rap Rap and Violence Go Hand in Hand “Mr. Officer, I want to see you layin’ in a coffin, sir,” from The Chronic and “F— the police,” from N.W.A., are few lyrics from the music genre “gangsta rap.” This kind of music is being sold to young children without any thought of concern. When many children listen to this kind of music they think that was being said in the songs is not wrong or against the law. The lyrics in many songs contain violent and explicit lyrics that usually talk about killing someone along with sounds of gunshots in the background. It is also music that refers to women as “bitches,” “whores” and sex-dispensing “hos”(Saunders B29). “Gangsta rap ” has been criticized and debated over for its graphic sexual content, violent imagery and misogyny. When rappers were asked why they refer to women as bitches and hos their replies were similar. “Snoop” says, “that it is just for the women who are like that and if you’re a real women, you’re classy and elegant. Those lyrics wouldnt necessarily affect you. Youd just groove to the music” (Farley 78). Richard Shaw, Bushwick Bill, says: “I call women bitches and hos because all the women I’ve met since I’ve been out here are bitches and hos.” When asked, at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, what he calls his mother he says, “I call her a ‘woman’, but I’m not f—ing my mother. If I was f—ing you, you’d be a bitch.” He then apologized for what he said to the reporter. (Raspberry A21) “If you don’t give a f— about a bitch/ Then you’re rolling with the row”, are lyrics from Doggystyle. If all people were to think like this what respect would women have. Some say, “if we don’t have respect for our women, why should anyone else?” (Raspberry A21). Do these rappers think that they own women and can treat them any way they want to. If this is the way some people think, that the own women and can dis respect them then what footsteps are the children going to follow in. Young children and adults, 14, 15 and 16 years of age, who listen and memorize these rap songs think that it is acceptable behavior. “Gangsta rap” is hardly the only source of violence, but it is a potent one. Not only is the music violent but the rappers lifestyle is also. Many rappers have rap sheets and young people see that and say, “hey, their rich and money talks.” Today most young people think that if a person is rich and famous they can get away with anything. Not all rappers have run-ins with the law, but the ones that do are very well known. Tupac Shakur, who recently was murdered this year, has had many run-ins with the law. Shakur was arrested for aggravated assault, charged with shooting two off duty police officers in Atlanta in 1993, but the charges were later dropped. He was accused of beating a limousine driver in Los Angeles and found guilty of threatening a fellow rapper with a baseball bat in Michigan. He was also found guilty of sexual abuse in 1994 and was serving time up to 4 years in prison (Sims E3). In some raps he glamorized the life of a gangster and fun gunplay. He lived the life tattooed on his stomach, “Thug Life,” and died doing it. Gangsta Rap” has attracted a high-profile of enemies and no one may ever know who really killed Tupak. The police are still not sure of who shot and killed Tupak, but they think that it may have been linked to Death Row Record’s ties with rival gangs. There are no witnesses who can identify the driver or shooter in the Cadillac that pulled up next to Tupak and driver, Marion Knight. Calvin Broadus, better known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, was arrested in 1993 on murder-conspiracy charges. He pleaded not guilty and was acquitted. He also has a police file that Hawkins 3 identifies him as a member of Long Beach Insane Crips, a notorious street gang (Cheevers A1). He was also a drug dealer and user. His music also glorifies violence and demeans women. Andre Young, a.k.a. Dr. Dre, served five months in a halfway house in 1993 for violating his probation for breaking another rap producers jaw in 1992. He was also convicted of hitting a New Orleans police officer in a hotel brawl and of slamming a TV talk-show host into a wall at a Hollywood club in 1991 (Sims E3). His music demeans women and generates bad vibes against police officials. The Chronic, an album by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg, has many explicit lyrics and unnecessary foulmouthing. In one song they say, “that if f— with Dre you f— with death row…”, more or less saying that if anyone messes with them they will have to worry about everyone that is with Death Row Records. In the same song they tell a woman, referring to her as a bitch, to yell-187 (police code for someone that has been killed). In another song they ask anther black man why he has been talking crap about them, he says it was not he. Then they put a gun in his mouth asking him, “what’s wrong can’t talk with a gun in your mouth?…Do you know Lucifer?”, he replies,”no”,and they tell him, “well you’re about to meet him”(Rap). All of the songs on this album contain foulmouth language, violent and sexually explicit lyrics, drugs and misogyny. Is this the kind of music that young children should be able to listen to? William Drayton, Flavor Flav of the group Public Enemy, was arrested for attempted murder. The police were lead to his home after a source told them that shots were fired at a neighbor during an argument. The police found a loaded 38-caliber semiautomatic handgun with one round missing. His music also glorifies violence. Hawkins 4 Eric Wright, known as Easy-E, has also generated bad vibes against police officials. This album He died at 31 years of age after revealing that he had the virus AIDS. From his deathbed he urged young people to learn about the disease. His music also talked about having the lifestyle of being promiscuous and that lifestyle killed him. All of these rappers criminal records depict their lifestyles. They say that their music depicts the harsh reality of life in the hood. To these rappers, people dying young and going to jail is an everyday thing (Marriott 75). Tupak says that violence is all we know and telling it like it is is a way of getting the people to listen to what is really going on. Ice-T’s controversial album Body Count, produced by Warner Bros. Records, had provoked a sharp debate in 1992 when the album first came out. The song “Cop Killer,” with obscene and violent lyrics, forced Time Warner to stop selling the album with the song on it. The lyrics on the song said it was dedicated to the L.A.P.D. It also talked about “dusting some cops off,” with sounds of gun fire he then asks the listener to sing along for their freedom-“cop killer” (Ice Body). “Cop Killer” is not the on song on the album that glorifies violence. Even though the song was cut from the album the other songs on it were just as bad. Another song talks about killing his mother by setting her on fire, hitting her with a “louieville slugger” and then cutting her up with a carving knife, all because she was racist. Is this reality and was is really going on in the world today? In other songs the lyrics talk about being promiscuous (giving very explicit sex lyrics) and yet the album was still being sold to young children. Foulmouthed trash like this has been debated on whether or not it should be censored. Many think it should and are trying to do something about. Delores Tucker denounced Hawkins 5 companies that “pimped porno rap” to children. She asks, “What would Martin Luther King say about these rappers that demean women and glorify thugs, drug dealers and rapists?”, and “What kind of role models are those for young children living in the ghetto?” (Philips A18). U.S. Representative Cardiss Collins, a chairwomen of the congressional panel, complained that little was being done by the industry executive to cut out vulgar and violent lyrics. She said that “a sticker is not enough” (Congesswomen 7). Some censorship has been incorporated in the radio industry. Inner City Broadcasting has put a stop to playing hard-core rap and other misogynous and violent rap. It hopes to be a model for other radio stations to follow(Cleaning 22). Most radio stations now do not allow that kind of music on the air. Even though the radio has stopped playing hard-core rap, record companies are still producing this kind of music. Death Row Records, the top producer of rap music, has been under a lot of fire not only by Dolores Tucker, but by Bob Dole and others also. Death Row Records has recently had its own wake-up call. The companies CEO, Marion “Suge” Knight, has recently been arrested for violated his probation and is in jail. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon in 1992 and was sentenced to five years probation plus 30 days in a halfway house. A hearing later will decide on what kind of sentence he will receive. Knight could face up to five to nine years in prison if convicted. The company may suffer a great loss because no business actions or even phone calls are allowed from prison. Before he began his fortune as CEO he was an All-American defensive end and was on the dean’s list at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He the played pro-football for the Los Angeles Rams but later quit to become a concert promoter. Soon Hawkins 6 after this his run-ins with the law started with his arrest for trafficking guns. After other run-ins with the law Knight began recording “The Chronic,” which refers or a type of marijuana, with Dr. Dre. He then was approached by Interscope Records, who wanted him to produce records. He negotiated a $10 million deal to start up Death Row Records (Cheevers A1). Now Death Row Records is known as the only label that can do whatever they want. To some listeners Death Row’s music is powerful and is also reality , but to others their music celebrates drugs, murderers and misogyny. The FBI says that this rap label has ties to gangs and drugs. They are still trying to determine wether the company was involved in cocaine-trafficking, money laundering and racketeering (Leeds B1). The FBI has been investigating Death Row Records and the individual members. Death Row Records is not the only record company to promote rap, Time Warner has also been producing rap records. Time Warner has pledged to do something about obscene and rude lyrics in rap music. The new chairman of Warner Music Group , Michael J. Fuchs, was asked to talk with critics of rap lyrics and to work with other record companies to come up with some regulations for warning labels (Landler D2). Warning labels have been placed on albums with provocative lyrics, but these warnings do little to prevent the lyrics from reaching children. The chairman and chief executive claims that “music is not the cause of society’s ills.” That may be true but do they have an influence on the people that listen to the music. Many say yes and many say no. An experiment done by James D. Johnson shows that violent rap tends to perpetuate the acceptance of the use of violence and an anti-education mind-set. He thinks that this kind of music should have some regulation. He refers to rap music being like nicotine- it is addictive; it is mood Hawkins 7 altering and it is available with some strains (Raspberry, “Does” A27). A person has to be 18 years old to buy cigarettes, rent X-rated movies, or get into a strip bar/nightclub and has to be 21 years old to drink or buy alcohol. There are age limits on these things that can endanger young people and there should also be a age limit on buying albums with explicit lyrics on them. Even though there is a warning label on the albums young children can still buy them because there is no law to prohibit sale. There are a lot of people who agree something should be done about the explicit lyrics on albums. Stanley Crouch, a music critic and writer, says that rappers are “a bunch of opportunists who are appealing to an appetite that America has for vulgarity, violence and anarchy inside Afro America” (Sims 3). Kevin Powell, a writer for Vibe magazine, believes that rap music is a legitimate art form, but thinks that the genre has gone too far and the music industry is to blame for not exercising some degree of control (Sims 3). He also thinks that it has made black children think that being hard is the definition for being black in the 1990’s. There are many people who feel this way, but many rappers and defenders of rap disagree. Most rappers do not think that their music causes violence and that they have no influence on their listeners. Before Easy-E died his lawyer read a letter from the rapper that said, “anyone could get AIDS, that it does not discriminate” (Marriot 74). After the letter was read the Minority AIDS Project in South-Central Los Angeles reported a 80 percent increase in requests for AIDS testing. This was more of an increase than when Magic Johnson made his announcement (Marriot 74). His influence was seen in warning people about the AIDS virus just as Magic did when he found out he had HIV. “Snoop” says that he hopes that listeners will see that any black man out Hawkins 8 of the ghetto can do something positive with his life if he is dedicated (Farley 78). He also says that if parents were as strict as his that there would not be as much violence nowadays, yet he was in a gang, a drug dealer and user and he arrested for murder-conspiracy charges. Rapper Juice, half of the duo of Juice with Soul, says that listeners should realize that these rappers do not hang around the hard street life, they go home to their fancy cars and houses. Another rapper, Masta Ace, agreed with Juice, say that listeners should realize that rappers are creating characters to sell records. Biz Markie says that critics take it to seriously and it is strictly entertainment (Marriott, “Hard-core” A1+). Joseph Simmons, known as Run of Run D.M.C., says that he has seen a rise in disrespect to women lately. But he thinks that it has more to do with the parents rather than the rappers. M.C. Lyte, a pioneer among female rappers agrees that parents need to take more responsibility for how their children act and behave. She also thinks that rap should not be the blame for what young people are doing today because movies also show violence, rapes, and people being killed (Marroitt, “Hard-core” A1+). Russell Simmons, CEO of Def Jam Recordings, says that no truly in-touch person believes that the state of society is the result of rap music. He goes on to say that each type of music that comes later seems more violent than before. There was a time when everyone thought that rock and roll was the “devils’ music”. He says that many of these songs are like horror films and cannot be taken literally (Proffitt M2). He also points out the good views of rap–that it is so diverse and there is a lot of positive messages in the songs. Simmons thinks that rap is just expressing the outrage of there community. His most important point would be that when kids in Beverly Hills Hawkins 9 listen to rap they will know a little bit better how the kids in the ghettos think (Profitt M3). Other rap experts point out the genre turning points. In the 1990’s the messages about black empowerment that started national slogans and the wearing of African pride medallions were replaced by messages of drug selling and survival in inner-city neighborhoods. The marketing strategy of the record companies began to promote label with images of black swaggering men carrying guns and drinking beer. This resulted the new “gangsta” look. This made young rappers that were hungry for fame and fortune take on the look of being thugs themselves. The move of raps’ homeland, New York, to the West Coast caused a dramatic change to the sound. People tend to miss the true skill rather that all the violence and how many people that get killed. Rap’s image is being tainted by all the scandals of the top rappers shakled in the courtrooms. The inspiration and energy from rap reflects what goes on in the streets and in black life in America (Williams B1+). Maxine Waters also agrees that “gansta rap” is a new art form to describe the pains, fear and frustations that young people express to adults. She also thinks that just because some people do not like the way the rappers use lyrics should not be a cause for censorship (Jet 7). A professor of black studies thinks that many rappers have distorted what black life really is and that white record companies are eager to sell black stereotypes. Rappers have distorted and divided black life and tried to incorporate it into street life. Now people are doing what they hear and they want to shoot people and be rich (Marroitt, “Hard-core” A1+). If this is true should not there be a warning label prohibiting sale to minors. Rap music that pimps pornography and violence to young children and that has messages of violence should have some kind of censorship. Defenders of rap say that censorship is taking Hawkins 10 away their right to free speech stated in The First Amendment. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”(McNally 29). Censoring music would be taking the right of free speech away. Most of the lyrics are protected by The First Amendment and cannot be censored on the albums or records. Censorship has been made in the radio industry so that the songs with explicit lyrics cannot be heard. Even though these rappers say that they are reflecting what really happen on the streets rappers before them do not have these explicit lyrics in their messages. Rappers such as Afrika Bambataa, Kurtis Blow, MC Shan and the Fat Boys used music for fun and release to show good-hearted territorial rivals. Now it is about guns, treating women like trash and drinking malt liquor. Rap has changed for the worse taking the art form and transforming it into trash with some positive messages that are hard to grasp from the music. If the whole album is about death, violence, misogyny and drugs except for one or two songs, what kind of message is going to be placed first. If what can be heard on a porno film can be heard on a rap album, then the album should have a age limit for sale. Since there is no age limit on T.V., today many inventions are being made to prevent children from viewing violence and nudity. Is this not some form of censorship for children. If there is enough concern to censor programs on T.V. that contain violence and harsh language should there not be concern for children that listen to hard-core gangsta rap. Parents should take more responsibility for what there children listen to and view. Hawkins 11 Parents can take charge of what there children view on T.V. and listen to on the radio while they are in the house, but what kind of authority can they take when their children are not home. Parent cannot control the kind of music their children buy on their own. That is when it is left up to the law. Not taking away the rappers’ right to free speech, but rather prohibiting sale to minors just as cigarettes. There is only so much that parents can do to keep their children out of harm. 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