Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hip-hop and the Community

Many hip-hop artists reference their cities, particularly their ghetto neighborhoods, once they become successful and no longer live there. This is particularly remarkable in many music videos where one can see a rapper driving an expensive car through the ghetto wearing expensive clothes and jewelry.
This presents the question whether, even though they have money and live elsewhere, these rappers are justly representing these neighborhoods and the community. It is uncommon that the artists give back to the communities that they come from, so they are not benefiting their neighborhoods or cities in any way, despite rapping their allegiance to these regions. It is also questionable how the community views the rappers that make it out of the neighborhoods that they come from--are they viewed positively or negatively? One could suggest that they have made a positive impact on the neighborhood and its inhabitants by setting a positive example and demonstrating that there is hope of becoming successful and making to a better place. One could also argue that they have a negative impact on the community; they use the neighborhood--exploiting the crime, drugs, and poor quality of living--simply for the benefit of making a good ghetto rap music video and song without contributing anything positive to the community.

Moreover, the question here is whether rappers who make it out of the ghetto neighborhoods they grew up and established themselves in have a positive or negative impact on that community.


  1. In the post, you say, "so they are not benefiting their neighborhoods or cities in any way, despite rapping their allegiance to these regions." However, by these rappers returning to their neighborhoods and rapping for them, often makes the neighborhood more well known. For instance, songs like "Straight Outta Compton" and "Fifth Ward Boyz" helped place their respective regions on the map.

    Furthermore, whether it is the intention of the artist or not, placing as you say, neighborhoods with a "poor quality of life" in these music videos can have positive effects for the community. For example, when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, pictures and videos of the destruction went viral. This is how many people were able to see the true devastation of the situation that was occurring and in many cases help. Similar effects can come from people seeing the "poor quality of living" in music videos.

    Therefore, although these acts by the rapper might seem showy (and maybe they are), they can in the end have positive effects for the community by making it more well known, and by potentially getting it help.

  2. Although most successful hip-hop artists don’t do nearly as much for their old neighborhoods as they could, I agree with Jason that saying “they are not benefiting their neighborhoods or cities in any way” might not be entirely true. Simply mentioning their cities in their songs helps unite their old neighborhoods and give the people living in them something to take pride in. As Kelvin mentioned in the post, just having somebody successful come out of a poor neighborhood or city can act a source of hope for the people still living in those bad conditions. Additionally, when these artists talk about the harsh lifestyles of their cities or show them in their music videos, this brings attention to these poor living conditions and raises awareness. Therefore, I believe that rappers can help their home cities and neighborhoods by simply representing them in their music. This does not mean, however, that this is all that these successful artists can do for their cities. Instead of flashing their wealth in the face of poverty, these rappers can use their wealth to give back to their old cities and neighborhoods. Although I think it is great that rappers try to represent their old cities and spread their pride, I think that rappers can do much more than this and that these simple shout-outs are not enough.

  3. I think that there really isn't a negative impact on the community because the artists aren't technically doing anything wrong by making a music video in their hometown. I don't see how just by having a music video take place in a town, how it could be negative. I agree with Jason that many times a music video could end up helping the town because it could expose people to the lives of the poor, which could eventually bring aid.

    Obviously, New Orleans after Katrina is an exaggerated example because not every hip-hop community is struck by disaster like that. Nonetheless, I still think that a rapper talking about his hometown can only bring positives because at least he/she is putting his home on the map. I think it is better for the population to actually realize that these places exist and possibly do something to help them, rather than to not know about the people living in impoverished areas. Even if people who listen to the music do not go and try to help out these areas, it is still exposing them to it.

  4. I agree with the above statements that successful artists should give back to the community they grew up in in more ways than just giving a shout out, especially because they are making money off speaking about their experience within their respective hoods. Although opinions of people in the community could be divided on an artist who made it out successfully, there should still be some hope knowing that it is possible. It is unlikely that each person in the community helped the artist make it big, so is there really an obligation for the artist to give back? Yes it would be the 'right' thing to do and would show kindness to those who are less fortunate. But what if the artist was not liked by some of the community and feels that he/she should only give back to those that were close to him/her.

  5. I do not think that rappers are doing anything wrong by discussing the poverty, drugs and crime in their old hometowns. The places where many rappers have grown up are not touristy places that thrive on their reputation. In fact, places like Compton and South Bronx, which are commonly discussed in rap songs, are already known to have poverty and street violence. By talking about the problems with the areas that they grew up in, rappers are bringing national attention to these problems. Rappers are extremely popular in the media and have a large influence on much of the nation. Simply by mentioning their hometowns in their songs, they are supporting the communities in which they grew up. Furthermore, when a rapper talks about how, despite the difficulty of growing up in such a difficult environment, he still survived and became successful, he serves as an incredible influence to kids growing up in ghettos across the country, not just in his hometown. It is essential that rappers describe these terrible conditions rather than just talk about their hometowns because by being specific about their hardships, they have a much bigger audience that can relate to them outside of their hometowns.


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