Over the last few years, gangsta rap has infiltrated mainstream music, leaving messages that are misogynistic and violent. The artists speak on gang violence, drug usage, and designer brands, leading their listeners to desire the high-end life that these rappers allude to in their music. The messages in these songs have since deviated from their original purpose: to bind people together based on shared experiences.
Hip hop was a cultural movement formed in the 1970’s, but gained popularity in the 80’s and 90’s. The main components consist of MCing (rapping), graffiti, deejaying, and break dancing. The movement was started back in the 60’s when unemployment was high and the Bronx was on fire, but from “all of that turbulence and upheaval was the birth of hip hop” (Joe Conzo, Hip-Hop Evolution). Gangs wreaked havoc among the neighborhoods in the Bronx, leaving the younger boys there with stories to tell, using rap as a means to tell their stories that other people could relate to.
In a time of turmoil, hip hop was a way to organize the people. It was created to allow black people to reconnect with their roots that society deemed unworthy. From the Bronx in the 60’s and 70’s, the notion of hip hop spread country-wide in the 80’s and 90’s. Iconic rappers sprouted such as Tupac Shakur, M.C. Hammer, and Puff Daddy. This era was the birth of gangsta rap and pimp culture “it reflected the violent life-style of inner-city African Americans” (BMXE). Rap allowed for upcoming stars to get inspiration from their role models; E-40, a rapper in the late 80’s early 90’s, stated he could relate to Too Short’s music because he lived through the same things: the crackhead searching for dope, the violence, and money-hungry people. Hip hop had succeeded in its purpose- black empowerment.
Rappers told their stories through their verses, the group N.W.A spoke on police brutality towards minority groups in the song “F*** tha Police.” Ice Cube, a member of the rap group, said, “I’m brown, and not the other color so police think they have the authority to kill a minority.” Although they articulated it in different ways, rappers of the 80’s and 90’s spoke out against injustice. On a television interview, Tupac Shakur stated, “because I was an outspoken young black male” when questioned on why the police brutally beat him. This message has been made weaker by rappers in 2019.
Moving into the 21st century, hip hop transformed even more, from artists speaking on socially conscious issues, to writing verses about lucrative things such as drugs, gangs, sex, and speaking about women in a repulsive way. Rappers such as 6ix9ine have misconstrued the purpose of creating rap music; he uses his voice to slander women and glorify gang life. There are still a few members of the hip hop community who continue with the original meaning of hip hop; they include J Cole, Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, and others. They use their platform to speak on controversial issues occurring in the United States and even more specifically to the African American community.
The message hip hop was first created for was seemingly lost in translation as the years went on. Black empowerment was traded in for gang empowerment, speaking on current issue was replaced by the illusion of a high end lifestyle with designer brands.
Aalyana Bryan, Staff Writer
Senior Aalyana Bryan is a staff writer for the 2019-2020 Colonel newspaper. She spends her time listening to music and binge-watching Netflix. When she’s not doing that, she’s spending time with her baby cousin Bryce.