My first exposure to hip hop had to be in the early 2000s when I was old enough to like music and understand the words. My mom was quick to turn off any hip hop, claiming it was dirty and harmful and we would not be listening to it. I grew up with the idea that this music was for gangsters, drug dealers, and criminals. Surprisingly, my mom was right.
Hip hop started as a musical expression in the Bronx in the '70s. Mixing beats and scratching disks become a new fad, and it made people dance. As the culture adopted the music as its own, it started to exemplify more of what the people were going through; what started off as dance party music became social commentary.
In the '80s, with the onset of crack cocaine in poorer communities, the music talked about drugs and all the things that came with it: guns, power, and delinquency. For those struggling in these communities, they saw that the only way to have power was to either sell drugs or sell music; the most influential people were doing both. Dodging the law and killing anyone that got in your way became a source of pride, and the deviance that resulted from this culture shift still affects us today.
It's hard to tell whether this music genre is improving or not. Artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole remind us what it means to have the talent and take your skills seriously, while others (Teka$hi 69, 'Lil' anyone) continue to disappoint us with violent, misogynistic, ignorant lyrics.
I'm all for a good time; I love fighting sports and letting loose, and getting "lit," but refusing to demand more from our artists will only make us worse. American college students are not the only ones that listen to this music; international and younger crowds also consume it, it has a tiny effect on how they think. When that tiny effect is present in thousands or even millions of people, it can be the spark of serious social issues.
Less misogyny and violence in the lyrics will only continue to have positive effects for those that listen to it, which, even if you don't, someone around you does.