Just five seconds before the Super Bowl’s halftime show started, Twitter was abuzz with discussion about hip-hop artists and their potential negative effects on black communities. The conversation among conservatives, in particular, was reminiscent of the age-old discussion over the value – or lack thereof – of rap music.
Dr. Carol Swain joined the conversation, pointing out that black rappers are not doing much to improve their lives. She tweeted:
It seems like I missed something as I was watching the halftime shows that many left- and right-leaning people thought were amazing. Help me by listing the many great contributions rappers made to improving the lives of African Americans in America. #HalfTimeShow
As I watched last night’s halftime show, many people on both the left and right thought it was fantastic. Help me by telling all of the wonderful things rappers have done for black Americans. #HalfTimeShow
— Dr. Carol M. Swain (@carolmswain) February 14, 2022
Adrian Norman, a conservative political commentator, responded to the thread by listing some examples of rappers who use their wealth specifically for improving conditions within the black community.
Dre has donated $70M towards a USC new program in business marketing, design, and production. development and design. 50 Cent has a foundation that does food & clothing drives, along w/ community work. His lifesaving water projects in Africa are also part of his foundation.
Dre has donated $70M towards a USC new degree program. It combines marketing, business and prod. development and design. 50 Cent has a foundation that does food & clothing drives, along w/ community work. He also does lifesaving water projects in Africa (1/6) https://t.co/PAsEq3sNvw
— Adrian Norman (@AdrianNormanDC) February 14, 2022
Delano Squires (my friend and contributing writer for The Blaze) also discussed the issue. Delano Squires tweeted:
@JeffOnTheRight – Honest question, would a $$ amount make it public for you to degrade (through imagery and lyrics) your image of children, family, friends, Queen or any other member of the community? If not, why do we co-sign for others what we don’t practice ourselves?
Honest question @JeffOnTheRightIs there any dollar amount that could publicly make you degrade the image of your children, relatives, queen, or other members of your community through lyrics and imagery? If not, why do we co-sign for others what we don’t practice ourselves? https://t.co/NqLbvDQlhU
— Delano Squires (@DelanoSquires) February 14, 2022
Many people, regardless of their political beliefs, point the finger at hip hop music when talking about issues such as gang violence or drug trafficking in inner-city communities. Specifically, they cite the type of “gangsta rap,” pioneered by artists like Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and others who performed at the Super Bowl, as prime culprits inspiring “black-on-black” violence.
It is not a fact that only rap music can cause these problems. People have often said that rap music is one of the major drivers of gang activity within the city. This debate has been going on for decades.
Are we able to see rap music within its true context?
Most black Americans listening to hip-hop aren’t involved in gang activities. A large portion of hip hop fans is white. However, there is no evidence of an increase in drug-related or gang violence in suburbia.
We can also look at a fascinating statistic, which might give some insight: suicides.
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report comparing suicide rates between minorities and whites. The suicide rate among white Americans was 19.1 per 100,000. It was 7.1 for Asians and Hispanics. Blacks had a rate of 6.6. This is more suicides than the minorities.
We don’t see much discussion about the impact of alternative music, rock, grunge and punk on society. As a fan of all of these musical styles – along with hip-hop – I can tell you a lot of these musicians create some of the most depressing music you will ever hear and has been consumed by millions of white Americans. Is it possible that these songs are driving suicides?
So what’s the problem?
It is often the environment that is responsible. On my podcast, I discussed the issue with King Randall, founder of “The X For Boys,” an organization dedicated to lifting up black children in Albany, Georgia. He mentors and prepares them for adulthood through his program.
Randall told me the reason he started his organization is “because a lot of their issues are mainly their environment that they’re in. So we can take them out of those environments where they’re committing crimes, et cetera, or just being around the wrong crowd, we could have a significant decrease in the crime rate for boys ages 11 to 17.”
Rap music was never something I thought played a significant role in many of the issues we face as black men. This is not to say there aren’t valid criticisms of much of the rap music that has been produced. Many of the rap music is particularly demeaning for black women. Some artists glorify poor behavior. Music is a powerful tool. I am a musician. Music alone isn’t enough to drive someone to violent crime, I believe. As my good friend Darvio “The Kingpin” Morrow said:
It’s the blanket statements. Like “ALL of rap is bad.” “There’s not 1 redeeming value of hip hop at all”. That’s what it sounds like ppl are saying. You could be right. But it’s like “all of your problems would go away if u pulled up your pants & only listened to Johnny Mathis”
It’s the blanket statements. Like “ALL of rap is bad.” “There’s not 1 redeeming value of hip hop at all”. That’s what it sounds like ppl are saying. You could be right. But it’s like “all of your problems would go away if u pulled up your pants & only listened to Johnny Mathis” lol
— Darvio Morrow (@DTheKingpin) February 15, 2022
Morrow said that music is a product of the struggles faced by the black community, and not vice-versa. The songs of these musicians are drawing attention not to glorifying the issues.
My position is that the environment – created largely by so-called progressive policy – breeds far more criminality than hip-hop. Rap music could have an additive effect on this environment if it plays any part. Beverly Hills makes it less likely that a person of color will become involved or have to go through gang activity.
Same goes for suicides and whites. The music of rock does not inspire someone to end their own lives. However, rock music can magnify existing mental or environmental health problems. The reality is that the vast majority of those who listen to Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” are not going to consider suicide.
This is why hip-hop can be more distracting than an avenue for genuine solutions. It might be more beneficial to concentrate on the actual issues than blaming music if we really want to solve these problems.