Rap Music continues to have an important role today-especially among young people. The Journal of the American Medical Association notes: “Between the seventh and 12th grades, the average teenager listens to 10,500 hours of rap music, just slightly less than the entire number of hours spent in the classroom from kindergarten through high school.” According to The World Book Encyclopedia, “rap music is no longer only the music of young Americans. It is music of the world.”
The Message of Rap:
Take rap music, for example. In rap, the lyrics-streetwise slang set to rhyme-are spoken, not sung, to the accompaniment of a powerful beat. Of course, there’s nothing inherently evil in this concept. Many popular songs over the decades have incorporated the spoken word. But rap music often takes this idea to wild extremes.
Rap (or, hip-hop) reportedly became popular back in the 1970’s in small New York City dance clubs frequented by inner-city youths. As disc jockeys began chanting rhymes (or, rapping) over a background of prerecorded percussion, dancers responded with near hysteria. Rap music soon moved from the streets and basement clubs to the musical mainstream. Rappers sporting names as brash as their music-Public Enemy, M. C. Hammer, and Vanilla Ice-were soon filling the airwaves with their thundering brand of music.
Interestingly, when an Awake! reporter asked a racially mixed group of suburban Christian youths, “Do many of you listen to rap?” a surprising majority said yes! “What do you like about rap?” he next asked. “The beat,” replied one teenage girl. “It just flows, and it’s easy to listen to.” “You can dance to it,” replied another. The next question, however, drew a somewhat less enthusiastic response, “Is some rap music a problem for youths?”
After an embarrassing pause, one girl admitted: “Some rap music is really, really disgusting.” Others begrudgingly agreed with her. Indeed, it turned out that many of the youths were alarmingly familiar with a lengthy list of objectionable songs-songs that promoted promiscuity and perversion in outrageously graphic terms. Some confessed that many of these songs freely used profanity.
Yes, much of rap music appears to send a message of rebellion, violence, anger, racism, and sexual prowess. Rap promoter Daniel Caudeiron, president of the Black Music Association of Canada, who praises rap for being “overwhelmingly positive,” admits that much rap is “misogynistic [antiwoman], sexist and occasionally foulmouthed.”-Maclean’s, November 12, 1990.
The Rap Life-Style
Granted, not all rap music is immoral or violent. According to an article in The New York Times, some of it is devoted to such positive goals as education, discouraging drug abuse, and solving social ills. But inoffensive lyrics may very well be the exception, not the rule. When Newsweek rated the top ten rap albums, using a standard similar to the U.S. movie-rating system, only two were considered G, or suitable for general audiences. Newsweek rated four of the albums R (restricted to adult audiences), and two were even rated X because of “gutter language” and explicit sex.
Besides, the message of rap goes beyond its lyrics. Rap has spawned a cultural revolution. Millions of teenagers wear the oversize clothing, unlaced high-top sneakers, baggy jeans, gold chains, baseball caps, and dark glasses that make up standard rap attire. Many also imitate the flamboyant gestures and the attitude of rap performers. And to the consternation of parents and teachers, nonwords such as “yo!” and “dis”-the abrasive street slang glorified in rap-have crept into everyday speech.
Rap may very well represent a rebellion against injustices. But taken as a whole, rap is also a culture of rebellion against certain standards of behavior, dress, and speech. Would a well-respected individual, by his taste in music, want to risk being drawn into such a questionable life-style?
Of course, rap music is hardly the only form of music that goes to wild extremes. Time magazine reports: “There’s an acrid tang [bitter taste] in nearly every area of modern American pop culture. Heavy-metal masters Motley Crue invoke images of satanism and the Beastie Boys mime masturbation onstage.” Even the bible itself predicted that “in the last days . . . wicked men and impostors [would] advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 13) So should it surprise you, then, that much of today’s music sends the wrong message to our young ones?
We as parents may therefore rightly be very concerned if our children go in for rap or other extreme forms of rock music. We fear that a steady diet of such music can harm our children. Could our fears be valid?
Well fortunate enough for us there is rap music that our children can listen to. They have rap music out now that teaches math, addition, spelling, division, and so forth. It takes what has been perceived as a negative influence on youth and injects a more positive outcome.