Mainstream Hip-Hop Is Deteriorating Black Communities And I'm Sick Of It

Mainstream Hip-Hop Is Deteriorating Black Communities And I'm Sick Of It

This genre of music, and the culture it has produced, is only contributing to the deterioration of the Black community.
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Because I lived in a predominantly white neighborhood for most of my childhood, I grew up listening to pop and alternative music. Of course, those weren’t the only two genres I listened to — I was aware of rap/hip-hop and I even liked it. However, my rap/hip-hop musical knowledge only expanded as far as songs made by Flo Rida (ew) and Lil Wayne (literally the only song I knew by him was “Lollipop,” which an 8-year-old shouldn’t even be listening to).

When I moved from the rural town I spent most of my childhood in, I was exposed to a bunch of different cultures and people. I moved to an urban area, so finally I was able to live amongst people who looked like me. It was shocking and amazing at the same time. I found myself being welcomed into a community I knew nothing about: the Black community. Soon, I started assimilating into the culture (how else was I going to get them to stop making fun of me for my “white girl” voice and terrible dance skills?).

With my assimilation came a knowledge of Black music (not even just rap/hip-hop, but dancehall, reggae, afrobeat, etc). Suddenly, it was like my Black spirit was awakened. I couldn’t understand why I had spent so much time jumping up and down (that’s the only dance move they knew in my hometown) to Katy Perry sing-crying over annoying, repetitive beats when I could’ve been bruking to dancehall. I developed an obsession with all the new styles of music I was exposed to, but my favorite above all was American rap/hip-hop.

It’s a little peculiar that I’ve lived in America my whole life, but I didn’t start listening to a genre of music developed here until I was a tween. When I started listening to it more, I found out that I really liked it. When I say really, I mean really. It was mainly the only thing I listened to. I listened to current mainstream artists. I even took it back and listened to old-school artists like Tupac, Nas, and Eazy-E. I listened to rap so much, but I truly don’t think I ever actually listened to what they were saying.

I don’t think most people do, or none of us would be wanting to sing along and dance to the new rap/hip-hop that is out right now. Rap started out in the '70s, first as a fun pastime at parties (DJs would spin beats and then local citizens would rap over them), but then it developed into a genre of music that highlighted personal struggles and oppression. Rap musicians wrote about their broken communities and the rigged system we live in. It was raw, emotional, and unfiltered. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here. Rap has (for the most part) always been raunchy, vulgar, and littered with themes of drug use and violence. So my issue with today’s rap/hip-hop is not that it is raunchy, vulgar, and littered with themes of drug use and violence, my issue is that's all that there is within it.

Tupac could write a song where he talks about smoking weed, having sex with some random groupie, police brutality, and the perverse nature of the mainstream media all within the same verse. 21 Savage writes songs where he talks about shooting and robbing people and having sex with random women… Throughout the whole song… Where he typically repeats the same lines.

Today’s rap/hip-hop (mainstream artists only, this does not pertain to underground or lesser known artists that have a message, or even popular artists like Logic and Joey Badass that still speak about important topics) is so lazy and ignorant. It is not thought-provoking, nor does it do anything to inspire, challenge, or empower the youth. To be fair, there’s a lot of old-school rap with much of the same tired, uninspiring format:

But what separates old-school and new-school rap/hip-hop is that there were still songs with substance to be found back then. The way that old-school rappers talked about their struggles was not in a bragging manner; they made clear that they were products of a cruel system and that ultimately their decisions and the decisions of those around them were made out of a need to survive.

New-school rappers (who usually are posers — Drake was a child actor who never had to struggle, Rick Ross attended college and was a corrections officer for a little while) take pride in their nefarious activities without any condemnation of the system. They don’t even think their actions are wrong.

They don’t say “hey, I did all of these terrible things and I’m essentially a very violent person due to this country’s deep history or racism, which has established an institution of oppression that is sustained by keeping minorities in a state of poverty and disenfranchisement.”

They say something more along the lines of “hey, I did all of these terrible things and I’m essentially a very violent person, but I’m rich now, biaaaaaaatch.”

There is almost always nothing of value to be found in these songs, just mindless drivel about drugs, sex, money, and gang affiliation (not to mention the abundant amount of misogyny within their lyrics). It’s trash. Plain and simple.

Trash.

I know I can’t generalize and say that current mainstream artists never talk about important issues, they may once or twice, but it is not their sole message. They don’t think about the negative effects their lyrics have on the youth. And for this exact reason, I am sick and tired of my community continuing to promote and listen to this garbage. By celebrating people who identify as gang-bangers and f*ck boys, we tell our young men and women that type of person is who they should aspire to be, or who they should aspire to be with. There is nothing attractive about being in a gang, but yet here we are, a community riddled with gang-violence (violence that oftentimes leads to the death of innocent young men, women, and children), celebrating those that participate in gang violence. It’s disgusting. It’s foolish.

There is nothing attractive about having random (usually unprotected, they never advocate for condom use) sex with all different types of people. But here we are, a community riddled with teen pregnancies, unwed mothers, and children abandoned by their fathers, celebrating those who promote behavior that leads to these types of problems.

There is nothing attractive about selling drugs. Drugs kill people and damage lives. But here we are, a community riddled with drug abuse, high incarceration rates due to drug possession, and young children having to fend for themselves because their parents are strung out on crack, celebrating people who promote behavior that keeps this cycle going.

Mainstream rappers are rapping for themselves, not for the community. Look at how far away we’ve strayed from the original meaning of rap: what once started as an outlet to share the struggles that people in impoverished communities face and to highlight how the system destroys the innocence and optimism of these impoverished people, has now turned into a degenerate form of music where people brag about their fancy cars and clothes, how many people they can bang without strings attached, and how no one should challenge them because they’re dangerous and quick to end the lives of others.

How does what they're saying positively affect the community at all?

It’s disgusting. It’s foolish.

I hate that my community, after so much progress, still has to continue rehashing the same narrative. I am sick of the negativity and the celebration of pain. Can we rap about something positive for once? Can we rap about something that’s beneficial?

I am sick of this mainstream foolishness and the poison it seeps into the brains of our children. When we take a second to actually think about rap/hip-hop in its current state, how is it helping us other than giving us a catchy beat to dance to? It doesn’t inspire or challenge, it brainwashes and promotes ignorance.

I know I may sound hopeless, like I’ve given up on rap/hip-hop altogether, but that’s actually the furthest thing from the truth. I still love this genre of music — the love is dented and worn, but it’s still there. My problem is not with rap/hip-hop. When used to talk about personal struggles, societal issues, or to spread positivity, it’s amazing. It is unique and unlike any other style of music. I’m just sick of all the trash that is burying the good music within the genre. The music and artists we are making popular today are doing nothing but spewing hate in an unsophisticated and low-quality manner. Why do we like listening to them?

I have hope that one day we can reconnect with the true purpose of rap/hip-hip. I hope that we can promote artists with a message and vision, not artists that mumble or think that rhyming a word with the same word is actual talent. We only have a few popular rappers out that actually talk about anything worth mentioning (like Chance The Rapper). I hope that one day, all rap/hip-hop artists will be as talented as Chance The Rapper. In case we all forgot, becoming a famous musician is SUPPOSED TO BE HARD. They are supposed to have lyrical and vocal talent. When people like Danielle Bregoli can become a rapper (and actually have people listen to her, like wtf), then I know that rap/hip-hop listeners are lowering their standards. We need to stop elevating low-class, untalented, uninspiring artists.

One day, I hope that all of the rap that blasts through our speakers provokes us not to exhibit self-defeating behaviors, but instead causes us to think about the world around us. I hope that it will fill us with a sense of strength and dignity, that it will connect us with one another, not that it will promote isolation and distrust among the community.

For those of you in the Black community who claim to be aware of and care about the issues we face, how can you listen to music that contributes to the problems we are trying to solve?

I’ve deleted almost all of the mainstream rap/hip-hop I have on my phone.

Will you?

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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A Letter To My Dancers

Everything your dance teacher wants you to know.
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When anyone (especially a child) chooses to invest their time, talent, and passion into dancing, it's nothing to take lightly. These kids spend more time with me at the studio than they do at home with their parents. Before long, they're my "kids," too. When I only have an hour to lead a warm-up, teach choreography, and rehearse a number, there isn't much time to express the thoughts and feelings I'd necessarily like to. Being a dance teacher is the most spectacular and rewarding job - and I want my students to know that. Between the great rehearsals and the frustrating ones, the competitions and recitals, and the endless hours we spend together each week, there are just a few reminders I need to share with them.

Dear Dancers,

Please love yourself and love what you do with every ounce of your being. Do it with so much passion that your heart wants to burst. Dance is the most special thing; it's something we are privileged and lucky to have, so don't take it for granted.

Please believe in yourself. You are worthy. You are talented. You are strong and capable of everything you set your mind to. Strive to be the best version of yourself every day, not the reflection of the girl next to you. Dance like you. Move like you. Experiment and find what makes you, you. Be an individual. Trust me when I say I don't want 20 carbon-copied robots. I want you.

Trust that I have your best interest in mind. Sometimes my choices and decisions won't make sense, you might be confused, hurt or frustrated, but keep the faith that I'm on your side. I don't want to see you fail, and I'll do everything in my power to help you find the success you're looking for.

I want you to succeed, but for me to do that, you need to tell me what you need. Do you need the counts again? Do you need me to review the transition to floor one more time? If you understand, tell me. If you don't, tell me that, too. Be vocal, be present, be smart, and be prepared. Practice on the sides. Pay attention to the small details. Ask questions. Don't be late, and definitely don't forget your choreography. Take responsibility for your responsibilities and lead by example. Do you have any remote idea how many children look up to you? Who want to be just like you someday? Dance just like you? Kids watch, listen, and copy. Make sure the behaviors you're teaching them are behaviors you're proud of.

Make memories with your dance family while you still can. Cherish every 9 a.m. Saturday morning rehearsal, every competition you attend, every fundraising event, and every team sleepover. It'll be gone so fast. You're going to miss these days. Please, enjoy them.

Don't compare yourself to other dancers. You are you, and nobody can do "you" better than yourself. Don't wish away your abilities by secretly wishing you had Suzie's feet, Betsy's port de bras, or Charlie's center. The only thing you need to worry about is being a better version of yourself than you were the day before. You are your only competition, so don't be too hard on yourself. Be kind to your mind and body. You work day in and day out to perfect your craft and artistry. You work to mold and create yourself. You'll be rewarded with time if you keep fighting and don't give up. Usually when you want to throw in the towel, it's after you don't get the part you wanted or you don't make the team you hoped to. What you need to understand is the answer isn't "No," the answer is "Not yet." You know you're trying and working hard, and those efforts don't go unnoticed -- even if it seems they are.

Please, remember that it's not going to always be fair. You're going to be let down, and you're going to feel disappointed from time to time. You're not always going to win the trophy. You're not always going to get the featured solo part, and not everyone can be the front row and center dancer. This doesn't mean you're "bad" and this doesn't mean you're not "meant" to dance either.

Quite frankly, it's just how it works, you guys. It doesn't mean I don't like you, and it doesn't mean the dancer who does have the solo is my favorite. The dancer just might be more talented. Yeah, I said it. They might have better lines, straighter knees, or stronger stage presence, and that is entirely okay. You're going to run into this for the rest of your adult life. Someone is going to be smarter, more qualified, more desirable for a particular job or position. So instead of despising and resenting these dancers (and especially me), try to learn from them instead. You'll learn more from each other than you could imagine. But if you take away one thing from this, know that you are still worthy of my best training, my best analogies, my best choreography -- whether you are featured, in the third row, or even off-stage for the turn section.

As your teacher, it's my job to teach. Learning (and learning correctly) requires close attention to detail, incredible focus, and a plethora of corrections on my part. Yes, I will go out of my way to critique you, and I will continually tell you what needs fixing until it's fixed. I might have to tell you over and over and over again. And you know, I might even get frustrated with you once in awhile because of it, but here's what you need to understand: This doesn't make me mean or a bad teacher. This doesn't mean I hate you. What it does mean is that I see potential in you and I want to help. I just have to ask, do you see what I see in you? Do you see the talent and abilities I see?

Corrections are good. Success is an incredibly long and never ending process that takes time, but the corrections I give you are helping you get one step closer. So next time you catch yourself getting upset about receiving the same critique week after week or you want to complain about how mean I am, please remember that my intent is not malicious. I'm doing my job.

It's also my job to instill perseverance, dedication, discipline, trust, humility, confidence, creativity, bravery, and strong work ethic into you. I want to push your limits. Test you. Challenge you. I want to mold you into the person you want to be. Even though you probably don't even know who that person is, I do.

There are so many possibilities, opportunities, and challenges that are out there once you enter the world of adulthood. The dance world is so much bigger than your studio, competition routines, and conventions. At the end of the day, no one remembers or cares (especially your future employers) if you won a quadruple diamond platinum plus on your lyrical solo in 2016. They don't care about your first place overall at Showbiz. They don't care if you're Teen Miss Winner of the World. They don't care. What people do care about is your character, your heart, and how you made them feel.

Dancers, I will always support you. Whether you want to pursue a professional dance career in Los Angeles or New York City, in a company overseas, on your college dance team, I will support you. Whether you want to teach dance or choreograph locally in town, I will support you. Whether you don't want to dance at all and maybe be an engineer or a cosmetologist, I will support you. I will always fuel your dreams, goals, and desires, no matter where they'll take you.

I love you and I'm proud of you.

Sincerely,

Your Dance Teacher


Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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