I recently took an Uber home for the first time tonight and neither the driver nor I wanted to talk so we turned the radio on instead. Within two minutes I felt that same wave of awkwardness we all experienced while watching Pretty Woman with our parents (I know I’m not the only one.)
Dos Cadenas, clothes are genius,
sold out arenas you can suck my ______.
Boat or jet what do you expect
her _____ so good I bought her a pet.
I won’t fill in the blanks for you although if you aren’t able to do so yourself I envy you. (Ignorance is bliss, am I right?) Clearly there’s a very different message the music industry wants to make sure we all hear and due to its power and influence, hip-hop has been the targeted medium for this. What happened to the culture of hip hop that was predominantly used as a platform for artistic humanitarians? What happened to the many voices that brought truth and sobriety to the many ears that heard it, where minds were awakened and lyrics were like flashlights leading to truth? Instead of lyrics that bring awareness or healing to a people, our minds are being assaulted with violence, perversion and aggression. Each time we move our hips to their hops we are metaphorically spreading our legs and asking for it.
Dancing began as an act of celebration so every time we dance to lyrics filled with violence, perversion and aggression we’re celebrating them. Every time we move our bodies along to these beats we make an agreement between ourselves and the music, whether or not we would actually agree with the song were we to truly listen. I want to make it very clear: I am not against hip-hop. This article does not come from a small, white, Midwest girl who thinks hip-hop is evil and that it should be eliminated from the music industry. To clarify, this comes from a small, white Midwest girl who respects hip-hop, who understands as much as she can in her small white-girl body how influential it is, how intentional it is, how powerful it is. It is because of hip-hop’s power and influence that I believe it has been targeted and purposed for darkness. I believe it’s why we find that more so than in any other music genre, hip hop is so inundated with perverse lyrics that do not empower and do not bring life but cut it out from our very veins.
I’d like to take a moment to rewind and reflect on the past state of the music industry, specifically hip-hop and the shape it has taken from whence it came. I’m not going to refer so far back as James Brown, the godfather of soul, because I realize one might argue that times have changed and the music industry is only reflecting that (a sentiment I do not disagree with, I only wish the reflection weren’t so dark). One name, two words: Tupac Shakur. A force not just in the hip-hop culture, but world-wide. His influence spanned beyond continents. Tupac’s talent was unmatched and his gift with words was undeniable. Below is a sample of lyrics from his song
Keep Ya Head Up
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up.
These lyrics are clear to me and I am not distracted by the violent mention of anatomy because there isn’t any. There is nothing overtly sexual that causes me to resent the fact that I am not deaf. On the contrary, it is a message that brings awareness to the violence against women and also uplifts us, that though this is a man-made and male-dominated world, women are absolutely necessary in it. These are lyrics that carry life and are words I would be willing to move my body to (ie dancing). It is a powerful call to men for upholding the lives of females, to treat us well because we are of great value; a necessary and positive reminder for our society and culture. Sadly, these lyrics are few and far between- a s t a r k contrast to what we find on the radio today.
I challenge us to really take a listen to the beats we think we’re just dancing along to at the club that don’t mean anything or the ones that come on the radio with the catchy melody we sing aloud to. We must be aware of what we’re singing along with and what our bodies are celebrating because if it’s true that words bring life then it must also be true that they can do the very opposite. Sprinkled with subtle words of violence, perversion and anger, if we are not careful these songs and words will begin to form an anthem inside of us and a rhythm we start to live by that we would have never consciously claimed over our lives. If we continue to listen and allow the words in, they will consume us and we will start to reflect the darkness that bides to blot out the light.
And I still say long live hip hop. Long live the James Browns and the Tupacs of the world. As far as Mr. Derulo is concerned, (and anyone else who assimilates being a woman with being a female dog and who also believes that female anatomy is for violently rapping about over sweet-sounding hip-hop tracks), please leave the music industry and volunteer at a battered women’s shelter for a minimum of one year then come back and sing for us. I bet you’ll really have something to say and something we all need to hear.