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Why Is Rap Music Bad

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					                   Bad Rap i




    Bad Rap




  Cindy Sloan

  English 106

   Dr. Zhang

December 5, 2008

   p. 701, #8
                                                                               Bad Rap   ii


                                             Abstract

Rap music has become a controversial subject on whether it is an artistic expression or an avenue

used to promote violence and demean women. The musical industry is exploiting the negative

aspects of the African-American culture to become rich and famous. Because the general

population hears musicians use phrases and words that have a demeaning tone, there have been

instances of confusion on what can be said by whom. Rap music has had a negative impact on

minority youth as well. Rather than using rap music to help African-Americans better their

community, this type of music instills in the youth that violence and demeaning women is the

way life should be. Rap artists and their backers need to re-examine what the messages are that

they want to provide for future generations. They need to look back at the roots of African-

American music and see that the music that their ancestors sang about wasn‟t about violence or

demeaning women. It was about faith and getting through trying times during slavery. It is up to

rap artists and the community to sing about ways to benefit the African-American community so

that their youth will see the positives of the world and the value of women.
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                                              Bad Rap

       Artistic expression is demonstrating one‟s imagination or skill through music, art, words,

or movement. Rap music, which evolved from the African-American culture, is a form of a

discussion that expresses the injustice that they believe has been imposed on their race. To get

this message out, musicians use cadenced rhymes in their music to echo the unfairness that they

have endured since slavery. Along with this unique style of music, the African-American

community has endorsed a vocabulary of their own, which is referred to as slang or Black

English. With the combination of rhymes put to a distinct beat and the slang that distinguishes

rap from other music, rap music is a culturally negative exploitation of the nuances and cultural

specific vocabularies.

       By using the faults in their cultures of openly disrespecting the black female and inciting

black on white and black on black violence, rap stars are exploiting the music industry to become

rich and arguably famous. Record executives know that offensive words sell, and this is evident

by the fact that the top ten rap albums are littered with offensive words that are demeaning to

women (Zuckerman, 2007, p.68). While the first amendment guarantees their right to such

exploitation, it does not make exploitation ethically or morally correct. These insulting words

affect the values of those who listen to demeaning rap lyrics, and put women in jeopardy of

being stereo typed as being less equal to men. Rap musicians constant reference to women as

“hos” and “bitches” also confuses the general public‟s belief of what are acceptable phrases and

words that can be used when referring to African-Americans. Such is the case of Don Imus who

used the phrase “nappy-haired hos” when referring to the Rutgers women‟s basketball team.

Imus, in James Poniewozik‟s (2006) essay “The Imus Fallout: Who Can Say What?” states his

confusion when he says:

       This phrase that I use, it originated in the black

       community. That didn‟t give me a right to use it, but
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       that‟s where it originated. Who calls who that and

       why? We need to know that. I need to know that. (as

       cited in Rottenberg & Winchell, 2009, p. 695)

Imus‟ statement is a good one to consider. Rap music provides society with the wrong

impression that it must be okay to refer to African-American women as hos because rappers are

using this cultural specific verbiage in their music.

       In the Imus case, he brings a valid point to this new angle on the first amendment and

freedom of speech. When dealing with minorities, as an example, a Caucasian male may attempt

to use the exact same words in the proper context as a minority might in describing or addressing

another member of that minority group. Why is it freedom of speech for them to use specific

words and yet it‟s considered hate speech by a different ethnic group? The words are the same,

the context is the same, but one is considered patently offensive when used outside of the

minority group to which it belongs. By protecting certain words and phrases that may only be

used by a specific ethnic group, aren‟t we forming the basis of racism? When a rap star calls a

female a “nappy-headed ho,” it helps him make money and become famous. As in the Imus case,

when a white person used the identical terms for the same reasons, to make money and add to his

fame, it is considered racist and looked upon as divisive and insulting.

       Rap music has gone too far in using derogatory words, such as the “n” word, “ho”, and

“bitch.” These odious words have landed on the ears of at least one influential executive of the

music industry. Russell Simmons, the co-founder of hip-hop label Def Jam, told BBC News

(2007) that he wants “the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show

respect to African-Americans and other people of color, African-American women and to all

women in lyrics and images” (“Call,” p. 1). By getting the support from the financial backers

would be the best avenue to take because rappers, such as Chamillionaire, aren‟t willing to give

up their negative exploitation of women. Why should they? In 2006 there were 1,417,178 copies

of just Chamillionaire‟s song Ridin‟ sold to the public alone (Solters & Loynes, 2007, p. 4). This
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statistic doesn‟t account for any of the other artists songs sold to impressionable people. Of

course, there are rap artists that don‟t rely on shock value and disrespect for women to sell their

music. Unfortunately, these are the minority of rap artists.

       Sadly, these abhorrent lyrics do not fall on deaf ears in minority communities. Many

minority youth hear these words and phrases used by their role models and believe that parroting

or mimicking that type of speech or attitude will elevate them in the eyes of their peers. They use

these words for their ability to shock and draw attention to themselves and eventually believe

that the attitudes and violence towards women is inherent to their race or society. NAACP

President Dennis Hayes said “These denigrating words hurt our communities, hurt our children,

hurt our women – I don‟t know that there is any redeeming value to the n-word” (as quoted in E.

S., 2007, p.16) Rap musicians would better serve their respective races and societies by setting

better examples for the youths to follow. Their lyrics could be used to bring national attention to

the deplorable living conditions, lack of financial opportunities, lack of educational

opportunities, and lack of upward mobility in society. The music could be used to recommend

alternatives to violence, distrust, and other negative behaviors.

       There is a growing segment of the rap music genre that is doing just as was formally

discussed. They are bringing forth positive role models who, while pointing out deplorable

conditions, are still able to guide their youth in positive directions using respectful terms in

referring to themselves and their female population. As Mortimer Zuckerman (2007) states, in

his article “Why „Ho is so Hurtful,” “it is imperative that we address these issues that so often

manifest themselves in the attempts by black males to demean striving black females” (p.68).

However, there will still always be a segment of that population that will always be more

motivated by negative expressions and shock value.

       In previous generations, all the way back to slavery and even further back to their home

lands, the African community have relied greatly in respectful, spiritual music to both express

their poor situation in life as well as offering hope and solace to their people. In slavery days, the
                                                                           Bad Rap 4
slaves often made up and sang ballads and gospel music praising God and at the same time

offering comfort to those who suffered. The music represented great comfort for all of the people

and showed great respect for their God and their fellow men and women. It wasn‟t until “the late

1980s [that] the violent, sexist version of „gangster‟ rap dominated” the African-American music

culture (Stevens, 2008, p.5). This music appealed to the young African-American males who

were struggling with their own identity crisis as to where they fit into American culture. After

hearing this type of music they quickly adopted the attitudes and vocabularies that the songs

offered as a way to set them apart from the rest of the American community. As time passed, the

words became deeds and were no longer just words to a song for entertainment, but rather

represented a shift in attitudes and behaviors. African-American women were left behind without

identities other than those given them by their male peers. These males, because of their radical

views, became role models for younger African-American males in the next generation. The

thought of achieving fame and fortune by becoming a rap star forced each successive generation

to become more outlandish than the previous until finally the majority of Americans, both black

and white recognized that this path was quickly becoming self destructive for the African-

American women and the community as a whole.

       The solution is not easily achieved. While huge amounts of money and adulation by

young black males are the result of shockingly violent and disrespectful lyrics, this type of music

will be slow to lose its appeal. The African-American community as a whole must decide that

continuing to financially support artists that use inappropriate rap music as a means to garner

wealth and fame is unacceptable. A united effort must be made to persuade these artists that

there are better and more appropriate ways to bring change to the African-American community

and still achieve fame and fortune. The answer for this is simply allowing time to run its course

and letting peer pressure exert its influence.
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                                              References

Call for end to racist rap lyrics. (2007). BBC News. Retrieved November 4, 2008, from

       http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/658

       6787.stm

E. S. (2007). Hip-hop‟s war of words. Rolling Stone 1027, 16. Retrieved November 5, 2008,

       from EBSCOhost database.

Poniewozik, J. (2009). The Ismus fallout: Who can say what? In A. Rottenberg & D. Winchell

       (Eds.), Elements of argument: A text and a reader (pp. 694-699). New York: Bedford/St.

       Martin‟s.

Solters, L., & Loynes, A. (2007). U.S. music purchases exceed 1 billion sales. Businesswire.

       Retrieved November 2, 2008, from http:// www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/

       ?ndmViewID=news_view&newsID=200701040005813&newsLang=en

Stephens, R. W. (2008). African American music. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Retrieved

       November 2, 2008, from Grolier Online http://0-gme.grolier.com.libweb.dmacc.edu:80/

       chi-bin/article?assetid=0003626-0

Zuckerman, M. B. (2009). Why „ho‟ is so hurtful. U.S. News & World Report 14215, 68.

       Retrieved November 5, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

				
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