Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
Hip-hop has finally come full circle as it took center stage for this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg headlined the show that also included Mary J. Blige, Eminem, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar.
The world of hip-hop hailed the event as a coronation of an underground taboo finally triumphing in the mainstream. But not everyone is singing its praises.
Of course, the performance met the approval of corporate media. At the same time, conservative influencers and outlets gave their opposition more than enough ammunition to play their favorite card.
The real reason Charlie Kirk and Turning Point USA despised the performance has nothing to do with “sexual anarchy” and more to do with confederate-style white supremacy. Or so says the woke establishment media.
Within the usual race baiting and hyperbolic tweets, a real discussion ensued on the influence hip-hop has contributed to society. There were great takes on both sides, however, I think this discussion was missing an important point.
I wrote an article not too long ago on the need for culture reform to rehabilitate criminal offenders. As an ex-felon myself, I’ve seen the prison reform grift where so-called “intellectuals” analyze the criminal element from their Marxist ivory towers. They have no real experience in these matters but see a financial incentive to explain the lifestyle in the most philanthropic manner possible.
Couple these “experts” with former offenders willing to ignore reality for the sake of “activism,” and you see through the facade. Or at least, how it relates to the formerly incarcerated.
When it comes to reforming the criminal justice system, the focus is on reforming the institutions as opposed to looking internally and rectifying a culture that glorifies murder, sexual promiscuity, misogyny, addiction, etc.
I’m not saying that institutional change isn’t warranted in some respects. However, the culture can be fixed without having to wait for an outside entity to pursue this. Hip-hop has the same answers.
Before I go on, let me address some of the feedback from the previous article that centered on race. Criminal, more specifically gang, culture is not exclusive to a particular race. At one time, gang culture was rooted in economics because impoverished communities leaned on criminality to navigate themselves out of poverty.
That has since changed. Now, we’re seeing the ensuing culture spawned from this element being transplanted in the suburbs and other surrounding areas of the inner city. The “culture,” as it has become known, finds itself on all different rungs of society.
Hip-hop in and of itself is an art form. Originally, it was a voice of those from the bottom rungs. It was the untold story of the forgotten played over hypnotic beats and chronic smoke. Like the story of America, it grew from its utterly savage ambition to not just be heard, but to be great.
But this rawness has become an out-of-control tsunami that has added to the moral decay from which it emerged. The conscious political rap of KRS-One, X-Clan, and Dead Prez never survived the wave of gangsterism that saturated the culture.
West coast Bloods and Crips, east coast dope-dealing in the project hallways, and down south jackers and trappers became the dominant force in hip-hop. The values became beholden to the criminal and gang element.
The problem isn’t hip-hop, race, or even economics. The problem is that a culture of moral decay has taken root and hasn’t let go. Hip-hop has contributed more than any other conduit to this decay. It has become a voice of degeneracy, where millionaires find themselves at constant odds with the law and peers.
Other genres have their dark sides as well. However, these acts do not constitute the dominant culture like it does in hip-hop. Country western artists can sing about bar fights and stealing cars, but this doesn’t mean all country western artists have to condone this behavior.
That’s not the case in hip-hop because hip-hop is subjected to gang cultural principles. Even artists that aren’t considered “gangsta rappers” can’t deviate from the code.
With the streets and hip-hop so intertwined, the influence they have on each other, and ultimately the listener, is greater than other genres. Eric Clapton can sing “I Shot the Sheriff” without causing police shootings because Clapton isn’t singing to an audience with disdain for police, unlike N.W.A.’s “F**k the Police.”
Clapton is referencing an anomaly in the culture of his listeners, so much so that it is viewed as entertainment by most. However, when 2Pac made “Hit ‘Em Up” and told Biggie and Bad Boy Records to “die slow,” it was genuine, as evidenced by the five bullet wounds he received years earlier in a setup he felt Big and his crew were in on.
Yes, there are historical truths and events that have helped create this paradigm. Systemic oppression/racism has led to economic disparities. But today, those institutional roadblocks have either been eradicated or have eroded to the point of obscurity.
Culture doesn’t cost anything other than your values. Capitalism or white supremacy isn’t the cause of your ills. It’s the culture you’ve given control of the genre to. It uplifts the voices that have been most detrimental to society. But you don’t want to take responsibility for giving passes to those who need to be checked just because they make a beat you can make Tik Tok videos to.
The convergence of the two is evidenced by the common value system. Gang culture celebrates incarceration. It’s seen as a badge of honor, “stripes.” The same is true of violence, especially violence against one’s “opps,” or opposition/enemies.
More so, how a hip-hop artist handles his “beef” determines his “realness.” Running or “turning down” is viewed as a serious violation of one’s status and manhood. A rapper going to jail for any period of time increases his stature in the streets and in the rap game. It’s all centered around the same principles.
There is no shame in these things in hip-hop. Artists proudly yell “Free (insert incarcerated homie’s name)” without giving any thought to the crime they committed, the victim’s family, or any of the maladies that should cause shame when discussed in public. Not in hip-hop.
Society, not just hip-hop, has devolved in its understanding and application of morality. 60 years ago, the idea of a man and a woman having a child without first being married was taboo. “Shotgun weddings” were society’s response to out-of-wedlock pregnancies, where unmarried expecting couples got married before the child was born to avoid the shame of having a child outside the marriage union.
Today, the terms “baby mama” and “baby daddy” have become common vernacular as the nuclear family has all but been dismantled.
The lack of shame in the hip-hop community comes from the lack of shame in the streets. There is no social stigma that comes with criminality, sexual promiscuity, or drug use. Not when they are given the exact opposite treatment and praised.
Nothing embodies this more than Snoop Dogg Crip walking during the Super Bowl Halftime Show. In front of the largest TV audience of the year, broadcasted around the world, a gang member celebrated the entity that so many died in the name of.
Children have lost their fathers because their fathers were more loyal to Crips than they were to their kids. It should be a slap in the face to the mothers who have to live with the fact that their child would still be alive if not for gang violence.
Snoop Dogg doesn’t have to live that reality. He can promote the idea of Cripping from his home tucked away in the suburbs. He escaped the penitentiary and the graveyard that the majority of gang members experience due to his talent. Yet, he uses his platform to promote an ideology that has led to more death, incarceration, and broken homes than international rap stars.
Degeneracy has become mainstream in so many ways. Boundaries and moral structure are frowned upon as anti-progressive. The lack of fathers in the household has left generations raised without the discipline masculinity provides.
Instead, the hip-hop generation, like the streets, was raised on a diet of feminine energy absent its natural counterpart. The result is what you see. No other genre has internal beefs that lead to untimely deaths of artists like hip-hop.
It has been argued that because white suburban kids are the biggest consumer of hip-hop that there’s no correlation between hip-hop’s violent rhetoric and inner-city gang violence. They argue if this were true, then the suburbs would be just as, if not more, violent.
The problem with this analysis is that it ignores an important variable. Hip-hop may be speaking to the consumer, but it speaks about the subject, in this case the criminal element found in the inner cities.
To Lil’ Suburban Timmy, hip-hop allows him to peek into a world far removed from his own. He can live his fantasies as narrated by his favorite rapper. But once the beat has played out, he goes back to living according to the expectations set by family lineage.
Lil’ Suburban Timmy doesn’t have to fulfill the societal expectations that hip-hop sets in the mainstream narrative. Those expectations are only reinforced amongst the underground criminal elements. Hip-hop is what allows this element to gain legitimacy in the same narrative.
When you have given value to such degenerate acts as committing crimes, and those things became a testament to your “street cred,” you can’t expect these maladies to just disappear. But then again, would it benefit the industry for it to disappear?
Sex sells and so does violence. Hip-hop gives you both. It enriches a select few from the criminal underground to sell the stories to a crowd far removed. Meanwhile, the rise in its popularity places a greater expectation on that element to live up to lyrics in their songs. It’s a never-ending cycle that some would argue is designed that way.
Hip-hop reflects the communities in which it was born. It carries with it the weight of both good and bad elements from those communities. However, what sells better for record executives is the violence, the addiction, and the misogyny. Those elements get packaged and promoted, then consumed by the sight seers and fulfilled by the next wave of an incarcerated class. The cycle continues. The positivity is engulfed by the negative, ensuring that the negative always has the loudest voice.
It’s a testament to where we are today where people will protest a popular comedian like Dave Chappelle for asking basic questions about human biology yet have no qualms celebrating someone who said “B*****s aint s**t but h**s and tricks.”
They have no problem marching in the street for “police brutality,” yet perform a dance on Tik Tok that represents a gang that has led to many deaths within the community. But maybe that’s the way the record executive wants it.
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