“Gangsta Rap” –Violence, Degradation and Revenge–the New Normal on MTV

By Anita L. Barber

While some forms of rap music promote progressive social change, self awareness and are anti drug in their lyrics; “gangsta” rap is the antithesis of that. The infiltration of gansta rap is everywhere. Just ask any student in grade three or four who Snoop Doggy Dog or Curtis 50 cent Jackson is. When you mention a gun while reading a tame Farley Mowat book on Owls, they “ooh and aah”. Shocking, so soon after the death of Jane Creba.

Gangsta rap portrays the violent nature of inner city life. One must take control over the environment to survive, they protest. Taking on an “in your face” persona means looking after your own self- interest. In this world, money and power are the basis of respect. Most children between the ages of 2 and 18 spend upwards of seven hours a day digesting these media messages in some form. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that with repeated exposure desensitization occurs. It makes destructive anti-social behaviour seem normal.

A recent study in the United States found that black teenage girls who listen to gangsta rap 15 hours a week on average are :

• 3 times more likely to hit a teacher

• Over 2.5 more times likely to get arrested

• Twice as likely to have multiple sexual partners

• 1.5 more times as likely to get sexually transmitted diseases, use drugs or drink alcohol

In addition :

• Black on black violence escalated sharply when gangsta rap rose in popularity in the 1980’s (according to Canadian statistics)

• At the same time rural populations also experienced a surge in violence

• White class adolescents (typically viewed as mainstream) try to pretend to be black. They are dubbed “wiggers”. Gangsta rap is attractive to white and black youth because it is rebellious and anti-establishment oriented. It glamorizes the bad guy who will not be pushed or told what to do. This attitude is all too prevalent in schools.

• Children who experience behavioural problems have found the perfect vehicle to legitimize their feelings and act out heir fantasies. The music has no respect for life. The message is, “If you mess with me, I’ll kill you.”

The key element in gangsta rap is aggression which is manifested and sustained in the Rappers’ body language, tone and witty rhymes. In gangsta rap, women are disposable playthings who exist solely for the purpose of satisfying a man’s abusive delight. Where else is it admirable to be callous, rude, cold blooded, unfeeling and defiant? They walk out of a 50 cent movie all revved up like a pit-bull ready to attack. Impulsive and living in the moment they steal our children’s bright futures. For those involved in drugs, crime and killing the music is an expression of their pathetic lives.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a Jerry Springer world. What is alarming is that when one behavior exists, it spreads. Gangsta rap influences how adolescents dress, walk, think. As well, it influences family relationships, school cliques, truancy, race relations and any ethical decisions. Some Rappers are criminals with records – this fact seems to enhance their street “cred”. Others are just in it for quick money and fame. They don’t care about the effect the lyrics have on teenagers who idolize them. They don’t care if it’s good or bad music. It’s all about the hype and the image. Superficiality rules with this genre.

Teens have committed suicide wearing headphones still playing the gangsta music. Adolescents have a lot of pressures, mixed messages and are a cocktail of hormones. Impressionable and vulnerable our youth need not be cast adrift. We need to de-culture and re-wire their cognitive thinking paired with the rewards for having a work ethic and integrity. Acknowledge life may have dealt you a bad hand but do not use that to rationalize violence, degradation and revenge. Everyone faces some form of discrimination.

We live in a materialistic, celebrity worshipping society and want fast instant fixes. The idea of preparing for an education in a chosen field is considered an imposition, time consuming, difficult and uncool. It is an age of entitlement. Satirically, it is that lack of education that drives the Rappers’ music into mediocrity. No need to learn the fundamentals of the music profession. These Rappers try to emulate each other rather than create their own unique sound. That would take thought, energy and motivation which are clearly deficient. How fast can we create a product, stylize it and market it? While some artists have talent, most gangsta Rappers don’t achieve longevity in the business. It is not something that will become a classic but rather an embarrassment over time. The gansta Rappers who do survive a lengthy period have toned down their rhetoric, become more inclusive and some have developed a conscience. Rap is a young person’s game. The wise ones progress to movies, talk shows or record companies.

City Pulse News was covering the sudden and tragic death of Jane Creba which for all appearances was supportive and sympathetic. However, on the same channel, an hour later Much Music was glorifying the gun and gang lifestyle. I had been in the house for only a short time after the second vigil when I saw this on television. I sat down to let my mind escape from the pain. Snoop Doggy Dog introduced Ice –T on stage as “the ultimate gangsta.” The young crowd applauded and ate it up. My stomach turned, for if “all the world’s a stage”, we need the final curtain go down on this hateful rubbish. “Stay tuned for more shooting and violence coming up after this break on Much” .Anything for a buck! There are dichotomy’s everywhere if you take the blinders off. Across the street from where Jane Creba was shot Sam the Record man was at that time selling an underground gang video.

What can I do?

• To launch a counter attack against the influence of gansta rap we need economic boycotts of record companies who produce it. We need pickets in front of music and television stations that give it air time.

• Women groups should lobby against it. The fatherless children should join the march.

• I want to launch an online petition to ban gangsta gun lyrics. Rappers with a criminal record should not obtain a Ministerial permit.

• Send a letter to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe demanding that he ban the lyrics. It is just sheer stupidity to spend our tax paying dollars on crime prevention and let criminals tell our children how to achieve it.

• We should allocate PTA money or some Community Centre funds to rap musicians that promote diversity, anti-bullying, creative problem solving and learning the nuts and bolts of music and the industry. Give them air time.

• Boycott Paramount Pictures and demand that their billboards and ads be pulled on “Get Rich or Die Tryin.”

Four dozen murders in Toronto in 2005, out of a total of 70 homicides, involved guns. Even if gangsta rap is banned it will receive play in clubs and on College radio stations. By then you hope one would have developed a critical mind. People will always try to push music to limits and extremes. That acknowledged, we must push back and gain our solid ground. One innocent of any age, race, sex or colour, killed by gun violence is one too many! Make some noise! Apathy is the real killer.

It’s something you want, 745 chrome spinnin’
Haters hate that I’m winnin’
Man i’ve been hot from the beginnin’…
‘Cause I can’t control my temper, I’m fittin’ to catch a felony
Once I squeeze the first shot you know I ain’t stoppin’
Till my clip is empty, I’m simply
Not the nigga you should try your luck with , or——with
Hollow -tip shell struck you with your bones broken, gun smokin’, still locin’

Reply 50 cent - ‘Stop talkin’

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