Term Paper: Rap Music: The Result

Pages: 8 (2703 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] .. puppet on the string of my tennis shoe." (Doherty, 2001) He blames the sickness of his own thoughts and imagination on a rootless, fatherless upbringing with a drug-abusing mother and violent peers: "Read up/About how I used to get beat up/Peed on, be on free lunch and change schools every three months." (Doherty, 2001) Eminem provides an artful look into a dark world from which we might prefer to turn away. America is home to lots of angry young men like the one Marshall Mathers portrays or perhaps is in real life. Eminem himself has had several brushes with the law.

Koza (1994), for example, analyzed all the articles about rap that appeared in the three most widely circulated news magazines in the United States and Canada (Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News) during the decade from 1983 to 1992. From this analysis she made a compelling case that the vast majority of these articles "reinforced a link between rap and specific negative themes." She further noted that the significance of these negative representations of rap should be seen in the light of theories "that negativity is a strategy of containment that tends to reinforce dominant ideologies" (Koza, 1994). Tricia Rose (1991, 1994) has further argued that strategies of containment associated with rap music and culture extend even into physical spaces. Along with other issues raised in her article, she illustrated how policies of containment are reflected in stringent permit procedures and other obstacles of access to the venues in which rap concerts and associated events take place.

The perceptions of rap music are negatively constructed and its legitimacy is continually challenged by dominant cultural institutions, especially through the mass media. The negative positioning of rap music and its continued association with problems of violence and crime is found in the music of many rappers. Rappers like Ice-T and Ice Cube sing about police brutality urging youths to fight back to the police. These interests intentionally link hip hop and rap with images of gang violence, drug use, and misogyny, and they consciously select and project rappers with these styles and messages for mass consumption.

Insights from street scripts echo and amplify the analyses of scholars seeking to understand and transform everyday slave mentalities and how they operate as obstacles to social justice. The concept of "dangerous Others," which was named and explicated by Dwight Conquergood (1992), is key to the ill-logic of modern-day slave mentalities. Focusing specifically on youth gangs, he notes that they "are constructed in public discourse as the cause, effect, and aberrant response to urban decay." Thus, other social forces and institutions are absconded from any responsibility.

In the Palestinian territories, the youths are terrorized and brutalized by the Israeli occupation, everyday. As a result, many teenagers have begun writing rap songs, talking about the daily pain and humiliation they face. Many have also written songs about hope and peace, talking about a future when they would be free living in their own country. Arab Israelis in Israel and youths sympathetic to the Palestinian cause in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have taken to rapping songs talking against the occupation and hoping for peace.

It is a mistake for mainstream, white media to write off this music form as sheer entertainment, totally frivolous. Rap is often political, it is often philosophical, many of its artists have the power to motivate masses of people. In fact, some do just that. O'Shea Jackson, the rap artist who calls himself Ice Cube, released a song last year titled "Death Certificate," that included the words "Oriental one-penny motherf*****s... Pay respect to the black fist/Or we'll burn your store right down to a crisp."

The media do not hesitate to report the results of that violence, someone being maimed or murdered. They even occasionally report on the violence found in rap music, but rarely do those reports take into consideration the conditions that have created an audience for this vitriol to a hip-hop beat. By not tapping into rap's message of violence the media has failed to prepare the public for rampage.

Adolescents are exposed to the electrically charged rap of Ice Cube or other proponents of violence as a solution, artists such as NWA (Niggers With an Attitude), Sister Souljah and Public Enemy, whose "By the Time I Get to Arizona" video depicts Arizona public officials being killed for opposing a Martin Luther King state holiday. News reports about Ice Cube's "Death Certificate" and Public Enemy's "By the Time I Get to Arizona" primarily concerned white reactions or the artists' defense of their work. Left unexplored was the racial climate, the anger among black youths that would make it profitable for record companies to promote songs with those subjects.

To discuss and critique any subject intelligently requires both adequate knowledge of that subject and the ability to illustrate that knowledge. The ability to distinguish, qualitatively, between good and bad rap music requires sufficient knowledge about a variety of rap music, past and present, popular and less well-known. The majority of articles regarding rap music are written by music critics, or - far too often - social or political personalities who are not knowledgeable enough to be involved in a serious discussion about rap music. Rap music, it seems, is not considered worthy of serious, learned discussion. To those who actually understand the music, though, rap is a true art form - as much so as jazz, classical, rhythm and blues, or rock 'n' roll.

Adhering to the business ethic of most major labels often stunts a musician's artistic - while encouraging his commercial - growth. This "business first" attitude has contributed to (some would say created) what has become the single biggest threat to the continued development of rap music as an art form - the preoccupation by many rappers with sex and violence. The explosion of sexually and violently explicit lyrics, and the sub-genre such lyrics create (i.e., "gangsta" rap), occurred soon after the major labels got into the rap business. The major labels created an environment in which a rapper's main focus became money, not music, and what is the best way for a rapper to make money in a society in which sex and violence sell? To rap about sex and violence.

Bibliography

Villani, Susan. "Impact of Media on Children and Adolescents: A 10-year review of the research," Publication: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, April 1, 2001.

The National Media Violence Study, Federman, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1995 "Preventing and Producing Violence: A Critical Analysis of Responses to School Violence." Harvard Educational Review.

Bayles, Martha. Hole In Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music, by, New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Doherty, Brian. Listen up! Eminem gives a voice to his generation, February 18, 2001, issue of the Detroit News

Koza, Julia Eklund. "Rap Music: The Cultural Politics of Official Representation." Review of Education/Pedagogy/Cultural Studies, 1994 16,1.

Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover and London: University of New England Press, 1994.

Rose, Tricia. "Fear of a Black Planet': Rap Music and Black Cultural Politics in the 1990s." Journal of Negro… [END OF PREVIEW]

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