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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

The following is a promo for a PBS show scheduled to air on February 20th.

Okay, so you're asking why it is that this priest in affluent, Republican, lily-white Chatham, NJ is concerned about this video?

Well, because Hip Hop Nation is not just about music. Music is the vehicle for the expression of a cultural identity which appeals to people of all ethnicities, all races and cultures.

I've heard Hip Hop played in the barios of Newark, the clubs in Manhattan, and on the streets in Ohio, California, England, Dubai in the Emerits, Lagos, Nigeria and Kumasi, Ghana.

I would guess that 80% of the music I hear coming from the kids in my Chatham Youth Group is Hip Hop.

I admit that there is much about Hip Hop music that I like (Janet Jackson totally ROCKS). That being said, I am still very concerned because much the new Hip Hop - like that from 50 Cent and Nellie - is violent.

And, hear this clearly: that violence is directly aimed at women.

Here's just one of the statements made in the film: "Violent masculinity is at the heart of American identity."

If that were a true or false statement, I would have to say, "True." In the promo, at least, this is used to justify the violence in Hip Hop. See? It doesn't promote violence. It's just an accurate reflection, the implication seems to be, of what already is.

At one point, a young African American woman is asked if she is disturbed because women are constantly refered to as "bitches and ho's" in Hip Hop. "No," she responds, "I know they aint' talkin' about me."

The narrator says, "Yo, they ARE talkin' about you, girl! If President Bush used the 'N' word to describe you, you wouldn't be like, 'Oh, he ain't talkin' 'bout me.' Yeah, he is."

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking, "Stockholm Syndrome."

There are many complex and varied issues raised by this on many levels with a variety of applications.

I think this is "one to watch." And, talk about with your kids.

Word to yo mutha!


Bill said...

I love this blog. It’s always an education. It always makes you think. I had to do a little research on certain terms. I wasn’t sure if there was a difference between “Hip Hop” and “Rap”. I had some tell me that they were synonymous. I had another who knows music take a different position. He said that “Rap” is more hard edged poetry whereas “Hip Hop” is more melodic and closer to “Pop”. Both are vehicles for telling stories. This is the most recent rendition of the “story teller” or “bard”. The other term was “Stockholm Syndrome”. I knew approximately what it meant but I wanted the history just to be on firm footing.

My background was growing up in Bronx, New York during the 50s. If you think these are troubled times, look up street gangs in the 50s. Gangs in all the major cities were killing each other with gusto. But even then, I would no sooner refer to women as “Bitches and Whores” as walk in front of a car. The result would have been the same. Every kid had a mother and / or a sister. A remark like that would have been taken personal.

So how then do these kids not take it personal? Has the language and have the remarks become so desensitized that no offense is taken as that one girl inferred. Has it become part of the street language and you are expected to not only use the terms but also not take offense – because it’s cool? If that’s the situation then I am truly sad. There is no place for that kind of language in my vocabulary. It’s insulting and degrading.

The other interpretation is that “yes”, this is the way they feel toward women. If that’s the case, I’m not sure what to say. This is the worst case scenario. Saying things because they are cool and hip is one thing but truly meaning it is a terrible thing to admit.

It reminds me of the Nazi propaganda in the 30s and 40s. If you tell everybody that a group of people are liars and cheats. If you tell everybody that a people are sub-human then eventually it becomes ok to take their property. It becomes ok to put them in prison. It becomes ok to exterminate them.

Step forward 60 years. If we call women “bitches and hos” then it becomes ok to treat them that way. The problem is that “Hip Hop” is an industry. It’s a business that makes a lot of money. The folks making this music will not give it up unless it stops making money. The only way I know to do that is to remove the client base. If we can convince the young folk that this is degrading and unacceptable then maybe they will stop buying it.

Ann said...


Hiram said...

I don't listen to Hip Hop/Rap; I have tried, just to know what it is and why some might like it -- but I cannot decipher the lyrics, and I can't say I have heard much in the way of a melody in it, so I just gave up.

I haven't missed a whole lot, it would seem, if a great deal of Hip Hop disdains women. That is not a healthy thing to do, spiritually or societally.

I wonder if some of the change of attitude that Bill notes is due to men not being needed as husbands and fathers -- with AFDC and other welfare programs, they are worth more out of the picture than it. All that is left is being a sperm donor -- a enjoyable event, to be sure, but with no long-term connection of responsibility and commitment. Women then head the families and have the responsibilities, and the sense of worth that comes from doing something important (but being overwhelmed, and often financially stressed, the women are also burdened and filled with pain.) That sets up a situation where the women can be resented, and so desparaged. Very sad...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Umm . . . Hiram? I don't know you, but I'm not sure you really meant to sound that, well, "neaderthal" is the word that comes to mind.

Sounds like you are blaming the victim here.

Social programs like AFDC have not emasculated men. Women who have survived incredible odds in this violent and misogynist culture have not emasculated men.

Men of quality are never diminished by women (and men) who seek equality - or justice.

I urge you to listen to Al Sharpton's eulogy of Rosa Parks for a bit of inspiration.