When was the last time you listened to a Rap Song? Do you even know what Rap is?
The music industry is dominated by Rap music, country music, pop music and the occasional classic rock song. Forbes reported in 2017 that Rap/Hip Hop music became the number one music genre in the US. Certainly, the Hip Hop Culture has positively influenced many trends in our society. For us, our first exposure was probably to benign stuff like Will Smith as The Fresh Prince. Seemed OK.
However, have you ever listened to a Rap song or Rap lyrics? The days of Run DMC, Sugar Hill Gang, Beastie Boys and other Rap artists and groups we grew up with are over. Certainly, Eminem, Jay Z, Kanye West, Snoop Dog and Puff Daddy established themselves as the greats and now Drake has left his mark on the industry. But even back then, some of the lyrics were racist and misogynistic:
“Bitches ain’t sh*t but hoes and tricks, Lick on these nuts and suck the di*k”Snoop Dog
But I am talking now about some newer artists like Travis Scott, Lil Baby, Juice WRLD, Da Baby, Meek Mill, Khalid, Cardi B and Post Malone. Their lyrics alone are driving society and impacting our kids and our grand kids in a negative way. The violence, sex, rape, drugs, killing, racial slurs, degrading of women and so much more are driving our youth culture even more today than before. On TikTok, which has taken over the internet, the majority of the songs little girls are dancing to are Rap songs.
If you know anything about music, sports, and business they are cyclical. In 1979, Rappers Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang was top of the charts. It was new, fresh and welcoming, and everyone memorized it:
See, I am Wonder Mike, and I’d like to say hello
To the black, to the white, the red, and the brown, the purple and yellow.
The Sugar Hill Gang kicked off the Rap era and spurred artists like Dr. Dre, Doug E Fresh, Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, Notorious BIG, Snoop Dog, Public Enemy and Ice Cube to name a few. Then came Eminem, Nelly, 50 Cent, Jay Z and OutKast. Most of their songs, though graphic, seemed to be telling a story of desperation and survival. And certainly, if you listen to their lyrics, they were a springboard to the new rappers of today.
Thirty years ago we barely had a way to listen to music unless you had a boom box, tape recorder or you were in the car. Today, everyone has BEATS earphones or Apple ear pods and listens to music several hours a day. Pick any of the top 20 Rap songs and most kids, 11 – 25 years of age, can recite every word. The N word is said hundreds of times. The P word is referenced hundreds of times. Guns and shootings are referenced hundreds of times. If you wonder why kids today can be so disrespectful, check out what they are listening to on their ear pods or headphones. Is there a correlation?
I happen to like Rap music. Drake has separated himself in the industry and for the most part is a pretty clean rapper, although he has a few zingers. Should mainstream companies like iHeart Media stop playing the edited versions, so everyone can hear the real lyrics? If you are reading this article, you are most likely a baby boomer and never really listened to much Rap music.
Pick any song from Lil Baby and listen to the words. If this is the “new norm” for society, I am not sure my southern roots of being polite, saying yes sir, yes ma’am and thank you will still matter. I am not saying Rap artists should not be able to express themselves freely. I do think they need to reflect on who is listening to, and being influenced by, the lyrics they are presenting. Artistic freedom is a cornerstone of our democracy, and we have the choice to listen to this music or not. But, last week the top 9 songs on the Billboard 100 were from Rap artists.