The Hip-Hop Defense
Everyone has an opinion about the influence of hip–hop music on our nations youth. Many people, such as politicians and the ultra conservative, feel the influence is destructive and incites violent behavior. Some people, for instance the media, believe hip- hop glamorizes inappropriate behaviors and actions while promoting the demoralization of women in general, but more specifically black women.
Few people are willing to speak out and defend hip-hop music as communicative form of art. In the article “In Defense of Hip Hop” Cathleen Rountree argues people, young and old alike, are hasty to blame hip-hop in justification of their atrocious tirades, actions, and behaviors without fully understanding what hip-hop is, and what it represents. The “B word”, “ho”, and “trick” are just a few of the demoralizing and degrading slang words spoken in relation to women in some hip-hop music.
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Rountree uses national radio personality Don Imus’s April 4, 2007 racially insensitive verbal degradation against a female basketball team as an example of how hip-hop is a “scapegoat” to justify inappropriate and offensive comments and actions. Rountree makes note of the fact that Imus has a documented history of making insensitive and sometimes racial comments. If the history of Don Imus’s comments reflect a pattern of disrespect, degradation, and insensitivity how can hip-hop now be blamed for his April 2007 tirade.
In the immediate aftermath of the Imus incident long-standing opponents of hip-hop music resurfaced to once again place blame on the music and the culture instead of on the individuals. Although some critics and activists were courageous enough to lay blame solely on Don Imus, others such as Al Sharpton, came out in defense of Imus stating although Imus ‘s behavior and comments were wrong, he shouldn’t be held accountable when entertainers of the hip-hop industry are not.
As far back as 1970 “the devil made me do it! an expression popularized by a fictional character of comedian Flip Wilson, has been the prevailing comic excuse for misdeeds. Rountree entertains the idea of hip-hop as the equivalent of the devil in that expression, she further implies the music is representative of hip-hop artist surroundings and environment. Anger at a lack of understanding the music before condemning it is Rountrees reaction to the prejudice against hip-hop music, something everyone has done at one time or another.
World famous hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur was instrumental, even after death, in Rountrees decision to re evaluate her thoughts and stance on hip-hop. Tupac’s posthumous documentary was a vital factor in her decision to re evaluate the music and the culture. The influence of that documentary so profoundly affected Rountree she devoted a section of her teaching curriculum to the study of hip-hop. Tupac Shakurs’ documentary altered Rountree’s entire perception of hip-hop as a music and a culture. Her eyes were opened to the meaning of the lyrics as expressions of the lives of the artists.
She further states the artistic side of the music is representative of various aspects of society, politics and spirituality as well as bridging a gap to the different demographics that make up our country. In the summer of 2007 Queen Latifah a well-known female hip-hop artist, and actor Bruce Willis funded a project titled “The Hip-Hop Project” detailing a young mans’ plea to the youth of his community to share their life stories and experiences through the art of hip-hop. The focus of the project encourages the group to produce a realistic and vivid image of their everyday life in the form of words and music.
With the support of Bruce Willis and other well-known figures in the hip-hop industry the album was completed to the satisfaction of all parties involved. Rountrees accolades to the success of the CD, indicates her complete change of mind of the subject of hip-hop. Overall, the article “In Defense of Hip-Hop” shows the authors willingness to open her mind to learning things she doesn’t understand. Her allusions to hip-hop as a form of social commentaries to bridge the differences of society, reflects the knowledge she ascertained on her journey of self-discovery.
Hip-Hip frequently receives negative publicity due to the content of the lyrics, without ever considering what the lyrics actually mean. The Hip-Hop Project, was produced to show the more positive aspects of the art form. Roundtree states ”this is a story of hope, healing and the realization of dreams and should be required viewing for Don Imus and Al Sharpton”.