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, “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.

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