Monday, April 1, 2013

Enough is enough!

Anyone who knows me knows that I like music. Not only because I'm a musician, but I just like it, like a kid likes cake. I love the act of making it and singing it. I teach it, I perform it, and proselytize about the wonders of it. I think that all forms have great merit regardless of what people think about the style that is supposedly destroying little minds.

But.... there is a limit. I was working with some 4th graders recently and I have been encouraging them to bring in lyrics and music from their experience for the class to listen to and analyze. I gave them parameters of no profanity or overtly sexual lyrics. One young man, who is Hispanic, originally thought my group would be boring(his exact question to me on the first day was: Is this class going to be boring? Are you boring?  Seriously, that's what he said) only to find out that singing is great fun and music is a blast. He wanted badly to bring in a song that he could have the class listen to. However, he has nothing to bring in. He said he listens exclusively to hip hop. There is no music he knows for him to bring in from home. His words, not mine.

Now everybody knows there are plenty of rappers who have music that can be played in a classroom.  I arranged a choral version of a couple of hip hop songs that were popular back in the day: the Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight, Goodtimes (the song Rapper's delight is based off of) and Erick Sermon's Just Like Music, which featured music from Marvin Gaye. Kids love hip hop...shoot erry'body luvs hip hop. But when a child can't bring any music to school from home to share...that's a problem. That his parents allow him to listen to music that is inappropriate for his age is the real problem.

Where is my frustration coming from? Here, a statement from Michigan radio station, WUVS-LP:

The questions have been asked, Is Hip Hop Music Destroying America, Is Hip Hop A Threat To Our Children or Should Rappers Be Accountable For Their Lyrics? You be the judge.  Earlier this year the song “Karate Chop” leaked online featuring rapper Lil Wayne.  He raps, “Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels/Beat that (expletive/woman genital) up like Emmett Till.”  A few weeks later a song by rapper Rocko featuring Rick Ross was released called “You Don’t Even Know It.”  Rick Ross raps, ‘Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.’ Yes, we have our freedom of speech right, but when is freedom of speech taken too far?” 
“Many would say both rappers have taken their lyrical content too far and offended too many.  The family and estate of Emmett Till have released a statement of disapproval over Lil Wayne’s disregard and disrespectful lyrics. Though his record label issued a statement of apology, the rapper has yet to do so.  In the case of Rick Ross, a petition has been started over his blatant disregard for women and the issue of date rape. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over 300,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted per year in the United States alone. That is a disturbing number and should not be taken lightly. His lyrics not only condone the behavior, but he boasts about it in the song.  While some feel it’s only entertainment, many feel it sends and encourages the wrong message.  Several individuals and organizations have taken a stand and so are we.  Effective immediately Muskegon’s WUVS-LP 103.7 the Beat has pulled ALL Lil Wayne and Rick Ross music from rotation.  We pride ourselves on playing music that is non-degrading and non-violent. While we believe in freedom of speech, creative writing and individualism, we refuse to be part of the problem by spreading messages that could harm or end someone’s life.”

At some point parents and people of good conscience need to say, enough. The problem is not just in hip hop, and people have a right to listen to whatever they choose. But it's parent's job to make sure that their child is surrounded by things that encourage positive growth. Let me make clear again, there is plenty of hip hop that is perfectly fine for children to listen to. PLENTY! The child I'm talking about is 10. What an adult listens to privately is their own business. But it is not ok to expose children to rape, misogyny, gun violence, excessive cursing, etc., with no context of what they are hearing other than, "I like it and my brothers and I listen to this all the time...." That's what parents are for....

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