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A Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap Culture

Earlier this year, one of my daughters was standing in the hallway of a local school visiting with a small group of girls.  The ages of the girls ranged from 14 to 20.  As they were talking, a 19-year-old boy they all knew came walking toward them.  (For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to call him James.)  As James approached, he said to the girls, “Step aside, bitches.”

After James commanded the girls to move out of his way, my daughter stepped toward him and, as she hit him in the arm, said in an alarming tone of voice, “James, what did you call us?”  James refused to repeat what he had said.  She again demanded that he repeat what he said and again he refused.

Later on, when my daughter told me about the incident, she said that she didn’t think James saw her standing with the girls.  She said that he looked surprised when she challenged him.  She told me that she didn’t think he would have used the word bitches if he had seen her with the girls.

My daughter was the only girl in the group who expressed shock and disappointment at the way James treated them.  The other girls acted as though his behavior was a common occurrence.   They acted that way because the way he talked to them is a fairly common occurrence.  Unfortunately, a lot of boys in that age group are comfortable with making crude comments in front of girls.

I met James more than a year ago at one of my daughter’s school events and I’ve seen him a couple of times since then.  Although I wouldn’t want any of my daughters to date him, compared to other guys his age, he’s a decent young man.  He gets along fine with my daughters and they routinely tease each other.  I don’t think his comment was meant to be malicious or mean-spirited.  He was simply trying to act cool and stir up some attention for himself.

My daughters have been taught to demand respect from the young men they come into contact with.  It has not been an easy task to teach them to be confrontational with boys their age (if circumstances dictate).  Because young girls desire to be accepted and loved by the people around them, they instinctively reject any suggestion that they should stand up to offensive behavior.  They don’t want to be seen as prudish or “square,” so they usually keep their mouths shut.

Last week Kanye West, a popular rapper, started a conversation via Twitter about whether it is acceptable to use the word bitch and the n-word in music and conversations.  The first tweet that he sent stated, “I usually never tweet questions but I struggle with this so here goes … Is the word BITCH acceptable?  Is it acceptable for a man to call a woman a bitch even if it’s endearing?”

In a follow-up tweet, he wrote: “Even typing it in question form it’s [sic] still feels harsh.”

West continued to send out additional tweets to his fans, and toward the end of his comments, he stated, “Here’s the age-old question, would we refer to our mothers as bitches?  Would we call our fathers [n-word]?”

At the end of his series of tweets, he called for a higher standard among rappers by stating, “Stevie Wonder never had to use the word bitch to get his point across.”

So what was it that caused West to question his (and his fellow rappers’) use of the word bitch and the n-word?  He provided the reason in one of his earlier tweets when he stated said that he “was recently questioned about the use of the word BITCH in my music and initially was offended by anyone questioning anything in my music.”

Although he did not state who it was who questioned him, my guess is that it was a woman.  If it was in fact a woman who challenged him, he probably argued with her about the issue and, after some reflection, decided to send out his series of tweets.

If you have ever listened to any of the music that is produced by rappers, you know that the lyrics are replete with crude language, violence, and sexual innuendo.  One of the reasons rappers portray themselves as mean and sexist is so they will be viewed by their fans as gangster-type leaders.

Rap music can be traced back to the late 1970s when hip-hop music first became popular.  After the disco music craze of the 1970s ended, the hip-hop culture began forming and later evolved into rap music.  Over the past 30 years hip-hop and rap have become mainstream and many of the rappers have developed huge followings.  As a result, the rappers have become very wealthy.  (In addition to rap music and videos, several popular movies have also been released portraying the hip-hop and rap culture as a popular and exciting way of life for teenagers and young adults.)

I looked up the top 100 rappers of all time.  Here’s a list of first 25 of them in order of ranking:

Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, 2Pac 4, Eric B. & Rakim, Jay-Z, OutKast, N.W.A., Notorious B.I.G., Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, De La Soul, Kanye West, Scarface, Big Daddy Kane, Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan,  Eminem, UGK, Boogie Down Productions, Beastie Boys, Slick Rick, and EPMD.

Kanye West is listed as #15 of the top 100.  Do you think the other 99 rappers listed in the top 100 are going to let West lecture them about how they should write their music?  If they were to listen to him, their gangster images and fortunes would be threatened.  I don’t think they’re going to pay any attention to West this time around.

The young man who ordered my daughter and her friends to “step aside” was simply imitating the rappers he’s been listening to ever since he was a young boy.  When I was a boy growing up in the 1960s, the music my friends and I listened to portrayed girls as angels.  Now, 50 years later, they’re bitches.  I liked it better when they were angels.

As devout Catholics, our Lord expects us to teach our daughters and granddaughters to boldly defend their faith and their values.  They must be taught at an early age that they have the obligation (and the power) to hold their peers to a higher standard of behavior than what the world demands of them.  The best way to begin the process of teaching them this important lesson is to show them by example what it means to boldly defend our faith and values.

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One Response to “A Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap Culture”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan Says:

    Harry, just read your write-up about rappers – it was interesting, in that I have never tended to like any of their type of lyrics, and have shunned them completely, not even wanting to listen to anything with such a tone of – shall I say – ungentleman-like? – language. To me it’s degrading to the one referred to, and more than that, it’s a tell-tale of the negative character of the one writing – or singing the words. Thanks for the information! Blessings from Sister Roberta

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