The following is from a facebook note I wrote back in January. It was based on a discussion I had with someone on a social media site which I then expanded. I would love a critique on my line of thinking as well as ideas on how to combat this trend at a societal level.
If there is one genre of music where I become a connoisseur rather than a consumer, it is rap music. Each time I listen, I have the lyrics out right in front of me so I can absorb all the words and messages.
But if we strip away the technical artistry and the entertainment of performance, what would make a strong piece. A common thread runs through almost every work I have listened to, one that is very dangerous. And considering that since the adoption of rap music by corporate media, the primary demographic has become eight to twelve year old Caucasian girls, these catastrophic characteristics are being marketed towards impressionable little girls. Three elements are ravaging the genre like a cancer: The three B’s.
Bling, Blaming, Bragging.
Bling — Hedonism, stuff and the desire for it. Many artists seek, at least in their songs, to get more cash, to have more sexual experiences, and to seek more pleasure. L’il Wayne embodied this attitude the best when he penned “F*** B******, Get Money”. The effects of hedonism are well known, this striving for more in the way of pleasure through experience and material possession has led to the demise of many. The main philosophy is to acquire pleasure and avoid pain — both at all costs. A tunnel vision is created which focuses on property and pleasure.
Blaming — Another element which has become woven into the identity of rap culture is blaming. The impoverished youth of minorities blame the dominate culture for holding them back — sometimes rightly so. The responsibility for actions is almost always placed on the other person. On the street level, blaming has led to an epidemic cycle of violence. Another famous example of blaming in this culture is how Eminem cannot seem to get over his wife.
Bragging — Another element which mars the genre. This characteristic includes the upwards posturing of superiority over one’s fellow man. Bragging can also be material in what adornments they wear around their fingers and necks. When unchecked, bragging leads to an unhealthy sense of pride in oneself. There is a more subtle form of bragging which plagues the entire music industry, but can be exemplified in rap: Bragging through altruism. This concept is to bring attention to oneself by pretending to place it on others, like one saying “look how humble and thoughtful I am”.