It’s Not the Music, It’s Probably Just You
Many people assume that the reason why young, African-American teens behave a certain way is because of the music they listen to these days. The music that these urban kids are listening to is primarily Hip Hop which is if you don’t know is a genre of music that is characterized by a performer speaking rhythmically, or rapping, over a backing track that often but not always consists of loops or samples of other music woven together (www.globalpost.com). Hip Hop gets a very bad reputation because of the explicit lyrics that talk about gang violence, sex, drug and alcohol use, and etc. that parents don’t obviously approve of. Even though the content of the music may have a negative impact on a child’s life or behavior, Hip Hop shouldn’t take the blame because this kind of music can also show positive impacts on the child’s behavior. So maybe it’s not the music that may cause a teenager to behave in a bad way but it could be the environmental factors or their home life, either way Hip Hop music will not turn your child into a “thug” or “gangster” and the music doesn’t affect behavior. Parents today may think Hip Hop music lyrics is all about thug life but honestly that’s a major stereotype in which why Hip Hop gets a bad reputation. As one of the most dominant music genres that continues to grow in pop culture, Hip Hop has so many different styles and philosophies. For example there is the stereotypical gangsta rap, political rap, freestyle rap, crunk music, alternative rap, and rap rock. Some of these styles explain violent gang life or partying at the club which consist of smoking, drinking, and having sex which is more on the gangsta rap and crunk side of the hip hop spectrum. There is also the styles that talk more about love, pride, racism, and philosophy which is like the political rap, alternative rap, and even Christian rap. According to Globalpost.com, there are even albums of hip-hop recorded exclusively for young children by artists such as the Dino 5, 23 Skidoo and Mista Cookie Jar -- not to mention a book, "Hip Hop Speaks to Children," edited by poet Nikki Giovanni (Selke). Hip Hop isn’t the only genre of music that parents complain about changing the behavior of their child. Heavy Metal was and still is a music genre filled with violent images and drug and alcohol use that caused young angry teens to act out and harm themselves. So Hip Hop shouldn’t be the major genre of music that supposedly causes behavior change in every teenager, again this acts as a stereotype. When doing studies about Hip Hop music and behavior, the researchers should always keep in mind that “correlation does not equal causation”. That is, just because you can demonstrate a statistical link between two things doesn't mean that one causes the other or vice versa (www.globalpost.com). For example, in the song Radical by Tyler the Creator the hook states “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” and you know if a parent heard their teenager listen to that they will think that their child is actually going to go out and do those specific things for no reason at all. If you actually listen to the rest of the song, Tyler the Creator states before the bridge of the song, “I’m not saying just to go out and do some stupid shit, commit crimes. What I’m trying to tell you is do what the f*** you want, stand for what the f*** you believe in, and don’t let nobody tell you can’t do what the f*** you want…” (www.metrolyrics.com). Seeing or listening to the violent imagery of these lyrics has not been proven to cause kids to act violently because it is way more complicated than that. This primary example of a hip hop song directly proves that “correlation does not equal causation”. According to Globalpost.com, various studies have shown a correlation between undesirable behaviors and lyrics describing or espousing violent, sexist or illegal activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites several studies as part of its 2009 "Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth" report that show a connection between violent lyrical and visual content and aggression, sexual content and sexual activity, sexist content and sexist attitudes. Some studies also show an increase in risk-taking behavior and drug use associated with certain music. Note that many of these studies used music videos, not just audio tracks, in their studies, so it's unclear whether it's the imagery or the lyrical content that's correlated with these behaviors. Most of these negative effects come from gangsta rap artists such as N.W.A. or Chief Keef judging from their lyrics and music videos but we don’t know if the lyrics or music videos are supposedly affecting behavior in teenagers. Hip-hop can also have some positive effects. Its verbal inventiveness can inspire listeners to play with language, learn techniques of metaphor and simile and appreciate rhythm and rhyme. It's no coincidence that hip-hop and poetry are often compared, for they use similar techniques. Hip-hop can also facilitate cross-cultural connections between young listeners and develop community and camaraderie among fans. Some hip-hop aficionados argue that the music can encourage critical thinking about societal issues. And many educators are now using hip-hop music in the classroom as an instructional tool, utilizing it to teach about everything from mathematics to grammar to the periodic table. Examples of Hip Hop artists that display a more positive side for teenagers are Public Enemy, KRS One, Drake, Kanye West, Lecrae, and etc. Personally I believe Hip Hop has made a positive impact on my life and behavior because I listen to more of conscious rap than some of the mainstream crap that is played on the radio. Since I’ve been listening to Hip Hop all my life I don’t go around shooting people up or act like I’m gangsta or call women out of their name because I was raised better than that. Honestly I don’t think Hip Hop music can change our behavior in any way but it can change our mindset on certain issues in the world and it can help us learn some things we don’t learn in school. Basically to all the people that say Hip Hop is bad for you or think you will change into this thuggish individual, please do your research because Hip Hop does have positive messages in the lyrics and music videos. For example, on “Lose Yourself” by Eminem he states, “Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted-one moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?” (www.mademan.com). He gives us one of the most inspirational rap quotes when talking about taking an opportunity to take your destiny and control your life. Hip Hop is not always about explicit lyrics and gang violence so actually take some time to listen to more political rap and hopefully you won’t think of Hip Hop as a stereotype but as a positive tool for your teenager to grow in knowledge.
Selke, Lori. “Does Hip Hop Affect Behavior in Kids?” GlobalPost: Everyday Life. Demand Media, N/A, Web. 10 Sept. 2014 http://www.metrolyrics.com/radicals-lyrics-tyler-the-creator.htmlhttp://www.mademan.com/mm/10-inspirational-rap-quotes.html