Hip Hop Ya Don’t Stop

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? This is the question faced by the current hip hop artist. As defined by Cheryl L. Keyes, the author of the book Rap Music and Street Consciousness, "Hip Hop is an urban youth arts movement comprised of graffiti, emceeing, disc […]

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What does it profit

a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? This is the question faced

by the current hip hop artist. As defined by Cheryl L. Keyes, the author of

the book Rap Music and Street Consciousness, "Hip Hop is an urban youth

arts movement comprised of graffiti, emceeing, disc jockeying, and breakdancing;

a street attitude displayed through gestures, stylized dress, and language"

(1). Hip hop was originally birthed in the Bronx during the early 70’s to stop

gang violence. Afrika Bambaataa, deemed the "godfather of hip hop,"

was the first to set up artistic battles as an alternative to violent disputes.

Bambaataa himself was a Black S#### Gangster, yet he did this all for the benefit

of the community. Even though there were pushers and thugs present at the hip

hop park jams, it was all about positivity and having fun.

Today the hip

hop scene is almost the complete opposite. Artists are claiming to be thugs

and gangsters; disrespecting women, glorifying violence, and promoting drug

use in their lyrics and videos. This trend has led to too much media glamorization

of thugs and gangsters in hip hop music. When someone is known to listen to

hip hop, the average "adult" assumes the person listens to the mainstream

thug artists. Most people do not realize there is another type of hip hop available

that does not get media attention. A kind of hip hop where the rappers do not

pretend to be thugs. Where the rappers recite rhymes intelligently and make

you think about what they are saying. This kind of hip hop is unknown to most

people. Instead the thug image has been ingrained into people’s minds as to

what people believe hip hop is.

According to the

International Recording Industry hip hop is the fastest rising music market.

In addition to that the Recording Industry Association of America already ranks

hip hop as the second most popular form of music. Given these statistics there

is no doubt that hip hop is big a part of American culture. However the thug

image is not hip hop. In a recent Internet interview, DJ Lord Ron a respected

DJ and producer, discredits the thug image in hip hop.

"Where is

the validation in being a hooligan, a gangster, a mugger?..It’z a wack validation

because REAL thugs move in silence and any real street person who represents

being from the streets respects that code of silence na mean. Now, when I see

or hear these artists claiming to be thugs. I see nothing but followers of a

trend just for the dollar bill na mean. I even heard the bubble gum group ‘B2k’

use the word ‘Thug’… Do you really think these artists are real thugs?…A

person can be anything they want to be in this society and to blame others for

your actions of being this thug is straight up wack yo!… America is in

love with violence & sex it does sell but there are many other topics that

these rappers can write about."

DJ Lord Ron starts

out by saying that real thugs do not go out and boast about the things they

do. The real thugs keep it in the street. For a real thug to go on an album

and boast about the things they have done would basically serve as a confession

and would lead to them going to jail. Lord Ron states that the "thug"

image is being followed because it is the current trend; it is what is selling.

The people who are buying into the thug image do not realize the motives behind

these artists is strictly money. The consumers buy into the thug image as reality.

The people who listen to that music begin to think that it is acceptable to

do the things that are being talked about in the songs. Listening to constant

talk about violence and drugs does affect people. Here is an example of what

these people are listening to.

The following lyrics

are from one of the more popular rappers Eminem, from his song "Killing"

from the Marshall Mathers LP, You f###### keep eggin me on til I have

you at knifepoint, then you beg me to stop? Shut up! Give me your hands and

feet I said shut up when I’m talkin to you You hear me? Answer Me? Or I’ma kill


This violent excerpt

is just one of the many examples from Eminem. Eminem clearly relies on shock

value to get attention. Another popular "thug rapper" is 50 Cent,

here is the chorus to his hit song "In Da Club".

You can find

me in the club bottle full of bub. Look mami I got the X if you into taking

drugs I’m into having sex, I aint into makin love. So come give me a hug if

you into getting rubbed.

This song talks

about taking drugs and having sex as everyday things. Kids are going around

singing this chorus as casually as if they were singing the alphabet. 50 Cent

is what is wrong with hip hop today, almost like a microcosm of what’s wrong

with what the general public see as hip hop today. 50 Cent started off as a

reasonably talented lyricist. Then he got shot. This provided the media with

a marketing spark and had him touted as the next Tupac. Now it is almost impossible

to watch music television without seeing 50 Cent promoted in some way. Rappers

such as Eminem and 50 Cent have taken a firm control over mainstream hip hop.

However, some hip hop artists are doing what they can to make a positive difference.

One example is the group Blackalicious, which consists of members Gift of Gab

and Chief Excel. Gift of Gab addresses the thug scene in the following excerpt

from the song "Shallow Days".

But music does

reflect life and kids look up to what you’re portraying and mimic what you act

like. Its time for a new day an era in rap, conscious styles, makin’ them aware

of the happenings but their ears seem more steered towards self-annihilation

so then they might laugh and write this off, like I’m out here just blowing

wind, maybe label us soft or unreal, something they can’t feel, while they keep

yelling murder murder murder, kill kill kill.

The Gift of Gab

starts out by trying to reach the thug rappers and make them realize that kids

look up to them and mimic the things they do. He wants to start a new era in

rap with socially conscious lyrics. However, he knows what is going to happen,

he is going to be written off and the people will continue on with their ways.

To the mainstream audience the message of positivity is thrown into the "soft"

category. The mainstream audience labels music with positive messages as not

"real" when in fact the thug image is what is not real. A big part

of the thug image problem is the media such as MTV, BET and the radio. The media

is a money-making business and decides what is to be popular and who the next

superstar artist will be. The media outlets essentially spoon-feed society what

to listen to, this in turn shapes the product they are selling. If the media

only plays songs and videos with thugs and gangsters then the new artists coming

up will conform to these standards so that they can make it in the business.


artist that is struggling to survive day by day will naturally get desperate.

In this desperation

the artist will do anything for that recording contract which will end his struggles.

In the quest for the recording contract the artist will conform his talents

to what is popular so that he may be popular. This in turn leads to an influx

of thug and gangster copycats. The solution to this cycle is in the power of

the fan. The radio and television stations need a wake up call. The reason the

stations keep playing the same thug music is because they keep getting bombarded

by requests from kids. The fans of good music and people who care about the

youth must call in to their radio and television stations and demand quality

music. If enough people call in the media will listen. The only problem with

this solution is that a campaign must be made in order to really pull it off.

Although it will take lots of organization a successful campaign is possible.

In the words of the famous social scientist

Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed

citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The media helps

shape the hip hop artist but the individual artist still holds some responsibility

for the current state of hip hop. The mainstream artist has been using the same

thug cliché for several years. The repeated use of this formula has cut

off the creativity that once drove the hip hop culture. Hip hop had always been

about trying new things before other people could think of it. Hip hop emphasized

creativity. Now as long as this formula is selling nobody is going to change.

Furthermore, hip hop is losing soldiers. The pressure for the real hip hop artist

to sell out to the masses has never been higher. To illustrate this point is

Krs One; a hip hop pioneer. Krs One was one of the most respected true hip hop

artists and several of his albums are considered by true hip hop fans as classics.

However he lost a lot of respect after working with mainstream artists such

as Puff Daddy. In an interview with ThaFormula.com, Krs One was asked about

his change of style that started in 1996, Krs responded with, "I have to

compete; this is the whole real issue. I may not be able to continue my legacy

as a classic Hip hop record maker. It’s like, either I get with the Neptunes

and let them produce a hit LP for me or … I don’t know… I am not being


Krs One fell victim

to the commercialization of hip hop by tailoring his style to appeal to the

masses. The reason for Krs One changing his style is money. Krs One noticed

that the less talented mainstream artists were making a lot more money and he

sacrificed his music to get a piece of that pie. This has happened to other

artists as well and most have been unsuccessful in crossing over to the mainstream.

The mainstream artists hold the biggest responsibility. What we need for them

to do is to make revolutionary changes using the power they wield with their

popularity, but as long as the money is being raked in it is doubtful this will


What needs to happen

is to get more grassroots artists and organizations striving towards creativity

instead of record sales. The way for this to happen is to support these artists.

One way to support them is to simply spread the word about them. These artists

do not get media attention therefore it is up to the people to let the other

people know. Another step to support these artists is to stop downloading their

songs off the Internet. These artists need the record sales more than a platinum

selling artist does. Although the Internet allows these artists to gain exposure,

they also need to be supported financially by people buying the albums. The

financial desperation of some of these artists often leads them to adopting

a thug image to attain record sales.

There is no doubt

that America’s infatuation with sex and violence is also to blame for thug glorification.

The reason this image is being sold is because there is a big market for it.

As long as something is not illegal Corporate America will supply it. Society

as a whole has gotten used to this. In a recent survey people were asked if

they were offended by rap music, 70% of the people were not offended. Society

has been numbed and for the most part is not easily offended, but another reason

they are not offended is because they do not know the history of the hip hop

culture. If all the people surveyed knew the foundation of hip hop they would

be repulsed by what is happening to it. The people who are going out and purchasing

these multi-platinum thug artists’ albums must learn about the history of the

culture. Once the people know the foundation of hip hop they will come to realize

that what they had been purchasing is not quality music.

The change must

start with the people we need to decide how we want to be represented in the

media.. Corporate America will continue to do anything in their power to make

as much money as possible. The mainstream artists will continue to conform to

what corporate America wants them to do. It is the people that must say that

they have had enough. This is not just going to happen on its own it is going

to take a movement. There are several ways to get involved and the people can

start by visiting the forum at Anti-Thug.com. Here the people will find a medium

with which to discuss the issues that lie within the mainstream media. This

will allow the people to develop their foundation. In the words of DJ Lord Ron,

"I know my foundation, people, do you know yours?"