Gangsta Rap- A Social Perspective
Over a span of three decades, gangsta rap and hip-hop have brought us an unending message of the plight of poor black America. Unfortunately, these voices have been demonized as thugs who only want to promote violence and drug use and have nothing valuable to offer. These musicians are sending a message loud and clear that America does not want to hear. In a country where the rich are the ruling class, and poor America is an afterthought, if even that, this music is threatening. Whether you are listening to “F*** the Police” , released by N.W.A. in 1988, or, “99 Problems”, released by Jay-Z in 2004, the issues addressed in these songs are obvious: America wants to oppress black Americans. I believe that art can often be a reflection of what is happening in society. Because of this, I find this music to be a wake up call for the masses. I believe many rap artists are saying, “Listen up! Our country is in trouble!”. Poverty, and that which accompanies poverty, is lost in the minds of most of us.
I live near one of the poorest cities in the Philadelphia area. It is mostly black and looks like a third world country. A few months ago, they were experiencing an average of four shootings a night, mostly drug related. Due to this influx of lethal crime, the city created a 9pm curfew for all residents of the city. If you were out after nine, you would be forced to go home, or be arrested for not complying. Once they ended the curfew, more murders were committed. What is the message? The message is lets put a band aid on this problem and hope it goes away. There was no push for social action. So, I ask you, what do we do? The gangsta rappers tell us what is happening. Gangs exist because there is no where else to turn for safety and belonging. Drug dealing is the only means to decent income. Police view black people differently than white. We have been hearing these messages in this music, and much, much more, for three decades! Who, outside of the communities living in it, is listening?
I ask you: please take time to listen to these artists. It could be Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, 2Pac Shakur, who was murdered on September 13, 1996, or several others. We know the problem. Where’s the solution? If only I had the answer.