Words have Power
Why do we love to support stupidity?! From terrible music that is literally brain poisoning all the way down to people’s silly antics to get attention. This subject has been brewing on my mind for months after I participated in our local Hip Hop Panel this past summer. The event was put together at the height of racial tension in my hometown where local news stations blamed DJ’s for their racy fliers and “ghetto, dope” crowds who came out and displayed violent and inappropriate behaviors. Without getting into all of that, one of the focal points was how much control DJ’s have over the crowd based on the music genre they played (e.g. rap and R&B encourages fighting and slow dancing, respectively). That part of the discussion led into who has control over radio media and that is what brought me to my post today. In the discussion we blamed the media for controlling music, but I have come to the conclusion that it is us who creates and promote the music! Saying we have no control over what is played on the radio is like saying don’t vote because we have no control over the government. And not accepting responsibility for our song lyrics would be like an author not accepting responsibility for the content of their published books. We have more control than we think and there is power in our words.
After listening to a powerful Muslim leader speak at the Hip Hop Panel, he kindly reminded us just how powerful words are. Words carry life and death. Words can uplift, educate and calm a person’s spirit in the same light that it can cause confusion, anger and depression. He told us to remember how we learned our ABC’s in the form of song and how most things we learned as children were in the format of song. Songs are powerful as well as influential. We all experience this now when songs create new trends like “are you mad or nah?” But when an artist comes out singing about real life issues and consciousness, we say they are whack or never even bother to listen to their message (I’m guilty as charged). We would rather support stupid lyrics which have the ability to take an entire race back 250 years as opposed to giving someone a listen that may positively change the course of society. But the kicker is this; WE the people promote the ignorance by buying their records, requesting their songs and sharing their craziness all over social media. I’m sure the moment we stop buying into it, the radio monopoly will have no choice but to change what they play because they will lose money. We have control over this by controlling what we like, share and listen to.
As much as I enjoy hip hop and rap music, as of late, I have had to be honest with myself that most of the lyrics are absolutely stupid. It’s the main reason I don’t pay for concerts. Why would I pay to listen to someone say, “Birthday, it’s your birthday/If I die bury me inside the Louis store?” I can listen to that on the CD I already paid for minus the yelling and spitting into the microphone. Often times it’s not the words that I am intrigued by, but more so the bass line, unless of course the words are substantial. After listening to songs on the radio recently, I am shocked that we even play this type of music. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a producer from Atlanta years ago when he said that the majority of music they make is for strip clubs. I’m convinced that much of the music we listen to today are probably for strip clubs hence lines like, “make that <expletive> clap.” Just makes me wonder who said it was okay to broadcast this all over the air waves. I don’t see pornos all over regular television so why is this any different for music? We have to be honest with ourselves that it’s not appropriate content and it does make us look bad. It really didn’t dawn on me how ignorant our music was until I played it on a juke box one day at a mixed bar. As a black woman, I was actually embarrassed. When you sit down and analyze the words and listen to them line for line, most of it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t properly transition to the next bar and is absolutely absurd. Of course I can’t put everyone in this bucket because not everyone puts out trashy music, but we are all aware of who does. It was that moment I began to change my idea about the music I have come to love and recite.
I know many of the lyrics verbatim to our favorite hip hop artists (my little lamb chop calls me Fryeezus LOL), but admit there are times I’m concerned that I know more about their ridiculous verses than I do about who is running our country (I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most politically savvy). I just thought to myself if I can learn those verses imagine what else I could learn and retain? Imagine how easy it could be for us to teach our children math formulas and proper grammar through song. But we don’t respect the power of music and words; we just want fame, money and attention. We can still rap and have the most banging bass lines ever, but we could also be leaders and understand that our words exude power. Why do we feel the need to talk about the most degrading and awful things to get our point across? Okay, so you grew up in the hood and sold drugs to make a living, but now you have chauffeurs and eat caviar every night so rap about that! Why rap about all of your struggles and glorify your wrong-doings instead of professing how you came out of that situation to where you are now? Sounds too much like right I suppose. I can even relate this to myself as a writer. I could write about gossip and all the misfortunes in my life or I can talk about how I overcame them to influence others to do the same. I just don’t understand why we don’t do more of this. We need to understand that kids are listening to us. They are influenced by the media and their surroundings and we need to be careful of their exposure. We can deny that music has the ability to shape our thoughts and behaviors, but there is scientific evidence with Bobo dolls that children have a “monkey see, monkey do” attitude. This would explain why the majority of children’s fashions and behaviors are a direct correlation of what they watch daily. Little girls want to wear miniskirts and get nose jobs because of their favorite artist’s music video. Little boys ‘sag’ their pants and wear gold fangs because their favorite rap artist has them. We have to wake up and realize how our music is affecting our children and our culture. It’s not like we add a disclaimer that these behaviors are only okay once you are an adult in the club scene. Most of the clothes I wore to the club certainly weren’t appropriate for me to parade around my father, however, they were okay within the proper setting. We have to make it a point to educate our children and shield them from nonsense. Give them the opportunity to grow up and make their own decisions before we force bad habits upon them at too early of an age. Then we sit back and wonder why lil’ Timmy wants to become a dope boy when he grows up. Well his father, brother and favorite rap artist had the same aspirations. Apples don’t fall too far from the tree. At some point adults have to determine what is appropriate for children and what is appropriate for adults. The music I hear on the radio is not appropriate for young teenagers who are just now exploring their sexuality. Especially when statistics show black and Hispanic children have the highest rates of sexual activity, STD’s and early childbirth (CDC-About Teen Pregnancy).
I understand that music is also highly entertaining. I don’t believe and live by everything I hear; sometimes I just listen to it for entertainment to dance, workout, clean my home and calm my mood. But I also know what to adhere to and what to filter in one ear and out the other. Fortunately for myself, my wonderful mother instilled values and morale so that I knew the difference between right and wrong and what to mimic and what to never try. But on the flipside not everyone was exposed to such a caring dynamic. Some children were born to parents who should have never been given the right to birth. And it’s frustrating because people don’t realize how impressionable children are and how badly they can ruin their lives with their awful parenting skills. With that being said, I do think it’s our responsibility to be careful of the content we produce. It’s the same concept as paying taxes to social services for children who have parents on Welfare. It’s not the child’s fault they were born into that predicament and they still need to eat. So the same should apply to music, it’s not the child’s fault they don’t have parents who shield them from your lyrics. It’s no one’s fault quite frankly, but we can control what we produce, who has access and what we promote. And I’m not blind to the fact that some people choose to live a certain lifestyle and are okay with the trash they listen to; more power to them. Target that audience and produce music for only them and don’t allow your music to be broadcasted all over the radio waves to corrupt the minds of innocent children. As adults we must realize we too were once children and were influenced by the silliest of things from fashion to hairstyles to make-up to shoes to the accent we use to speak. Let’s take care of our babies and ourselves. Regardless if you think you are unaffected by music, just remember your mind is flexible and it is affecting you one way or the other whether internally or explicitly. Our brains have much plasticity in its ability to adapt and create preferences for things that are stimulating, whether positively or negatively. Research shows there are areas in our brains associated with our preference in music (we adapt to a certain type of music and prefer it) which would explain why our parents enjoy music from their generation and so forth (I can’t find the article for the life of me, but when I do I will update my post, going off of memory so please don’t quote me). I say this not to get off topic, but to show just how powerful music is. I just read an article about how is used to help Alzheimer’s patients (My Generation-Music and the Brain by Tom Kaufman). Just know that we are all influenced by music and need to be careful of what we produce and allow in our minds. We have a choice and hopefully we will wake up and choose better words. I am convinced the black race could move mountains through their influential songs and dance, but instead we choose to chase money, fame and power at the expense of our own culture.