If people found a drug dealer in their neighborhood I would imagine they would call the police or the Drug Enforcement Agency or some agency authorized to remove the cretin. Most people wouldn’t hesitate to eliminate the source of the drugs negatively affecting their neighborhood. And most people would have the discretion to separate the drug dealer on the corner from the pharmacy down the street. No one would say that anybody who dealt in drugs need to be eliminated because most people realize that many drugs are actually beneficial to the community. Nobody would suggest throwing the baby out with the bath water.
But I’m amazed at the number of people who wouldn’t think to give hip hop the same benefit of doubt. Hip hop is different. People operate under the misconception that nothing is good about this particular genre of music and we would do well to wipe it off the face of the earth. It has no redeeming value. A lot of people who have good intentions, and some who are somewhat nefarious in intent, would label all of hip hop in the same class as its thuggish subcategory of gangsta rap that permeates a lot of people’s nightmares. The fact that both hip hop and its subset gangsta rap are both heavily connected to black culture is probably why people refuse to objectively separate the two.
Hip hop faces the same problem as almost every other aspect of black culture; if one does it they all do it. Whenever a black person is accused or convicted of a crime it reflects negatively on the entire black community. If one did it, we all did it until we can overwhelmingly prove otherwise and allay people’s fears. But let a white person commit a crime and the same collective grouping would never cross people’s mind. No one ever thinks that a white person committing the crime is indicative of the white community at large. So if this type of correlative thinking applies to black people, it isn’t hard to see how it could be applied to black forms of music.
People, black and white, don’t want to take the time to learn the differences of black people or black culture. We don’t think anything about applying stereotypes to black people, black music, black life, black culture, black neighborhoods, or the black experience. So if one set of black hip hop artist is negative for the community, then all hip hop artist are negative. The negative assumption is made across the board without any differentiation unless or until the black artist proves overwhelmingly that they are different. So it is a given that most people want to embrace the perception that all of hip hop music is negative.
The other problem associated with the negative versions of hip hop and gangsta rap music is the perception that the white community is blameless in the development of the gangsta rap phenomenon. A lot of people think that only our black children listen to gangsta rap and are therefore the only supporters of this form of music. But I’ve spent a lot of time working at a job that had me right across the street from a practically all white high school. Out of about fifteen hundred students there were only five that were obviously black. That would make the school well over ninety nine percent white. There were a large number of teens who would drive by with their stereos blaring and booming with gangsta rap from their cars, trucks, and SUVs.
A trip to the music store in this predominantly white area would find gangsta rap well represented along with its country music and punk music and rock music peers. Now let’s make the assumption that the managers of the record stores aren’t stupid. They wouldn’t waste their limited display space trying to cater to just one percent of the population. Therefore, it would be understandable to make the assumption that maybe these white people are actually buying this crap as well. In fact, I would make the assertion that the people who produce gangsta rap are making more money from the members of the white community with their disposable income, than it does with the black community who are more likely to be listening to a bootleg copy.
The white corporations are so overwhelmingly in control over the development, production and distribution of the various forms of entertainment throughout this country. When rap music was in its infancy it was harmless. In many respects, it was a positive influence in the community. But like a farmer who wants to assure the development and cultivation of a particular crop the industry wanted to assure the development of a certain form of rap. The businesspeople realized that there was a lot of money involved with gangsta rap. And everybody knows that money is the only thing that matters in a capitalistic system that has run amok. It is my theory that the money that seduced the white corporation into developing gangsta rap comes predominantly from white youths.
Many people want to put the development of thuggish music squarely on the shoulders of the black community. It is true that many children listen to this form of music and choose to model their lives after the totally materialistic and misogynistic thugs in the video who controls his bitches and whores with a tight fist or the promiscuous concubine who uses her body and sexuality to get what she wants. But few stop to think that these pimps and concubines are the bitches and whores of the music industry. And with relatively few other role models to form a healthy opinion of his or her self, a lot of young black people will work to emulate these negative examples. Does this make our black children the sole source of the gangsta rap institution?
The producers of gangsta rap is little different than the drug dealer on the corner. But if we discovered that our youths were indulging in the drug dealer’s products people would do whatever to run the drug dealer out of their neighborhood. No one would turn to the youngsters and say something totally insensitive to the real issue like, you are the problem because you bought the drugs. Yet, when we see the music industry feeding our children’s minds with the crack of gangsta rap, some of us don’t hesitate to point at our children and say something along the lines of you are the problem because you listen to this music.
No one ever says the children are the problem and the drug dealer is blameless. But many are content to say our children listen to gangsta rap so they are the source of the problem. No one would say run the drug dealer out of the neighborhood and shut down the pharmacy to boot. But many people say gangsta rap is bad so hip hop is the problem. It would be nice if people would take the time to really understand the issue at hand. But inevitably, it is far too easy to just scratch the surface of the matter and never get through the thick coating of misinformation.