By BENJAMIN WILLIAMS
“Hip hop reflects the truth, and the problem is that hip hop exposes a lot of the negative truth that society tries to conceal. It’s a platform where we could offer information, but it’s also an escape.” — Busta Rhymes
Due to the tragic events that have recently rocked us to our core — tragic events in Sandy Hook, Aurora, and most recently in Albuquerque — we as a nation are left divided regarding new anti-gun laws. Some say the availability of guns on the streets of America is an epidemic. Others claim that the focus should not be on availability, but on the causes of the increased violent nature in our country today.
The debate about entertainment’s responsibility as a cause of violence is also one that has raged on over the decades due to the increased visibility of movies, music, video games, etc. However, one of the most targeted forms of entertainment is the art of hip hop.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently struck a chord a little bit closer to home in regards to these issues. A report released by the FBI lists two of the deadliest cities in America today as being right here in Michigan — Detroit at #3 and Flint at #4. These two demographics also have the highest concentration of urban low-income people, those who are considered to be the core participants in the hip hop industry today.
Some would be quick to jump on the bandwagon after reading my previous statement and assume that “hip hop causes violence;” therefore “it’s an artist’s fault that people are being murdered in our streets.” But is it not more effective to ask, “Why are these the messages being portrayed in the music?”
The art form is based on storytelling, and many artists today believe that their music is a way for them to report to the world exactly what it is that is happening in their lives and in their neighborhoods around the world. Is violence a byproduct of music? Or is music a byproduct of society as these individuals see it?
For me, the answer is clear. Long before hip hop, there was violence. Human nature dictates on an almost guaranteed level that the strongest will survive while the weakest among us will perish. So if the music we hear today is a depiction of that same mentality, why point the finger at the artists? Instead I suggest looking in the mirror and asking yourself, “What is it that we have done as a society to create these circumstances?”
A quote from a song sums up my entire argument: “Hip hop ain’t responsible for violence in America. America’s responsible for violence in America.” — Shyne; “More or Less”
(Benjamin Williams, a Mid Michigan Community College student, produces a website that conducts and publishes interviews with hip hop artists. It can be viewed at http://www.musicbliss.net.)