In the hip-hop community I am considered an old man, and being 36 years old I’m not going to disagree with that statement. Hip-Hop has been and always will be the voice of our youth. But as time passes and the culture continues to mature, older ears become more relevant. We should all agree that with age should come some form of wisdom, and with that wisdom the lessons learned, from our mistakes, should be passed on to the next generation in hopes they avoid the same pitfalls.
When I wrote my first rhyme I was in the seventh grade. The year was 1988 (Oh GOD, I’m SO OLD!!!), N.W.A, Public Enemy, and Big Daddy Kane where some of the most popular artists. Back then “old folks” at the time where always complaining about how hip-hop wasn’t real music, and that artists like The Isley Brothers was the only example of true music. We thought they were crazy then and so it’s not surprising that when we talk about B.I.G, Tupac, and Scarface, as being real hip-hop, we are looked at just as crazy now. But what is, or is not, considered real is not what this article is about. What I consider to be The Double Edge Sword of Hip-Hop pertains to how beautiful or ugly this powerful form of music can be.
Hip-Hop, over time, has developed sub-categories the greatest contrast being gangster and conscience. Each describes the life of the less fortunate from a similar perspective. Whether it’s N.W.A’s “F… the Police” in 1988 or Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said” in 2011, hip-hop has used its influence to both identify and educate about the injustice’s felt within our own government, but content can be just as dangerous as it can be educating. Over the life of hip-hop clouds have developed and the shine of an inspiring media, no matter how crass at times, has become saturated with educating instead about how to “turn cocaine to crack” and the benefits of being a dope dealer.
Lyrics are repeated over and over, we enjoy repeating them as we sing along, paying little attention to the fact that we a burning them in to our long term memories. Even less attention is paid to how this information forms our thoughts about relationships, our daily situations, or our view on the world in general. In the midst of “just having fun” we don’t think about how the consequences of continually telling ourselves “if you broke you ain’t s… ” just might end with you basing self-worth on the size of your bank account. How different would it be if young listeners heard something like “cut the chit-chatter, being broke don’t matter, cause education’s the key to me getting my pockets fatter.”
The point that I am making is that hip-hop can be beautiful, uplifting, the catalyst in the choices we make in life. I know it seems dramatic, but music has been shown to not only effect mood, but a person’s perception.