Monday, December 4, 2017

Rap Music is Cultural Poison

Music is an important repository of culture.  It is a window into the soul of a culture, and a way to understand the values and priorities of that people.  Music can illustrate what is perceived to be good and evil, what is beautiful and ugly, and what behaviors are admirable and deplored. 
Hip Hop, or Rap, or whatever the music of the Urban landscape is called these days, reflects and transmits the urban culture across people, places, and time. The music of this sub-culture is very popular, and spreading across our national culture at a rapid pace.   Rap stars are cultural icons and rap is leaking into more mainstream culture.  This makes it worth reviewing.
Rap is rampant with misogyny, drugs, violence, and anti-social values.   The lyrics and the videos depict a hyper-violent world in which money is earned through drug dealing, prostitution and gang activity.  Women are objects to be used, and the police are enemies to be fear, or worse, demons to be exorcised. 
Let’s take a look at a popular rap song from 2016 and compare it to another song from a different genre that is also popular among another sub-culture, the rural poor.  Country music is the equivalent of rap for the rural poor, and it is enlightening to look at some popular songs to understand the message and the values that are reflected.
The second most popular Rap song of 2016 was Bad and Boujee.  The full lyrics are here, and the song begins:
Smokin' on cookie in the hotbox (cookie)
Fuckin' on your bitch she a thot, thot, thot (thot)
Cookin' up dope in the crockpot (pot)
We came from nothin' to somethin' nigga (hey)
I don't trust nobody grip the trigger (nobody)
Call up the gang, and they come and get you (gang)
Cry me a river, give you a tissue (hey)
My bitch is bad and boujee (bad)
Cookin' up dope with a Uzi (blaow)
My niggas is savage, ruthless (savage)
We got 30's and 100 rounds too (grrah)
My bitch is bad and boujee (bad)
Cookin' up dope with a Uzi (dope)
My niggas is savage, ruthless (hey)
We got 30's and 100 rounds too (glah)
The song obviously promotes a culture of violence and misogyny, with explicit references to gangs, guns, illegal drugs, and cheap sex.
If we compare this to a country song of similar popularity and time frame, we can examine Chris Jason's  Buy me a Boat.  Here we find lyrics like:
I ain’t rich, but I damn sure wanna be
Working like a dog all day, ain’t working for me
I wish I had a rich uncle that’d kick the bucket
And that I was sitting on a pile like Warren Buffett
I know everybody says
Money can’t buy happiness

But it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it
It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets
Yeah, and I know what they say,
Money can’t buy everything
Well, maybe so,
But it could buy me a boat

They call me redneck, white trash and blue collar
But I could change all that if I had a couple million dollars
I keep hearing that money is the root of all evil
And you can’t fit a camel through the eye of a needle
I’m sure that’s probably true,
But it still sounds pretty cool

The transmitted values mention hard work, bible references,  beer (a legal drug), and recreational fishing.
If we compare and contrast the two cultural messages, it is not hard to see which one will have better outcomes. One glorifies violence, sex, and drugs.  The other talks about hard work, the bible, and fishing. 
Does the music create or reflect the culture?  I think it is a little of both, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.   The cultural values of Urban music are poison.   The cultural values that Rap conveys are toxic and destructive to everything they touch.  

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