Arturo is in 6th grade and getting ready to go to junior high. He lives with his mom and two older brothers who are in high school. He never used to pay much attention to music but recently he and his friends have been getting into the rap music their older brothers like. Many of the songs are very graphic, describing gang life in detail from their generally misogynistic views on women to killing rivals and committing various crimes. Arturo’s mother hates that her boys listen to this music so he only listens to it when she's not around. One day when he thought she wasn’t home he was play wrestling with his friends when, in the heat of the moment, he called his friend a horrible name he'd heard in one of his favorite songs. His friends all laughed until Arturo’s mom burst out of the bedroom where she was napping and started yelling at him for saying such a terrible thing. She asked him where he heard it, and knowing she could tell if he was lying, he told her from his music.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Why do you think Arturo is drawn to “gangster rap” when he knows his mom hates it? How do you think it makes him feel?
2. Do you think the fact that his dad is gone makes him more drawn to the strong male rappers, or does that have nothing to do with it?
3. Why do you think his mom hates that music, and is she justified in feeling that way? Why or why not?
4. Do you ever listen to music that uses bad words or negative/criminal themes? If so why do you like it?
5. Do you think the music you listen to influences the way you talk, act, or think at all? Why or why not?
** 80% of global top ten music contains violence and the violence is often glorified in the lyrics.
** A study of 522 black girls, ages 14-18, from non-urban, lower socioeconomic neighborhoods, girls who watched gang-related videos for 14 or more hours were more likely to engage in destructive behaviors, including being: 3 times more likely to hit teachers, 2.5 times more likely to get arrested, two times more likely to engage in sexual activities with multiple people, and 1.5 times more likely to get an STD, use drugs, or drink alcohol.
** Rap has gone from urban to suburban environments, and is even part of mainstream advertising. Music and media can influence its viewers and listeners in both positive and negative ways. Parents and other adult mentors who pay attention to what kids are watching and listening to can help the kids gain a better understanding of the messages they are being sent. This could allow them to differentiate between what they see/hear and what is acceptable behavior.
** The hip hop movement began in the early 70s in the Bronx as a means of expression and protest against injustices toward African-American, Caribbean, and Latino immigrants. Rap developed as a way to tell it like it is and “keep it real.” However, it seems that it has moved further from its roots in activism and self-expression toward exploitation of women and negative activity.
** Early 90s rap often referenced the violent rivalry between East and West Coast rappers- a rivalry which led to the loss of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., two of the most popular rap artists of their time. Other rap artists, such as 50 Cent, have survived multiple attempts on their lives, while others have not been so fortunate.
** Rap lyrics are often associated with disrespect for women, often displaying them as only being there for male sexual needs. Men hold the power in the videos, with women being subservient, yet the women in the videos seem to be enjoying themselves. This could lead to imitation of these behaviors in both male and females who watch the videos. Girls may feel it is only acceptable to be submissive and subservient, whereas boys may feel that it is their right to use girls only to meet their needs.
** Sex is seen as commonplace and inconsequential in hip hop and rap music and videos. Frequent exposure to this attitude could lead to a higher amount of sexual activity, with little regard for the consequences. With earlier exposure to cable television, younger kids view this and model the behavior, seeing sex as something that is not to be taken seriously.
** Edited versions of hip hop and rap songs on the radio often remove some of the more explicit lyrics, making the songs catchier and less obscene. However, the blanks left in some of the songs often lead kids to search the internet for the “real” versions, which can lead them to even more obscene music.
** Despite the depiction of urban life and tough streets, many who listen to hip hop and rap are suburban, white youth and those who have cable access. One study shows that 75% of those who listen to rap and hip hop are non-white. No matter who listens to or writes rap music, the positive side is that it can often be a form of self-expression for youth who feel they do not have other outlets.
** Negative depictions of law enforcement and the display of general rebellious activity in hip hop and rap music can lead to mistrust and disrespect of police officers and other law enforcement.
** The celebrity status of hip hop and rap artists, including those who engage in criminal behavior, often leads kids to view them as role models and their music in the same way. Even though in 2009 popular artist Chris Brown was publically reprimanded for his violent assault against his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, another music star, he won a 2012 Grammy Award for his music. The public also reprimanded Rihanna for her quick-to-forgive attitude, only supporting the idea that domestic violence is okay.
** Weapons and drugs are often shown in hip hop and rap videos, and many music artists keep both in their possession. Rappers T.I. and Beanie Sigel were both arrested for possession of weapons, and Snoop Dogg maintains major mainstream popularity, despite having been arrested for numerous times for possession of drugs and weapons, including cocaine and marijuana.
How Mentors Can Help:
** Talk with your mentee about what types of music they listen to and talk with them about your music preferences, and how music has changed over the years. This may seem cliché, but it can lead into a conversation about how much more explicit music has become.
** Talk about their music choices, how often they listen to music, and how it makes them feel. Talk about how music can help or hurt someone’s thoughts and opinions of others. Encourage them to use music as a form of expression, but to think through what they hear and see, and not to let these things sway them into negativity.
** If your mentee has an expressed interest in creating music, but lacks the financial means to buy their own instruments and equipment, encourage them to sign up for a FREE membership to the Notes for Notes MusicBox, located in the SB Boys & Girls’ Clubs and the Twelve35 Teen Center. For more information, contact your case manager.
** Ask your mentee about their thoughts on hip hop and rap music. Ask them who their favorite artists are and why. Pay special attention to what attributes they point out and see if this can lead into a discussion about positive role model.
** Talk about the attitudes displayed toward women in the videos and their thoughts about this. If your mentee is female, talk with her about having a voice in relationships and encourage her to respect her body and her worth. If your mentee is a male, encourage him to view girls as being equal and worthy of respect.
** Discuss violence, weapons, and drugs in music and media. If hip hop or rap artists’ names come up and the discussion leads to their behavior, be sure not to encourage glorifying. Contrast the activity in the videos and even the artists’ lives with what happens in real life.
** Ask your mentee their thoughts on law enforcement and talk about the positive side of law enforcement, encouraging them to look at why the law is in place and how it supports them.
** Ask your mentee who their role models are and share some of yours. Talk with them about positive attributes that make up a good role model. If they point out celebrities or artists who have criminal records and/or send negative messages, encourage your mentee to differentiate between these behaviors and reality.