By Ronald Roach
As a cultural movement, hip-hop manages to get billed as both a positive and negative influence on young people, especially on Black and Latino youth. On one hand, there are African American activists, artists and entrepreneurs, such as Russell Simmons, who seek to build a progressive political movement among young hip-hop fans and who have had modest success with voter registration efforts. On the other hand, there’s no shortage of critics who denounce the negative portrayals of Black people, especially women, in hip-hop lyrics and videos. Recently, a few critics in major U.S. newspapers took note of a well-publicized marketing firm study that cited the cultural influence of hip-hop and reported on sexuality among African American youth in households earning less than $25,000 per year in 10 cities. The study revealed that Black adolescents are becoming sexually active at ages younger than other youth and are suffering from HIV/AIDS at a rate higher than other groups. “The teens did display attitudes consistent with the macho pose of hip-hop rappers. Their motto: ‘Use or be used,’ among others. And ‘Get it while you can.’ And consistent with a culture that uses ‘bitches’ and ‘hos’ as labels for every woman but one’s mama, the study reveals ‘Black females are dissed by almost everyone,’ including other Black females,” wrote nationally syndicated columnist Clarence Page. “The study of the hip-hop generation fails to pin down the big question: Does rap music and other traits of the hip-hop culture influence teens or merely mirror the culture that teens have created? The answer is probably both,” Page noted. After more than two decades of hip-hop’s growth, an emerging cohort of young scholars may very well provide clear answers to questions of hip-hop’s influence. “At one level, we need to document the genre. On a more sophisticated level, we need to determine how African American and Latino students perceive their social identity with...
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