about really living and realizing who we truly are inside. What are the things that we love in life and what really makes us happy. Everyone needs something like this to relate to and give them the drive to keep on living. Music has always fulfilled these feelings for me, and to work in a field with something I love is a “dream come true.” I don’t want to be miserable doing a job I hate, just to bring home a paycheck everyday. Money is important, but it is not truly living if you hate what you do. I will always love music, whether it’s playing an instrument, just listening to a song, enjoying a concert, or working in the music industry as a business person. Music is my life and my joy, and without it my flame would be forever dim and lifeless.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Rap and Hip-Hop: A Negative Influence

Rap and hip-hop music have been around for many years and at one time, many people could relate to this type of music and culture. But after thirty years of growing popularity, rap music sales have recently declined. According to recent statistics: Though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid twenty-one percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in twelve years no rap album was among the top ten sellers of the year. Some people have reason to believe that the decline is from increasing criticism about rap and hip-hop’s bad influence. A recent study by the Black Youth Project showed a majority of youth think rap has too many violent images. According to Chuck Creekmur, who runs the leading web-site Allhiphop.com, “A lot of people are sick of rap…the negativity is just over the top now.” In a poll of Black Americans by the Associated Press and Aol-Black Voices last year, fifty percent of respondents said hip-hop was a negative force in American society. Here is an example of some of the negative lyrics that are heard in rap music, where guns and violence are glamorized, in Snoop Dog’s (image top left) song called, “20 Dollars 2 My Name”: “Nothing left to do but buy some shells for my glock. Why? So I can rob every known dope spot. I got 19 dollars and 50 cents up in my pocket with what? With this automatic rocket, Gotta have it to pop it, unlock it, and take me up a hostage.” This is only one song, but many other rap songs have lyrics like this one.

A new study suggests that fans of rap and hip-hop are more likely to drink, use drugs and engage in violence, and it’s hard to prove that rap music changes the way fans act, but a recent study strongly suggests that it does. In 2002, researchers surveyed 1,056 community college students aged 15-25 from California’s Central Valley about their music listening habits, drinking habits, and use of marijuana and “club drugs” such as Ecstasy. They were also asked whether they’d recently engaged in violent behavior, such as getting into fights or attacking people. The study confirmed that there is a strong and significant association between listening to those types of music and engaging in those activities. A study from the 1990’s found that nearly half of all rap songs referred to alcohol. These findings could mean that people who are drinking alcohol and using drugs are drawn to this type of music, or the music influences young people to drink, do drugs, and become violent. Researchers have found that listening to music with violent lyrics can cause “at least a temporary increase in aggressive thoughts and feelings,” said Craig Anderson, professor of psychology at Iowa State University in Ames. But he said the long term effects are still not clear.

Rap artists frequently use the N-word in their lyrics. The use of the N-word can be very offensive and negative. The word was a term slave masters used to label their African slaves. Rap and hip-hop use the word like it is normal and as a term of endearment or as a substitute for black. This angers black leaders who consider those who use the word as ignorant of the horrors of slavery, segregation and racism, all of which are a part of American History. Although there are a lot of negative lyrics in rap and hip-hop, the music originally began with a more positive note, and the music held a political significance as a form of unification against repression. But today’s artists have a type of hyper-masculine “thug” theme that has forgotten about the early world of rap music. People are growing tired of all the negativity and are looking for some positive influences in life and in music. There is an increase in popularity for Christian hip-hop and rap, and Christian rap began two decades ago with an acceptance among churches and the music industry. "The...reason the music is getting more attention is that the artists are just better," says Christian rapper Bingo Kenoly. "Now, we have Cross Movement, Da Truth and myself raising the standard and making authentic Christian rap." He also says that, "hip-hop has been knocking on the door of gospel music for a long time but gospel music was ignoring it. But, now hip-hop has like taken over secular music and dominated it for a decade now and you can't get away from it." For the first time, The Grammy Awards included a category for best rock or rap gospel album. Hopefully this is a move in the right direction for rap and hip-hop to have a more positive influence on listeners. With fans becoming tired of the negativity that’s heard in rap and hip-hop, the Christian route may shed some positive light on the music’s reputation.