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Street Poetry

" Music is the universal language of humanity."
Henry Woodsworth Longfellow

By: J. Rooprai

Music has been a ubiquitous force for thousands of years and it appeals to all. It is very rare that someone says that he/she does not like any music at all. However, the most popular and most influential African-American musical form and equally the most controversial is rap music. Rap music was born in Brooklyn, New York in the beginning of the 1980's. Rap music has supported an even worse criticism than even rock music in the 1950's. Ever since it beginning, the media has labeled rap music as being too hardcore and have said that it incites violence, which leads to murders and crimes. Nonetheless, criminal activities are not justified in being blamed on rap music. This art form is very inspirational and extremely creative with the proper discretion. Rap music attains the goal of being a way of escaping from problems in the lives of many urban listeners, and can be a very relieving form of artistic expression and relief, for those who rap.

One of the most rapidly growing forms of music; rap is an extremely encouraging and creative form of art. It is not as simple to create good rap music, as it seems. Rap is a rhythmic style of talking which is employed to express a point of view, and it is not simply words that rhyme. It needs skill and practice just like any other form of art. There are five elements to the rap culture: rapping, graffiti, break dancing, the DJ, and beat boxing. All of these respective elements are creative art forms in themselves. Rap music is most definitely encouraging. Many rap musician's come from poor urban areas of large cities and usually try to find artistic perspectives to such a harsh life. As they begin to gain popularity, they gain money and fame, but most artists do not forget their roots. They go from "ghetto to glory" but as they gain money, most rap artists also implement programs in their communities to help the unfortunate, as they once were. Many artists give money to local charities as well, but the media fails to capture this, as they are more interested and concentrated on what they perceive as the bad aspect of rap music.

Like most things, there is a positive and negative aspect to rap music. Overall there are two types of rap music. There is commercial or popular rap, and there is conscious or political rap. Commercial rap is rap that is most predominantly played and the most popular. However, it is this type of rap music, which is often violent and misogynistic. This is the most popular type of rap today, because it is a reflection of our society. Our society is violent and is infiltrated with sexual imagery everywhere we turn. Conscious rap music is music, which favors everyone, and usually incorporates themes of social change in its lyrics. This type of rap usually gives a sense of black nationalism, portrays women in a well-deserving manner, and talks about politics and drugs, sending the correct message to its listeners. This type of rap is much more traditional and it used to be predominant when rap first began to be popular with groups such as Public Enemy and X-clan. Modern day conscious rap artists, who are relatively popular and successful in portraying their messages, include KRS-One, Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-tek) as well as many others. Conscious Rap also gives people in difficult situations the much-needed hope in their lives. The majority of people, who listen to rap music, are not substantially rich. When people have problems in their lives, they can listen to rap music and this helps them feel much better, as many other people do with other forms of music.

Although the media and a significant part of the public blame and criticize rap music for negatively influencing adolescents, music is just an excuse for bad education on the part of the parents. When a crime is committed, it is natural to examine the background of the person who committed the crime. The majority of criminals come from dysfunctional families, a lot of whose parents are criminals as well, or addicted to drugs, or simply unable to properly support their children. Many of them have a background of being sexually, or verbally abused and they turn to crime as a means of escaping their current lives. Although rap music is harsh and definitely hardcore, it is simply what life is like for the people who create the music. Parents, whose children have a criminal record, blame rap music for their faults as parents. Rap music is an escape for the people who listen to it, but for those who criticize it, it is simply a source for their problems.

Although rap music has lyrics that are sometimes violent and vulgar, this is not a new occurrence in popular culture. Rap music is not very different than violent films, videos, the violence portrayed in the news, TV shows or even video games. Violence is a major ingredient in most of these forms of entertainment, yet rap music is portrayed in a very harsh manner in comparison. There are different interpretations to the language used and for someone who is not informed on rap culture, it may be shocking. However, for the majority of people who listen to rap music, they are in similar situation and as a result the lyrics are conventional. To someone who is not in these situations, the lyrics may not make sense and thus may be distasteful. Censoring the words from the songs does not result in much change, as vulgarity exists in all aspects of today society.

The argument that blames rap music for the defects of some adolescents can be compared to the argument that blames the spoon for obesity. Rap is not the cause of crimes, but is simply and art form. Crimes result from the problems present in society today. The misogynistic themes and violence simply reflect today's morals and values. The rap musicians simply rap about experiences in their lives. Crimes and murders existed long before rap, but it is easy for the media to place the blame on an art form that is controlled by minorities. The reasons for the violent lyrics are simply the experiences of the musicians. A person who is born in a ghetto is almost surely already condemned to a life of crime. The reason is simply that, even if they continue with school, the only way they can attend college is through scholarships, which are hard to obtain. They cannot get to college any other way because rarely do they have enough money. Those who work at respectable jobs, become frustrated, as most people do who work at dead end jobs. For this reason, adolescents and younger kids look up to the pimps, the hustlers and the drug dealers, as their idols. This results in generation after generation of criminal activity, in order to achieve the dreams that each kid has. Only the government is to blame for this, as they do not provide enough aide and social change to these poverty-stricken areas.

Rap musicians rap about their lives. They do not influence bad behavior. It is simply the media, which takes the gangster image of rap and blames it for the defects of society. If they were serious about making a change, they would help revive to poorer areas of large cities, and would implement better community programs. With proper discretion, rap is a very creative and inspiring art form, and by speaking about the problems rappers have faced, they bring these problems into the limelight for everyone to see, and therefore solve.

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