After reading an article entitled ‘London riots: Is rap music to blame for encouraging this culture of violence?’, I personally felt deeply angered by the fact that The Daily Mirror’s Paul Routledge could write an article which is – quite frankly – one of the most unjust and one-sided arguments that I’ve ever read.
In the article, Routledge states that –
“rap music.. glorifies violence and loathing of authority (especially the police) [whilst] exalting trashy materialism and raves about drugs.”
I couldn’t believe how someone with such high-standing and power could abuse his status – as well as being so narrow-minded – in an attempt to indoctrinate society into a ‘hate campaign’ against both youths and Hip-Hop /Rap music. The article finishes with how society should stigmatise and ‘ban the broadcasting of poisonous rap,’ which further suggests that action should be taken to cleanse the United Kingdom of it; he ”urges – requires, even – schools to teach that the world is a much better place without pointless rage.”
..and from the 2,608 people who have recommended this on social networking sites, there seems to be a shared following that have bought into this ideology.
Although I do agree that society must be resolved – and education / learning vocational skills must become a leading, pushing factor for youths, in an effort at keeping unemployment down – I refuse to accept that it’s the fault of modern music that has caused the recent riots across the country; it is being used as a scapegoat for our broken society, in the way which is reminiscent of Punk Rock in the 70’s; the claim that violent lyrics cause violent behaviour is neither convincing, nor conclusive.
“Rap music has become a lightning rod for those politicians and law-and-order officials who are hell-bent on scapegoating it as a major source of violence instead of attending to the much more difficult work of transforming the brutally unjust institutions that shape the lives of poor people.” – T. Rose
“Rap music is an art form that reflects life.”
Hip-hop is a distinct form of art and expression, just as any other type of music is; it is simply unjust to blame rap music’s lyrics for social violence. This condemnation of Hip-Hop is greatly due to a lack of perceptiveness. It is often misunderstood because of generational and cultural differences. Gangsta rap emerged in the late 80’s when crack and gangs ruled the West Coast. The origins of this new style came from Los Angeles, Long Beach, Compton, and Oakland. A form of music that mimicked the gangs and violence on the streets was bound to rise, and boomed throughout the 90’s worldwide. The older generation – Routledge’s – have failed to understand and comprehend what Rap & Hip-hop is really about; it’s an expression of life experiences, and the inner thoughts of lost youths; it’s an outlet for teenagers to harness skills that they have, and use them holistically to try and emulate an established art form which is accessible to everybody.
A prime example of this is Swindon’s Taylor Jones (who raps under the alias of TeeJay). The seventeen year old has hopped from strength to strength in recent months, due to his unique blend of Modern Pop, Hip-Hop and Rap. Noticing and acting on his innate passion for music, TeeJay left education to follow his music career, which has ultimately allowed him to merge meaningful lyrics to intricate beats, portraying messages that the youth culture – as well as the older generation – can relate to.
His debut single, ‘Fallen Out Of Love’ became a smash hit on launch; it flew into the Official Urban Charts at #4 after just one week on Channel AKA, and then peaked at #2 on the second week, remained in the top 5 for the following 8 weeks. There is no hatred, anti-social threats or references to violence in his work; instead, messages and encouragement to follow career paths and the dichotomy of relationship VS lifestyle surface – issues that the teenagers of today are constantly facing.
His sound is in no way ‘dirty’ or generic. In one song – ‘Dead End’ – a classic piano melody accompanies a Hip-Hop beat. The song itself sports messages of the impact of breaking up relationships – ‘..So if you wanna go then go / ..but you’ll be breaking a team’ – (as well as giving an incredibly personal account of his psyche, thoughts, and feelings whilst he was writing the song) in its chorus. The track is the epitome that ultimately shows how two mutually exclusive ideas – that of classical and contemporary – can be intertwined to create a stunning, eloquent track.
Another track- entitled ‘Hide & Seek’ – takes on a fierce, up-tempo Dub-Step beat, but still manages to convey a relevant message that I’m sure many teenagers will be able to link into, tackling the existentialistic and painful thoughts of youths who have been left fatherless. (Whether this is due to loss, or growing up without them.)
‘Let Me Be’ delves into the ideologies of the young rapper; throughout the song, we see the oppression that he faced at home before breaking into the music industry, which surfaced due to him not living up to the traditional status quo – ‘I’m studying at college, but I’m living a lie’ – as well as his need to push himself, and follow his dreams of being an artist; ‘I wanna prove myself so I can get a contract.’ Jones clearly shows confidence in his ability over literary metre, and fluently handles difficult phonology.
From just observing the comments that have been left on his YouTube videos, it’s clear that his lyrics are touching to a whole barrage of different ages and ethical communities.
- Do Jones’ songs attack authoritarianism and the ‘power of the police’?
- Is their a multitude of expletives and / or sexual undertones in his songs?
- Do they set negative examples to listeners, give off malicious messages?
For all of the above, the answer is no; if anything, his songs show of how there must be social convergence for society – like in relationships – to run adequately. In my opinion, I feel that rap and hip-hop are abstract genres of music that are versatile and ever-changing; it has moved away from the gangsta roots, and is gradually becoming synonymous with mainstream pop tracks. As with all abstract trends, new talent has pushed this genre to new heights.
Saying that such mindless violence is because of a new breed of music (this complementary blend of old and new that is still in its infancy) is an injustice. Personally, I feel that violence on TV through both video games or films is much more to blame for our recent ‘collapse of society’. The violence portrayed through these forms of visual media is likely to initiate copycat attacks, which I feel is much more likely to have caused the riots.This, coupled by the fact that youths have lost hope, and fear the future; without true guidance to young adults, how can a stable future be established?
If people weren’t as closed-minded as they seem to be – if the older generation submerged them selves within rap, and the music that their kids are listening to- the anxieties and fears of our youth culture wouldn’t be as prominent.
What are your opinions on Routledge’s comments?
Please share your thoughts and feelings!
To show support for TeeJay, please follow him on Twitter: @TaylorJonesTJ
Alternatively, view his videos on www.youtube.com/users/TaylorJonesTJ