Music is said to be soothing to the soul. It has a therapeutic effect on people and many people have used music to reduce stress, to remember an occasion or even to dedicate to a person they love. Musicians use poetic words in composing their songs on different themes like love, a certain culture among others. Since time immemorial, listening to music has been a pastime activity and a hobby to many people. Music is the art of using organized words to produce a sound that is pleasing to the ears. For some sounds to qualify as music they must possess the following qualities; pitch which is the element that controls the melody and harmony of the sound, rhythm which consists of various elements like tempo and sound articulation, dynamism and must have sound qualities of texture and the timbre of music. There are various genres of music depending on the style of composition and the message. The common genres include the following; country music, jazz, rock, reggae, soul and R&B, and most recently hip hop among others. Hip hop as a genre is defined by application of some stylistic elements like scratching, rapping and beatboxing (Smiles para 2). Sampling and DJing are all part of hip hop music. Hip hop has its roots in New York City in the Bronx. This was in the 1970s when hip hop and hip hop culture swept the streets of the Bronx. Hip hop culture got its origin from the working class populations of New York City. Among other things it was characterized by use of graffiti writings and use of a version of English known as slang. Hip hop music was originally used by disc jockeys that helped create beats with a specific rhythm on two turntables (Smiles para. 4). Before the early 1980s, hip hop was not known outside the United States; however, that decade marked its spread to other continents. It soon became a common genre in many countries and the world. Presently, hip and rap music are the fastest growing genres of in the US. They have accounted for more than 10% of the total music sales in the year 1998 (Keith, 10). It is currently characterized by use of street slang, a dress code consisting of baggy pants, expensive sneakers and wearing of caps which are often worn facing downwards. Music can be used to spread messages across different generations and therefore having certain impacts on the society. Hip hop is of no exception and have had different impacts in the United States. This paper discusses the impact of hip hop on the society, academics and on influencing people’s opinion by giving the positive and negative aspects of hip hop.
Hip hop’s impact on the society
According to Price (11), language is an important factor in the society and changes as the society changes. Since the beginning of hip hop in the 1970s, it has evolved with time and brought many changes to society. In the 1970s there was rise in violence, society decadence and the economic growth was on the downturn. Innovative youths formed the hip hop culture as a movement that brought the youths together and increased harmony among them. Much of their time was spent rapping and dancing to the hip hop rhythms instead of engaging in crime activities. This minimized the feeling of hopelessness that had crept into their young minds and in the entire neighborhood. Hip hop had a great impact of bringing people of many cultures, social beliefs, races and ethnicities together. Many people used this music to express themselves with determination. This was achieved singularly or collectively as a group of youth from one city. It brought hopes among the desperate children who saw it as an instrument to express their fears and a hope to improve the living standards of the poor in the society (Price 12). The reduction of social crimes at those times can be attributed to hip hop culture.
Hip hop culture has had a lot of influence on the current trends in fashion and design. Many young people adorn themselves with expensive clothing from established labels like Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger. This clothing consists of baggy and sagging trousers accompanied by colorful polo shirts or T-shirts and sneakers. Established stores around the US are reaping great profits through the sale of this stuff. Most of this type of clothing is worn by kids from African-American origin as a portrayal of success. As noted by Kakutani (18), this has left many white youths romanticizing this lifestyle of which many of the black kids are fighting to escape from. In the present world this trend has changes and the hip hop fashion and clothing has been embraced by all across the ethnic boundaries. The success of hip hop fashion has seen even many artists open up clothing labels to make a kill from this industry. Such rappers as Jay Z have cloth lines and together with their hip hop music they have evolved to be among the richest people in America. With the advent of time hip hop clothing will be the common feature and will be adorned by many of us in our society.
Hip hop music has been used by various singers as a tool for philanthropic work and struggle for rights. Some singers have embraced charity work and are joining hands to helping the poor and vulnerable in our society. Many special performances have been organized in support of famous musicians to support noble causes like fight against cancer. Due to their popularity and fan base they have helped to propagate noble ideas among the youth. This was demonstrated recently when various singers did several performances to raise funds to support the victims of Haiti earthquake. By so doing our society is improved through taking care of the helpless among us. Some female artists like Miss Elliot and Queen Latifah have used their music to prove black power. They have empowered the American woman against male domination and their involvement in civil rights movements hence breaking into the public sphere.
The advent of hip hop has also created a society that is free from oppression and racism (Smiles, para.6). Previously, workers from the African –American origin could not hold certain positions in company hierarchy and were left to perform the manual jobs that involved a lot of energy use. Currently, this trend has changed and many blacks are presidents of big companies including some hip hop artists who have become business moguls and opened their business empires and hence being the president. This has created a balance in the distribution of wealth in this 21st society.
Hip hop’s impact on education
Hip hop culture has changed the language that is used in American schools presently. It has changed some sounds and rules that govern the English language. Many words that were not used in the old school language have now gained populace in usage in schools around the US. Words like hood and crib are in common usage meaning the neighborhood and places of residence respectively. They were previously common terms of usage among the youth conversing on slang (Smiles, para.5). In fact the phrases like bling-bling have been added to the oxford English dictionary and the Merriam-webster collegiate dictionary included the word crunk in its English usage. In colleges, they have embraced usage of slang English and phrases like peace out and what’s up have become popular in usage among the students. It is now more clearly and widely accepted that hip hop culture has really changed the English language in America.
Hip hop has had an impact of promoting education among the black community in the US. The realization that they have the potential to greater heights and to be any career that one chooses has encouraged the youths to embrace academics and therefore have improved results. Several artists have used hip hop music to give messages on the need for education for meeting future dreams and for good careers in life. By so doing, school enrollment has increased and truancy rates gone down.
Our schools have however, been facing a trend of violence that have been associated to hip hop by various analysts (Chang 20). Hip hop has been known to show braveness and courage and mostly disrespect to authority. Various popular hip hop musicians like Eminem and even T. I have been arrested and put behind bars due to being disrespectful to the authorities by engaging in different forms of crimes. This people are respected by the youths in schools due to their prowess in music and are therefore taken as role models by the students. Their violence displays are therefore emulated in the schools. This has led to a rise in school violence as was witnessed lately when a student killed his fellow friends in school. School guidance and counseling is recommended for students in order to guide them in choosing those behaviors to emulate and those to disregard.
Hip hop’s impact on public opinion
Music of any kind can help pass messages across any political divide. It is a social mover and is mostly used to politicians’ advantage in pushing certain propaganda. Music is listened to across generations and therefore a strong tool to use to pass a certain message. Presently, hi hop culture has penetrated all the cultures in the US with its distinctive rhythms and beats. Due to its appeal across the different cultures, hip hop is a significant unifier of people towards a certain noble course. Hip hop has its roots to the Bronx in the 1970s; however, its influences are currently felt in the whole world. In the US alone hip hop’s audience is more 70% non blacks (Reese, p.1). This statistics puts hip hop as a good tool to reach to large numbers of people to spread a certain opinion in the public domain. Recently, during the presidential elections in which president Barrack Obama won, hip hop can be said to have played a significant role to win the younger people’s vote. Popular songs like ‘my president is black’ by Young Jeezy swept the radio waves across the world. This increased a liking to the president and as a result his populace increased globally. As a result, he was voted in overwhelmly by large number of voters. Hip hop has also been used to push for a certain agenda as was witnessed during Haiti earthquake where famous hip hop singers like Mary J. led musicians in a funds drive for humanitarian assistance.
Negative impacts of hip hop music
Secular hip hop music contains explicit contents on violence, sex and use of drugs. This has sent a powerful message to the youths and their minds have been consumed into the activities propagated by the music. This has truly had negative impacts to our society’s morals and values. This music has portrayed African Americans unattractively and in negative light (Roach para. 6). The lyrics in their music contain horrifying tales of violence using guns. They have gone to an extent of glorifying violence. This has portrayed the black male as violent and very dangerous willing to go to any lengths even killing in order to achieve what he wants. According to Chang (5), this trend has portrayed the black as a threat to people’s life and as a result has increased racism in our society.
Hip hop music continues to display women as sex objects as seen in the explicit videos from popular artists like 50 cent and Young Buck. This has increased disrespect to black women who are displayed as prostitutes willing to do anything for money. In fact, songs from popular artist like Ludacris have lyrics telling the women to shake their money maker like they were shaking them for some paper. This disrespects women and portrays the as prostitutes. Finally, this songs are filled with explicit words like ‘whores’ and ‘bitch’ which have become common terms in hip hop. This has encouraged social crimes like rape in our societies.
Hip hop music have also displayed explicit pictures showing various artists using drugs and other dangerous substances. They have sung lyrics containing powerful messages on the ‘goodness’ of staying high. Rappers like Snoop Dog and Lil Wayne have been displayed in videos smoking weed and they stating how they can’t live without it. This is a bad display and has encouraged the vice among our youths who perceive these artists as their role models.
Hip hop music if used to spread messages of love, anti- racism and to encourage humanitarian assistance towards the vulnerable in our society can have a significant impact on our society, the education sector and on propagating a public opinion of importance. However, as history can tell it has been used to display African-American race as violent, drug abusers and sex pests (Roach para. 4). The artists should make an effort in shifting their music towards noble courses and change the current attitude on hip hop music. Although hip hop has had a negative impact on our society, it is worthy of noting its achievement in improving the living standards of many of the black people in the US. It has also been a powerful tool of fighting oppression and for the black civil rights.
In conclusion, hip hop culture has evolutionalized from a movement among a small group of blacks in New York City to gain populace around the globe. Its initial intentions of joining people together to end social crimes in the streets have been overturned by the current trend displaying use of violence, use of abusive words to the authorities like the police, immoral display of women as prostitutes and sex objects and glorification of drug usage. In fact, gone are the days when hip hop made you laugh and see hopes in the future through the spread of their well thought message. Present day artists have degraded society and only lyrics about the wealth the artists have. Hip hop culture should be uplifting to the black race where it traces its origin. By doing so, hip hop would display the strength of the African Americans in modern day society.
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Keith, Alexander. Hip-Hop Magazine Gets Fiery Start, Good and Bad. USA Today, 1998.
Kakutani, Michiko. “Culture Zone-Common Threads”. The New York Times Magazine. 1997. Web.
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