By Rahsaan Thomas
What kind of influence does rap music have? Is it just entertainment, politically driven or negative motivation? The Yard Talk panel discussed these issues, and their answers were mixed.
J. “Killa Clown” Medvin, 30, is a Caucasian rapper from Santa Rosa, California. For Medvin, rap was an escape from life’s horrors, like his drug-addicted father.
“Rapwas a positive influence for me,” said Medvin. “Songs like Tupac’s Dear Momma, Unconditional Love and Brenda’s Got a Baby showed me humanity and compassion.”
David Jassy: “Rap was more positive than negative growing up. The whole thing back then was we were breaking [dancing] instead of fighting. That was what was so positive about the movement.”
Medvin: “Rap can be both negative and positive. It’s also an entertainment and you have to realize that. If you kill somebody and blame it on rap music then you probably have psychological issues already.”
While Medvin believes music can’t be the root cause of an issue, studies support that exposure to violent media increases aggression-related thoughts and behavior. Exposure to positive music also increases pro-society thoughts and tendencies. (Tobias Greitemeyer, Effects of songs with prosocial lyrics on prosocial thoughts, affect, and behavior, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology).
Experiments have provided evidence that people are capable of committing evil acts under certain situational forces. “The expectations of others often become self-fulfilling prophecies,” wrote Phillip Zimbardo in The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (p. 321.) “We often become who other people think we are, in their eyes.”
Mainstream rap music often tells its audience that being drug dealers makes sense.
“I’ve seen it all; you have no choice but to get involved; you either spit it raw, sold coke or dribble the ball,” rapped Meek Mills on Dream Chasers 3.
Eric Curtis: “Four members of N.W.A. (rap group) are from my hood in Compton. Everything they were pushing, I was trying to push…and it spread like wildfire. Rap went hand in hand with gang bangers, and gang banging was worse than crack cocaine. It killed off more people.”
Lewis: “You had rappers pushing products they weren’t even endorsed to do, but it made me want those products. Easy-E’s brand was Old English 800, if I want to be like him, I gotta drink Old E. He had a low rider, I wanted a Low ride or a G-ride, because they had a stolen car story.”
Johnson: “When I was out there, the music wasn’t gangster rap. When Dana Dane [an old school rapper] spoke of robbing someone and getting lockup, it was a cautionary tale. It didn’t stop us from doing what we did, but we went into these things informed from the cautionary tales. Now you have absent daddies where individuals get instructions from someone who doesn’t mean them any good. Rap is telling kids today that success comes from having a Bentley. If you don’t have these things, then you are nothing; you can’t enter into this social circle. It makes kids want to cut corners to get what rappers say make you relevant.”
Antwan “Banks” Williams, age 27: “Rap is more negative on our youth nowadays. If rappers portray their life as money, strippers, guns and drugs, they are going to attract easily influenced youngsters and adults.”
Most of the panel concluded rap has become a harmful authority to its listeners. It convinces many youths their only hope of overcoming the ghetto is to sell drugs, rap or play a sport. In doing so, it pushes an agenda of cultural destruction.
In the third installment of this six-part series, the Yard Talk panel will discuss how “keeping it real” ruined rap.
Trenise Ferreira contributed to this story.