Watching this video of children rapping lyrics of popular rap songs really made my stomach turn. The issue of musical responsibility is one that has been on my mind for many years. I believe that the industry should uphold better examples and in some cases should face the consequences of portraying disgusting messages which are readily available to children. Many will argue that music is just a bit of fun, and you shouldn’t read too much into it. I would argue that although this is sometimes the case, there are many impressionable young people who are constantly bombarded with sexualised and violent images, who have become desensitised to important moral issues.
The most successful selling song of last year was Blurred Lines – with Robin Thicke’s lyrics being one of the most controversial turning point. Songs that promote rape culture and sexual violence devalue the true nature of the issue. A 2009 NSPCC survey on children between the ages of 13-18 in the United Kingdom revealed that 1/3 of girls and 16% of boys had faced some forms of sexual violence. It disgusts me that a song that makes light of consent, and includes lyrics such as “I know you want it” and “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”, would sell the more than any other in 2013.
Some may call for this song to be censored, but unfortunately it is a wider issue and a load of other songs would also have to be banned. For example, Rick Ross’ lyrics that state that “She ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that/She ain’t even know it”and also make light of the use of date rape drugs. It is important to tackle the misogyny and grotesque thoughts at the root of the issue, instead of simply removing them from sight, popular culture should emphasise the unacceptability of these statements.
Above is a rape victim writing what her abuser said to her during a sexual assault. It is barbaric that such a successful song makes light of something that affects thousands of victims each day. See “Project Unbreakable” for more on this topic.
The glorification of crime is another concern that springs to mind when considering the impact of popular music. Miley Cyrus’ hit We Can’t Stop venerates drug use, discussing everyone trying to get a line in the bathroom, as well as many rap songs such as Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” mentioning the thrill of taking mushrooms, acid, tablets and weed. I can only hope that people look at what drug abuse has done to celebrities, such as Amy Winehouse and Amanda Bynes, instead of listening to the plethora of songs that depict drug use in a positive light.
Amanda Bynes before and after a dramatic decline following excessive drug use.
Gun culture has also been promoted by songs that are prominent in the public sphere. Instead of being concerned about the impact that their genre of music has had on normalising violent crime, many rap artists have denied any responsibility. 50 Cent argues that music isn’t all about crime, but then goes on to say that talking about guns shouldn’t be a problem if it stems from personal experience. Similarly, Snoop Dogg is nonchalant about his use of violent imagery in songs, stating simply that “sex and violence sells”.
Finally, I believe that those in the public sphere (both men and women) should have some respect for the fact that they are role models for millions of children worldwide. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t live life, but they should be careful what they associate themselves with and the messages they are promoting. The industry itself needs to change what it sells. It disgusts me that the large majority of successful women in the music allow themselves to be shown as sexual objects instead of artists.
Fundamentally, music should be therapeutic – either cheering up the listener or giving them something to relate to. Unfortunately, those holding control in the industry need to think about impact that negative songs have on the children of our day. The glorification of rape and crime, drugs and the sexualisation of women are all issues that desperately need to be tackled, and the more we challenge them and are morally educated, the less impact they will have.