Reflecting the Blackboard topic from last week, I decided to check out some of the rap videos created during the 90s. As a person that grew up on MTV (when they still aired these things called music videos), I noticed a trend of increasing censorship on what you could say and/or do in a video. One of the key differences between the rap videos of old and new is the prevalence of weapons. In the early 90's, it wasn't unusual to see a gun being flashed at an enemy or shown in the waistline of a party attendee. Lately, rap artists have toned down the violence that appears and music videos so that they can be aired on mainstream television. Of course, there are the videos that never make it to TV, but those tend to be of much lower quality.
In the embedded music video, N.W.A takes on a mobster-esque appearance that pays homage to the organized crime of the early 1900s. As we touched on briefly, rappers often appeal to glorified criminals and mobsters in order to bolster their personas as individuals that are not to be provoked. The various weaponry in the video pale in comparison to the lyrics in this song, in which the members of N.W.A. express their opinions on their individual fearlessness and the necessity of murder to prove a point. In the final bars of the song, Eazy E claims to possess the "10 Commandments of a Hip Hop Thugster...known as a thief and murderer." The commandments, which vary slightly depending the lyric site you visit, discuss what it takes to be a real gangsta (further discussion on this in a future post). Basically, the rules highlight and conclude with Eazy E's "appetite to kill," which is a brief description of the song as a whole.
This overuse of violence in a music video and depiction of a gangster lifestyle is what originally put rap artists in a very bad light in America. Despite the accuracy of their lyrics on describing life where they came from, it did not promote a better standing for inner-city individuals, especially African-Americans struggling to free themselves from gang violence, because these rappers constantly advocated violence and murder. Has the decline in violent rap lyrics and videos led to safer neighborhoods and a decrease in inner-city violence? It would be tough to measure this accurately, but it does appear rap videos like this are simply memories of a different era in rap history.