Hip Hop-A Key to Understand Other Races?

04 Sep

Music in all of its forms is a vital part of society, culture, youth, and of life. It has a way of transcending time and bridging gaps between age, gender, time, and can be relevant to anyone who can connect with the meaning or message of the song. But can it truly allow for understanding or education of the problems of other races? That is what author Rachel E. Sullivan of the Journal of Black Studies hopes to find out in her study on the role of Hip Hop in “racial identification even as its audience grows in size and racial diversity” (229). In light of politician’s critique and disgust at hip hop music and its lyrics that demean women and promote violence, hip hop was seemingly watered down into a form of music that now relays messages about materialism and arrogance. Has this change allowed it to be more universal and more accessible to other races or has lack of a political message left hip-hop without meaning?

To test her theory, Sullivan passed out a survey to teenagers of African-American, White, Latino, and other ethnicities with questions such as “’Rap is a truthful reflection of society,’ ‘I find myself wearing clothes similar to rappers,’ and ‘I find myself using words or phrases similar to rappers’” (234). Of the 54 who took the survey, only 3 didn’t respond and the group consisted of “twenty-one Blacks, seventeen Whites, seven Latinos, and six who marked other categories.” In addition, “Nineteen of the respondents were girls and thirty two were boys, and the mean age of respondents was sixteen years old” (235). Overall it seemed that hip-hop was a big interest to those who took the survey and a majority of those who took it and responded with strong agreement to all of the above statements were African-American with only a few agreements coming from Whites and Latinos. Additionally, when asked to name their three favorite rappers, only a few Whites could respond.

In my opinion, this tells mostly two things: that the majority of the audience for hip-hop and its culture is African-American and Latino, due to the fact that Whites are unable to relate to the struggles of either minority group or their cultures fully. Sullivan theorizes “many whites who listen to rap may be motivated by curiosity” and that curiosity is satisfied “without ever having face-to-face contact or interpersonal relationships with any African Americans, so rap can be a way for Whites to vicariously learn about African Americans” (238). I can’t help but agree with her to a degree because there are certain Whites out there that grew up in mostly white towns or cities that had little diversity and are curious but uncomfortable with dealing with the culture shock. This is not the best way to experience the culture as “it may perpetuate prejudices, particularly the view that African Americans are materialistic and hedonistic, which could inadvertently promote stereotypes more than it dismantles them” (239).

So is hip-hop good or bad for inter-racial relations? I feel that is a very narrow-minded way of looking at the genre. I feel it is what it is, that is simply entertainment and should not be taken very seriously. Rap has lost some of the political message it once had in the late 80’s-early 90’s, and has now become another genre that is now pumping out manufactured music every month it seems. For every 2Pac or Biggie Smalls we now have another Soulja Boy or BOB, another one-hit wonder. Therefore, it would seem that most of the music has now become just fictional and soulless and shouldn’t be taken seriously. So as a racial gap, I feel that it fails and falls short, as it doesn’t represent anymore the aspirations, upbringing, or struggles of the people as it once did. My solution: talk it out and figure it out.

Works Cited

Sullivan, Rachel E. “Rap and Race: It’s Got a Nice Beat, But What About the Message?” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael

Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice

Hall, 2009. 229-240. Print.

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