Sunday, April 1, 2012

Race in Hip Hop!

In class we focused on race and hip hop. We spoke about whether or not Hip Hop was a representation of Black/ African American culture. I looked online for different articles about race in Hip Hop, and I came across an interesting one called, "How Hip Hop has improved race relations". In this article, Steve Stoute suggests that Hip Hop helps break down racial barriers. He suggests that Hip Hop has changed a generation of people from trying to identify differences in each other to instead trying to find similarities.

I am no too sure if I can agree 100% with this article. He is implying that Hip Hop has helped decrease racism, which is true to a certain extent, but it hasn't really helped much. Hip Hop is looked at by a mass of people as a representation of African Americans. It is often associated with negative stereotypes of the black community. A study done by Carrie B. Fried proved this to be true. Participants were given violent lyrics and were led to believe that it was from either a country or rap song. They were then asked to determine how negative and violent the songs were. The rap song with the same exact lyrics as the country song was viewed as more aggressive and violent which depicts the idea of rap music being associated with negative perceptions of the Black Community.

Hip Hop artists, like mentioned in Stoute’s article, make "lifestyles" around products which is not always a good thing. For instance, the juxtaposition of baggy clothes in music videos with drug dealers and gangsters foster a negative lifestyle association with those types of clothing. This seemingly results in boys with baggy clothes being viewed as gangsters or drug dealers by ignorant people; which could explain In PART, the many racial crimes that occur because of racial profiling, like the Trayvon Martin case, and countless others. So while Hip Hop may transcend barriers across races for the younger generation, it also helps feed into the ignorance of many others.

We were asked in class if we believed Hip Hop was a representation of the Black Community. At first my answer was no, but now I believe that Hip Hop is a representation for the black community in the eyes of ignorant people, who rather not venture out and for themselves to see what the black community is like. Instead they rely on the media, and the characters that are portrayed in Music Videos and, or Black Movies.

For those of you who don't know who Trayvon Martin is, he was a 17 year old boy who was killed on his way back to his father's house from the store. He was walking with a bag of skittles and a soda, with jeans and a hoodie on, when a man by the name of George Zimmerman confronted him. Zimmerman called the police and reported suspicious behavior, and afterwards shot and killed Trayvon Martin. 


  1. I personally don't think that Hip Hop music represents the black community, but rather that it is a medium for many black artists to voice their opinions and social concerns. One might hear a rapper talk about killing people or rape, but we can't buy into these lyrics.

    We have to note that many rappers are not portraying themselves in their music but rather creating personas for our entertainment. For example, in Cypress Hill's "How I could Just Kill a Man," they say the following:

    Here is something you can't understand, how I could just kill a man

    Cypress Hill was a collaboration of black and latino artists, but they weren't murderers. Ignorant people may take the previous line out of context saying that rappers (black and latino) are killers. This is where problems can arise. If listeners buy into the personas that rappers present, they may think that Hip Hop music properly represents these minority communities, which it doesn't.

  2. Hip Hop has the connotation of being "younger generation" music, so it's influence on racism, I feel, cannot be felt until the younger generation that listens to Hip Hop have grown up and run the world. Right now, most Asian-American families have Hip Hop listening children and strictly no Hip Hop listening parents. And in this community, how Hip Hop is influencing our views on race cannot be gauged until the community has Hip Hop listening children AND parents.

    On another note, I feel that Hip Hop has definitely offered insight into a culture that many people would know nothing about without Hip Hop. It has helped by widening our eyes, and I personally take more from the songs that have deeper meanings about love and life than from the songs about sex and guns. And I don't think I'm alone in this.

    1. I'm not a fan of what much of hip-hop has become (in terms of chameleonism for what seems to be profit - the "gangsta" topicalities like "sex" and "guns"), but a lot of music has done this. After all, many mainstream rock branches still have that shot of unrealistic bad-boy hedonism.
      I agree with your statement on how the genre needs a bit more time for intergenerational acceptance.
      It really shouldn't matter, but I happen to be a 15-year old Caucasian male. And I'm often hurt by how hip-hop and racial culture seems to passively persecute me (I happen to have Asperger's Syndrome as well, and I'm a permanent foster child, so that may be of insight). But it's really character study much of the time - I'd have far less respect for Bob Dylan if he was really like a fraction of the people he's sung about! ;)

  3. I agree with both Alec and Eric above. I don't believe Hip-Hop music represents the black community, nor do I think that the influence on racism can be prominent until its prime audience (the "younger generation") has grown and truly reflected on how such music has impacted their lives (or had a lack of such experience).

    I don't believe Hip-Hop music represents the black community because there are so many underground artists rapping about their lives, these people varying in nationalities and subjects and which they speak of. It's the music that becomes mainstream that gives the connotation that such a genre of music represents the black community. I believe that Hip-Hop has deviated from the connotation of vents of the black community and has become a vessel through which anyone can speak of any subject they like.

    As far as my agreement with Eric goes, I do not believe we can make really meaningful reflections until (like Eric says) we "have grown up and run the world." For example, the lowering of rappers' pants beneath their butts when they perform (or just in general now) seems to be frowned upon by the older generation, whom still value appearance when presenting yourself to the world (more so than our generation for the most part, I believe). Who is to say this fashion statement will not be looked upon in the future in a more optimistic look? For example, we (the "younger generation") might look back when we are older and say artists dressed like this not to encourage a new trend among the public, but to attempt to focus the public more on the words of their rap tracks instead of the personal experience.

    In conclusion, we cannot make judgments solely from what the media feeds to us, nor can we make great reflections until we have become older (as we are soon reaching a "adulthood", at which we will look at some information through a new eye). I agree with Latia in a sense that Hip-Hop is a representation for the ignorant people, as personas (and not the actual experience) is created in the song. Thus, the listener, unless having been with the artist through their experience, will never get the truth of the subject in the songs.

  4. Although Stoute makes some good points in this article, I also find it hard to completely agree with his idea that Hip Hop has improved race relations. Like Tia, I think that there are many ignorant people who think they understand the Hip Hop culture because they know about its stereotypes. I think it is hard to use Hip Hop as a tool to improve race relations when there are people like these who don’t want to put in the effort to learn more about Hip Hop and look past the stereotypes. That being said, I do think that Hip Hop has the potential to transform race relations in the future. I agree with Eric that the influence of Hip Hop may be felt more when the younger generation that grew up listening to Hip Hop becomes adults and gains more control. I think it will be interesting to see how this affects culture and race relations in the future. Overall, I think that Hip Hop has helped to change people’s perspectives on different races and cultures, but I still think that it is a bit of a stretch to say that Hip Hop has had a significant impact on reducing racism.

  5. Whether rap has improved rap relations is debateable, but rap has expanded from purely black neighborhoods and people to other regions and ethnicities. When one says that rap is "black music," there are both verity and fallacy to this statement; although, this is truly an opinionated statement. Rap undisputably came from Harlem by blacks for blacks. However, over the years, rap has become a common genre of music that relates less to culture, but rap still influenced by its origins, e.g. the ghetto and crime.

    As discussed in class, whether rap helps race relations or people from rap's initial culture is doubtful. The example of Jay-Z's success exemplifies this view that those from Marcy, Brooklyn are no better off because of Jay-Z's success. "Race relations" is not a tangible "object" that can be measured, so it is really not possible to measure the effect of rap on race.

  6. I don't believe that we can make a judgement call on whether rap has improved race relations because we do not know how everyone thought before hip hop and after. There are many positives and negatives that have been brought about from hip hop. I believe that hip hop has given people that are less fortunate a voice to the world. I think that because of hip hop, we, as a society, are more aware of the lifestyles of lower social classes. Hip hop is a great outlet to let other people understand your life and the situations you have been through.

    On the contrary, I agree with you that because of the many references to sex, drugs, and violence, many people have a misconstrued view of what black neighborhoods consist of. There are ignorant people who believe every word they hear in a rap track, which could negatively affect race relations.

    Despite the positives and negatives in regard to race relations, hip hop is a major influence on the culture of our society because of its vast reach and appeal to many audiences.

  7. I think this concept that we talked about really should be expanded into the topic of what has come to be known as "frat rap." This sub-genre has taken shape in the form of mostly underground white, college kids producing hip hop music. This definitely adds a new subject to the idea of what is considered rap, in terms of its racial identity. Is rap music classified as rap because of the race or geography of the artist or is it rap based on the way it sounds? I think this racial issue causes us to question the definition of rap- does an artist have to be black, ghetto, or from a poor area to be a rapper?


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