Change In Our Community Will Change the Content of Our Music

Editor's note: The

views expressed inside this editorial aren't necessarily the views of or its employees.

Do you remember when it was cool to be intelligent? If you do, then you may also recall a

time when our music reflected that coolness. For too many years now, people have

referenced the lack of stylistic articulation and subpar content subject matter

as dumbing down our music. Granted,

it would not be hard to argue that today’s rap music isn’t the same as the music

we listened to in the seventies, eighties or nineties; however, with that being

said, would it not be difficult to point out that our community isn’t the same

as it was then either? Rap music

has always been a reflection of our community. Whether intentionally or un, it always

displayed our good, bad or ugly, sometimes even simultaneously. So I ask, is our music really dumbed

down, or is it just a reflection of a harsh reality of our community?

Whether it’s systematically planned or institutionally

constructed, our educational systems that service our communities are failing

us. In my hometown, a few years

ago, a D which is a grade equivalent to a 60-69 (once considered failing), was

implemented as passing in the Baltimore City Public

School system.

In Baltimore City alone, we have enough facility space

to service 125,000 students, but currently service over thirty thousand

less. Just as the case in most

metropolitan areas with predominantly black residents, our high school drop out

rate is over fifty percent. As an

Educator myself, I’d argue that one of the reasons our communities drop out rate

is ridiculously high is simply because our youth do not equate succeeding in

school with succeeding in life. So

what do they do? Most with limited

knowledge and information, try to interpret and define success for themselves

and pursue it, at any cost.

It’s a fact that our communities are not the same as they

used to be. Unfortunately, we don’t

value the same things that we once valued.

Education was pivotal to us at one time. Our morals and principles didn’t allow

certain activities or actions in our community or to extend from our

community. The fabric of our

community has become strained (I refuse to say broken) and could it be that our

music is a reflection of that?

What’s prevalent in our communities nowadays? Many of us live in communities that are

prone to drug dealing, substance abuse, violent crimes, gang activity, excessive

vulgarity, and multitudes of disrespect, as well as a lack of strong male

leadership that models appropriate behaviors for those he should be

leading. And I ask, what does our

music entail?

Many young people who find themselves in position of

influence in our community are there by default. Yes, biblical text does state that the

young shall lead, but it doesn’t negate the fact that they should have been

properly influenced by those who came before them. If they are not properly educated,

trained and prepared what should we expect to hear from them?True indeed, as a kid, we witnessed many of the same

things that today’s youth encounter, but to our advantage, the fabric of our

community was a lot different, which allowed us to view it from a whole

different perspective, which effected our decision making as well.

Case in point, during the eighties, there were not as

many young people involved in selling drugs as there are now, which means, there

were not as many young people involved in violent crimes as there are now. We always defended our neighborhoods,

but outside of California, we weren’t fighting and killing

each other over colors. Now we

are. Unfortunately, too many of our

men suffered and are still suffering from heroin addictions acquired during the

seventies and eighties, but case studies show that that addiction pales in

comparison to that of crack, and its influence of catastrophic proportions which

was introduced to our communities in the eighties and still prevails. Proudly, I can attest that we did not

bear witness to as much vulgarity or disrespect in our community when I was a

child, simply because it was not tolerated. I remember as a child accidentally

cursing within earshot of an adult and swiftly apologizing to him or her and

then asking God to forgive me.

Simply put, it was how we were raised back then. It was a certain level of expectations

that our community had for us, based on what they’d invested in us. Even those of us who didn’t seek higher

institutionalized learning, still thirsted for knowledge. So we joined organizations and/or knelt

at the feet of our elders, receptive to the information that they willingly

shared with us. We were raised

differently and given a foundation to stand upright on. So we were prepared by our community,

before creating the opportunity to grab the microphone and simply move the

crowd. Our lyrics were infused by

strict principles taught to us

(emphasized) by those who came before us, be it family members or neighbors in

the community concerned about our well being and concerned about the well being

of our community. Our lyrics were

once infused by the teachings of great leaders such as, the Honorable Elijah

Muhammad, Minister Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Clarence 13X. Thoughts and ideas were strengthened

through dialogue, executed with intent and purpose, skills were honed with

rehearsal and the responsibility of speaking on behalf of our community was not

taken lightly. Then what


I liken today’s rap music, our music, to that of an angry

misguided child, who lacks direction.

I don’t fault the child, instead it’s us who need to be held

accountable. To put it blunt, we

dropped the ball. And certainly I’m

not just talking about with the music, I’m referencing our community which

influences the music. Today’s music

is still a reflection of what’s going on in our communities. Instead of getting mad at those who rap

about the “trap,” how about investing that same energy and time and direct it

towards those who are actually trapping, in our neighborhoods, feeling like

there are no other means to make a dollar.

Instead of getting mad at those who rap about “gangbanging,” how about

investing that same energy and time and direct it towards those who are actually

gangbanging, in our neighborhoods, feeling like they’re only loved by the

gang. Instead of getting mad at

those who rap about material possessions and wealth as if obtaining them are

great accomplishments, how about investing time in the youth in our community

and teaching them right from wrong, like we were taught. Is it not our responsibility? I challenge you to ask a young person

between the ages of 17 and 25, possibly the most influential demographic in our

music “who raised you?” Then don’t

be surprised how often you’ll hear the response, “I raised myself!”

The only way we can speak about something different is to

be exposed to something different.

And the only way we’ll learn something different is to be receptive to a

different experience. Then maybe,

just maybe (wishful thinking on my part, I am a dreamer), our youth could be

encouraged to rap about something else.

We can’t ask our children to have thought provoking lyrics without

teaching them how to think.

Change in our community, will change the content of our