Media can have a lot of influence on people’s lives. Music, especially, is very powerful. It can tap into people’s emotions and change the way that they act. What people see in music videos or hear in lyrics may affect what they do.
Recently, Wiz Khalifa, a rapper who is rapidly gaining popularity, preformed a concert here in Raleigh. Many teens and students from all over North Carolina came to see him preform. The problem is, this particular rapper only talks about one thing: smoking weed.
“There were a whole lot of people smoking at this concert,” said Courtney Moore, a sophomore at Leesville who attended. “I think that some of the people that were smoking were only doing it because he does, so they think it’s cool to be like him.”
This brings up an important question. Does music make groups of people act a certain way? Can the things that teenagers see in the music industry change the way they think and act?
This seems to be the case with hip-hop and rap music especially. It originally was considered “the voice of the people” and was used to get a message across. It used to be a cry against oppression, talking about subjects like racism, police brutality, and segregation. Today, these genres of music seem to talk about nothing but sex, money, and drugs.
With lyrics like “[girl] you lookin’ good, won’t you back that thang up” (Juvenille) and “I got a whole lotta money, *****es count it for me . . it’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party” (Waka Flocka Flame), it’s not a surprise that many people are bashing the genre of hip-hop and rap music.
For some reason, it seems like older generations form their own stereotypes about these teenagers who listen to hip hop and rap. Regardless of race, if an adult hears you blasting this music in a pair of headphones they will assume a lot about you. Teenagers don’t necessarily want to fulfill this stereotype (who would want to be seen negatively in the eyes of adults); but it is just something that happens.
“There are definitely stereotypes about people who listen to hip hop and rap music,” says Alex Woods, a junior whose favorite genre is hip hop. “The thing is, though, everyone who listens to this music isn’t the same. They don’t act the same and may not even be of the same race.”
Although hip hop and rap music appeals to many different races, it seems to affect the black population of teenagers the most. They are put under a certain stereotype. For black male teenagers, it’s sagging pants, an “I-don’t-care-about-anyone” attitude, listening to loud music all the time, and using vulgar language. For the females, it’s loud, ghetto, ready to fight at any minute, and walking around with barely any clothes on. These stereotypes are mostly formed from what people see in music videos an on T.V.
For example, an incident that many people know of is when Don Imus called a team of female (African-American) basketball players a bunch of “nappy-headed ho’s” on national radio. Many were extremely angered by him degrading the women like that. His argument was that rappers routinely “defame and demean black women” and call them “worse names than I ever did.”
Because of what this radio host heard in music, he thought that it was OK to speak about the players like that. Which shouldn’t be the case.
“A lot of people consider hip hop and rap ‘black people music’,” said Da’quan Brown, a junior. “Just because the songs might be by black artists doesn’t mean they are the only ones who listen to it.” This is another stereotype about hip hop and rap music that he often hears from his peers, even jokingly. It was somehow passed on from person to person and it is now very commonplace to hear this about these types of music.
Are these stereotypes true? Bill Cosby is a well-known entertainer and very well-educated black man. He made a very controversial speech in May 2004 in which he harshly told his views on today’s black adolescent population.
“With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, [De’Quante] and all that crap and all of them are in jail,” says Cosby in is famous speech. “When we give these kinds names to our children, we give them the strength and inspiration in the meaning of those names. What’s the point of giving them strong names if there is not parenting and values backing it up? And what is it with young girls getting after some girl who wants to still remain a virgin? Who are these sick black people and where did they come from and why haven’t they been parented to shut up?”
Cosby was trying to explain how the black population today seems less responsible than back in his day. In music videos, it seems like these artists truly can do whatever they want. They can treat women however they want to. It sounds like Cosby does believe that the stereotypes about black teenagers today are true.
“They see these luxurious lifestyles; fancy cars, lots of money, and all the women that they could ever want.” says Timothy Crawford, a junior. “They want what they have, so they think that acting the way they act will get them there. I see this with a lot of people I know at our school. They put on this act when they’re talking to a girl, almost like they don’t care. They act cocky [like some artists do] and think that girls will be attracted to that.”
Both Woods and Brown admit that most music from these genres don’t have meaning behind them, with an exception of a few artists. They also noticed that the people around them do seemed to be influenced by media and music.
“I see so many guys trying to be rappers and have that certain swag and way of dressing that actual rappers do. For example a lot of them try to copy Wiz Khaifa with cargo pants, Chuck Taylors, and a blond streak in their hair. I don’t think they need to do all that,” says Woods.
However, not everyone responds to this music in the same way. “I listen to this music when I’m getting ready to go out somewhere, like to a party. It puts me in a good mood and gets me hyped,” says Brown.
It doesn’t always have negative effects. Some artists are very clever in the way they write their lyrics, and make their listeners think about what they really mean. Some hip-hop artists may serve as role models, because they have come from different backgrounds and have to overcome a lot of obstacles to get where they are today.
Timothy Crawford had a strong opinion on the people who are quick to judge and make stereotypes. “I don’t think it’s fair. I’m not represented by the music I listen to; I’m myself. A lot of people assume that just because I’m black I listen to only hip hop and rap, which is not true.”
Hip hop music is also seen as a ‘unifier of diverse populations’. A large part of this genre’s audience is non-black. It appeals to different types of people of different races. For some reason, though, white suburban kids don’t fulfill the stereotype that hip hop and rap music creates. This is probably due to the artists of the music: they all talk about being black, from the ghetto, and things like that. White suburban kids aren’t in the above category, simply because of the color of their skin and how they act.
Some boys try to live what they hear in the lyrics and others don’t. Why is this? Some boys may have the self-control that others don’t. Some may do it just to fit in with others, or think that they are supposed to act like the people they see on T.V. It’s all about the differences in people’s personalities.
In retrospect, it seems like yes, music can push people to act a certain way. Unfortunately, when it comes to hip-hop music they don’t always act in a positive manner. What it really comes down to, though, is your own morals; you know the right and wrong ways to act and only you are in control of your actions. If you don’t like this type of music, then don’t listen to it. Just because someone hears something in a song doesn’t mean they need to go out and do it. Some like this music more than others, and not everyone who listens to it are under the stereotypes that a lot of people form.
“Just be careful what you listen to,” says Crawford. “The more you listen to it, the more it may influence your actions.”