There have been controversial debates as to
whether hip hop music is influential to society or not. Some people attack the
issue stating that hip hop music does not have any significant value to
communities, while some defend the matter, affirming that hip hop music brought
communities together. Take for instance Mark Naison’s essay “From Doo Wop to
Hip Hop: The Bittersweet Odyssey of African-Americans in the South Bronx”,
which supports the value of hip hop ,asserting the relationship between hip hop
culture and the impact it had in the South Bronx community. In my opinion, I
believe that hip hop music and the hip hop era played a significant factor by
shaping black communities into the unified and outspoken place it is today, but
the value of hip hop culture is slowly starting to decline due to appropriation
from the mainstream culture.

            To
begin with, hip hop music brought togetherness to poor communities. It brought
people together in times of struggle and need. In the same way Naison describes
in his essay, “By the late 1970s the South Bronx became a place of social decay
and it was in this moment of decay and despair when hip hop arrived to save the
community, by bringing the people together” (169). Around this time communities
were falling apart as well as families. People needed something to get away
from the chaos, and hip hop was the answer. The people of South Bronx would go
to little parties at community centers, where they would listen to Mc’s rap,
DJ’s spinning and scratching music, and others dancing (Naison 169). The unity
of everyone coming together to enjoy hip hop overlooked the problems that were
transpiring at the time. In the 1970s the South Bronx was not as peaceful and
family orientated as it was in the 1950s (Naison 169). A lot had changed and it
was because of hip hop why the South Bronx community unified once again
bringing the people of the neighborhood together in a serene an innovative way.

            In
addition to hip hop bringing union to communities, it gave people a voice and a
way to express themselves. Hip hop was not just music; it was considered art to
many. It was a way for people to freely articulate who they were. Hip hop was
also helpful in guiding the youth to do something positive rather than being
violent and joining gangs. As Lisa Traiger declared in her article “Hip-Hop and
You Don’t Stop…” from The Washington Post,
“Hip-Hop was for a generation of underprivileged kids a means of expression”.
Children who grew up in neighborhoods who were less fortunate were more
susceptible to act out and be more violent, but because of hip hop, kids had a
way to express who they were and a sense of ownership, due to hip hop being
something that belonged to them and something that was a part of them. Many
kids looked to hip hop as a way to stay out of trouble and to avoid following
the wrong company. Some children expressed themselves through their creative
dance moves, wrote and recited poetry/rap, and others enjoyed blending and
creating beats and rhythms (Traiger). Hip hop was their mentor, being that it
demonstrated a clear and right path instead of an immoral one.

            While
it is true that hip hop does have value to some communities, many argue that
rap music depicts a negative message, especially gangsta rap. Rap is a music
genre that falls under hip hop and it is highly criticized by the public. As
mentioned in the article “Born in fire: a hip-hop odyssey” by Jeff Chang, “Many
people argued that gangsta rap was raw, violent, undisciplined, offensive,
“niggafied” rhymes, often homophobic, misogynistic”. Some viewed gangsta rap as
nonsense and music that does not portray a positive message and to be highly
offensive and corruptive to others. I disagree with this completely and stand
by my decision to support the importance of hip hop. Some people do not
comprehend the deeper meaning and they misconstrue certain rap songs that
indirectly represent the rappers views or individual beliefs. Rap music or
gangsta rap in this case, is a type of music like any other. People have
freedom of speech to rap or talk about whatever they please, especially if it’s
based on their personal life. I don’t think rap music is meant to offend
anyone, but to express how the artist feels. It’s like someone writing a book
about their life, some events might not be pleasant but the author chooses to
share it because it’s real and that is how I feel about rap music or gangsta rap
as some may call it.

            There
are many gangsta rappers who portray positivity in their music and they have an
encouraging message to share. Take rapper Tupac Shakur for example, who many
would label as a gangsta rapper, but I label him as someone who spoke the truth
and rapped about the hardships of his life and situations he been through. In
Tupac’s song “Dear Mama”, he tells about the obstacles he faced in life with
his mother, but even through all the struggles, his mother remains the number
one woman in his life and no one could ever take her place. Another one of
Tupac’s song that depicts a constructive message is “Keep Ya Head Up”. This
song describes the hardships women face being single parents raising their kids
on their own, and Tupac encourages women to stay strong through it all. Tupac
Shakur’s music is moving and it feels so realistic, as if the audience is
actually experiencing the events that occurred in his life. It is for this
reason, and because of motivating rappers like Tupac why I support rap music or
gangsta rap.

            Has
Hip Hop culture lost its value? This is what Ms. M seems to think. Instead of
conducting interview on people of my generation, I wanted to see how someone
who grew up in the Hip Hop era felt about Hip Hop today and about the genre
overall.  Ms. M is a retired African-
American professor. She grew up in the Bronx and was around to experience the
emergence of Hip Hop as a culture for Blacks. I interviewed Ms. M at her home
in Brooklyn, where she now resides. We had a very interesting conversation that
lasted about 25-30 minutes. When discussing the Hip Hop culture, there were
things that I agreed with Ms. M about, but sometimes I disagreed with. Ms. M is
a fan of old school Hip Hop music, not Hip Hop music today. I think it’s just
generational differences. Ms. M feels that Hip Hop is significant part of
culture today. While she feels this way, she believes the genre has lost
substance, that Hip Hop is a misogynistic genre and that artist are not
authentic, due to them wanting to please the mainstream culture.

            Ms.
M feels it is hard to imagine the world without Hip Hop. She believes Hip Hop
is an open forum for everyone. For people of different races, genders, and
ethnicities. Hip Hop and music in general is for anyone that has any musical
talent, who want to express their individuality and tell their life story. When
it comes to the material of Hip Hop music today Ms. M feels that the message behind
the music is not the same. She believes the genre advanced at first but now has
setback. Ms. M reflected on Hip Hop
music she grew up listening to from old school rappers. She states that
old school rappers portrayed messages. Their raps expressed their frustrations
around racism, unfair stop and frisk policies, police brutality, and African
Americans being the main targets of crime or any suspicious activities. Ms. M
believes that Hip Hop music is starting to lose its prevalent values, not only
because of the lack of substance, but because of challenging injustices, Hip
Hop artists now a day have merged with the mainstream culture. This is where my
disagreement with Ms. M came into play. I understand that Hip Hop music is not
the same like how it was back then, but that is the point. The world is always
changing and the way music once was, it’s not going to be the same. Every
artist is different and have their own style. There are still artists that have
substance and quality to their music, but that is not what’s selling in this
era, in this generation.

            When
it comes to Ms. M’s view on Hip Hop, voicing that it is misogynistic, I agree.
In the interview, Ms. M states “I think women are degraded and used as
sex-objects, especially in music videos. I do not like the portrayal women and
I dislike the women who value this portrayal of themselves. Even when it comes
to female rappers, it’s as if they need to be sexy to sell their music. Look at
Nicki Minaj for example, she is one of the most popular female rappers, but her
music really has no material and I think if it was not for her image, she
wouldn’t be as successful. It’s sad to say but Hip Hop is male dominated and
women really have no choice but to be sexy. Society do not like to hear female
rappers rap about things like guns, killing, and drugs.” This is very much
true. The Hip Hop genre is a male dominated field and for women to succeed and
remain relevant they must be sexy. I do not think it should be this way, but
this is where the mainstream culture comes into play. While Hip Hop is for the
black culture, the dominant culture still controls it, so if a female rapper is
told to be sexy, I guess they have no choice. There were many points Ms. M made
that I agreed with, and some I disagreed with. I can say that we both agree
that Hip Hop has grown to be a huge part of the mainstream culture.

            When
seeking to find one’s cultural identity, many people turn towards certain social
groups to be a part of. When Hip Hop culture came around in the 70’s it was
viewed as an in-group. It was a culture belonging to blacks. The rise of the
Hip Hop culture was important to African Americans because it was created by
them and for them. The Hip Hop culture didn’t just include rap music as a form
of expression, it included the arts(graffiti), beat boxing, and fashion. Blacks
expressed themselves through their art work, their sense of fashion, their
rhymes, and their beat boxing skills. Hip Hop was something all blacks had in
common. It brought unity within poor black communities. Instead of young kids
joining gangs, they would go to showcases to listen to music or showcase their
talent. As the Hip Hop culture began to expand, things started to change. Corporate
American began making hip hop, particularly rap music into a business. Rap
music was being stolen from the community by business people, who valued making
money. This is where music videos and top- 10 charts playlists started to come
into play. While Hip Hop is still a part of Black culture, it is not so much
controlled by blacks anymore. It is still considered an in-group but allowed
out-group members to join. Today Hip Hop culture is not just followed by
blacks, but by different races and ethnicities. Rap music even changed. Today,
Hip Hop artists rap about drugs, money, women, and violence. This is not the
type of material old school rappers used to rap about. There are rap artists
today who still have substance to their music, but that is not what’s selling
and appealing to the mainstream culture. Hip Hop culture is a form of
resistance to the systems of defeat that have created class differences in the
United States. This culture is starting to lose in authenticity and its value. Yes,
it is a different era and artists are trying to appeal to the mainstream
culture, but that doesn’t mean the old hip hop culture should be thrown out.

            In
conclusion, the overall introduction and dispersal of hip hop music and the
entire hip hop culture has become a substantial turning point, due to it
bringing communities together and giving people of the lower class a voice and
a way to express who they were. The hip hop genre has become more than just
music.  It is a perpetually growing and changing lifestyle
that has inspired various people from different communities to accept
who they are and where they came from. While the Hip Hop culture did create a
platform for blacks in America, the culture is being stolen from us today. Hip
Hop artists now have to conform to very specific roles in the music industry in
order to be successful and maintain that success. The value of Hip Hop culture doesn’t
seem to be how it was like when it was first introduced in the 1970’s. The true
quality is not there anymore. Being Jamaican, I grew up listening to reggae
music, which is a part of Jamaican culture. In some instances, rap and reggae
music are similar. Both are different styles of music, but just as rap music
has been under attack for violent lyrics which some feel promotes violence,
reggae music has been under attack for the same reason. Like rap music losing
its social voice and its value due to appropriation of the mainstream culture,
reggae music is in the same boat. Besides the similarity between rap music and
reggae music, I didn’t learn anything about myself. I did learn that culture
can come in various aspects, it doesn’t necessarily have to be where you come
from. No matter what culture it is, people need to value their culture and not
lose the essence of their culture trying to conform to what society wants.