Pop Culture 254
Hip-Hop is commonly described is a musical genre, dominated by ethnic groups and highlighted by use of heavy base lines and soulful rhythm. Many are unaware that ‘Hip-Hop” started as a culture including break dancing, beat boxing, street art and record scratching as well as rap music. The culture evolved in 1970s’ New York and its’ inter city ethnic neighborhoods, where spoken word was used to characterize the state of the peoples’ social misfortunes. Over the course of forty years, the culture witnessed many rebirths and changes. Rap music remained mostly underground until the 1980s, but soon gained nationwide exposure thanks to groups like Run DMC and Public Enemy. Early artists, Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy were best known for recording music with socially conscience messages and gained easy fan fare among those sympathetic to their various causes. The group NWA out of Compton, California, began in the late 1980’s and pioneered gangster rap, thus ushering in a new era. This genre reflected the violent lifestyles of young black men, glorifying cop killing, drug use and robbery. By the 1990’s rap cemented itself in American pop-culture, rising to become one of the most popular musical genres. The commercialization of rap and the culture surrounding rappers, shifted Hip-Hops’ social ideals to dollar signs. Furthermore, as rap continually evolved, the message did as well and rappers began to sell records forgoing politically conscience content. Rap eventually rose to be the dominant genre in pop culture, as rap became cool and so did the lifestyles of those rapping. This common lifestyle shared by popular rappers, is the lifestyle of impoverished American ethnic groups. These rapper’s lives are filled with crime, drug use, gang activity and violence as a result of the area they inhabit. Popular culture packages this unsavory lifestyle with rap music and sells it to Americans as cool. The dangers of this association have unfortunately shifted Hip Hop culture from a outlet for disenfranchised youths of low economic areas to speak their mind on social issues to a pulpit that encourages drug use, violence and misogyny.
As a result of rap changing over time, regional sub-categories like Hyphy and Crunk began to gain nationwide popularity. Crunk and Hyphy respectively originate from the South and the Bay Area. These sub divisions of rap are particularly shallow in lyrical content and many songs are designed for dance clubs.
I will focus on the Hyphy movement as it shows how rap can influence the young. To be Hyphy is to dance or act in an over the top manner and Hyphy music facilities such action with its signature gritty pounding rhythms. Hyphy music reflects the lifestyles of Bay Area artists, Mac Dre, E-40 and Keak da Sneak. These rappers do their part to link alcohol, drugs, violence and pimping with Hyphy music with the strongest of these connections being ecstasy use. To say Hyphy music encourages ecstasy use would be an understatement. “Thizz” (as it is referred to) is the backbone of the culture. In order to achieve a state of hyphyness, it is first necessary to somehow lose control of yourself; “go dumb”, “go stupid”,“start giggin.” The preferred way to go dumb is to take drugs that loosen your inhibitions like ecstasy. “Thizzle Dance” was a popular song about ecstasy and dancing further encouraging its use. People in this culture also tie hyphyness to a source of pride, causing people to strive to be out of control and on drugs. The movements figurehead, Mac Dre, painted females in a negative light almost as frequently as he mentioned drug use. By linking hyphy music eternally to pimping and drugs, the forefathers of Hyphy music created a culture of young adults who emulate such negative behavior.
It is my goal in this class to study the transition of rap music as a positive vehicle for social change into a bad influence on American teens. It goes to show that once something is “cool” it easily catches on. I believe it is interesting to look at the change in Hip-Hop music because once the culture gained commercial notoriety, the original message was scrapped to sell records and it’s effects on society become negative.