When Hip-Hop was born in the late 70’s, beats and lyrics were the structured body of the phenomenal genre. Being the greatest lyricist with the most creative rhymes was an artist’s claim to fame when Hip-Hop hit the streets. It was all about how the artist could assimilate his/her rhymes to something a listener could effortlessly relate to – the art of storytelling. Public Enemy, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were the leaders of the then new school genre where beats loaded with drums, bass and scratch solos paired with rhyme skill was the pinnacle of their notoriety.
But as time progressed, Hip-Hop was no longer a creative display of lyricism and began to shed the image of emcees, breakers and DJ’s. Controversy has shrouded the art form and its constituents since its inception, but more so when gangsta rap became the cause for concern among those who believed the hard core lyrics perpetuated violence. Although the hype surrounding such theories came to its eventual end, it didn’t hurt record sales, in fact, millions were sold and record label execs saw there was money to be made.
Once corporate music moguls took control over the rap game, imagery has become the thriving crux to its existence. No longer are emcees boasting of poetic flows; rappers are now swinging chains laced with diamonds, glamorizing drug money, murder and harems of “hoes” for the star and each member of his entourage. While the phrases and Hip-Hop culture has found its way into commercial marketability, what does it truly cost? How does is affect the children who listen and aspire to be like their favorite rapper? Does it create a false sense of reality among adults? Are rap artists selling their integrity to a label in exchange for a check and stardom?
HipHopWired has launched an investigation into the societal affects of Hip-Hop culture and its imagery. HHW is looking to find a balance of responsibilities. Are the labels pumping ignorance to the community for the sake of entertainment and capital gain? Or do the artists have a moral responsibility to the community? We will seek the opinions of professionals, the artists themselves and label execs to get the truest depiction possible of the general purpose behind such portrayals.
Warren Ballentine, motivational speaker and host of his self-titled daytime talk radio show, weighed in on the subject and feels that both parties are partly responsible.
“I think, it’s a little of both. I think it’s an escape process for a lot of the people but I do think that a lot of these children are hearing these songs and looking at these rappers and thinking this is the way they really live. Not realizing that most of these cats are married, raising kids, living in the suburbs. They’re not out here selling dope, shooting people, it’s how they make their money and that’s why they’re rappers and all this.
But they really not living like that, and I think until you get a PSA where you have maybe a Warren Ballentine with a Lil’ Wayne and a Ludacris and we’re talking about, ‘Hey, this is music, this is not reality and that you can be a lawyer and you can be a doctor outside of being a rapper, I think that’s when you change the dynamic.”
Why not a PSA to the general public? Would artists of such musical caliber come together and announce to the public that what they rap about is in no way a reality? Or would it be too cowardly and seemingly false? Is it time for Hip-Hop to turn a new leaf? What are your thoughts?
Stay tuned for further developments.