Whatever the reason for Rosie O’Donnell leaving ABC’s program “The View,” there is no question that she made a number of statements that raised eyebrows. One statement that didn’t get a lot of attention was her defense of rap music in the wake of the Don Imus controversy. She claimed, “There’s something different about young black artists living their reality?and using the clay of their life to form the art that becomes their vessel.”
But Rosie didn’t do her research. Not all rappers are “living their reality” that their music portrays. For example, T-Pain, a popular rapper, was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, to a regular middle-class family. His parents own a chain of local seafood restaurants.
Rich Boy (born Maurice Richards), who uses defamatory or racist remarks, was a student enrolled as a mechanical engineering major at Tuskegee University before he caught the eye of Interscope Records. His song, “Throw Some D’s,” includes the following lyrics:
“Rich Boy sellin’ crack f**k n***as wanna jack S**t tight no slack just bought a Cadillac Took it to the chop shop Got the d**n top dropped two colored flip flopped Candy red lollipop There’s h**s in the parking lot.”
I searched azlyrics.com for the word “hoe” and the results showed 1,145 songs that referenced the word, and I’m pretty sure they’re not talking about the gardening tool. But even still, should a rapper’s past be used as a crutch and justification to degrade others?
Apart from the degrading lyrics, the hip-hop culture in its entirety is negatively affecting today’s youth. A recent study by the RAND Corporation presented “the strongest evidence yet” that sexually degrading lyrics in music encourage teenagers to more quickly initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities.
“These portrayals objectify and degrade women in ways that are clear, but they do the same to men by depicting them as sex-driven studs,” said Steven Martino, a RAND psychologist who led the study. “Musicians who use this type of sexual imagery are communicating something very specific about what sexual roles are appropriate, and teen listeners may act on these messages.”
This could also affect what adolescents come to expect from future relationships. “It may be that girls who are repeatedly exposed to these messages expect to take a submissive role in their sexual relationships and to be treated with disrespect by their partners,” said Martino. “These expectations may then have lasting effects on their relationship choices. Boys, on the other hand, may come to interpret reckless male sexual behavior as ‘boys being boys’ and dismiss their partners’ feelings and welfare as unimportant.”
The rap audience is not a small one either. Fifty-eight percent of Black youth say they listen to rap music every day as do 45% of Hispanic and 23% of White youth, according to the University of Chicago’s new study the “Black Youth Project.”
However, youth are not completely na?ve about the degrading messages in rap music: 72% of Black and Hispanic youth agree that rap music videos contain too many references to sex, and so do 68% of White youth. The study also showed that over half of females and males of all three races agree that rap music videos portray Black women in “bad and offensive ways.”
An unidentified 17-year-old male participant in the BYP study said:
“In the videos?I dislike the way they objectify women?I think?if you were just to watch music videos and never have met a Black person in your life, you probably would think ill of Black people altogether?White people probably think that Black people don’t care about anything but sex and selling drugs and partying all the time. I mean, that’s the images you get from rap music videos, pretty much.”