How Dangerous Is The Hip-Hop Lie?


The views expressed with in this editorial don't necessarily reflect the views of or its staff. The debate over negative lyrics and their impact on our communities has raged for years. Are they glorifying the negative or simply speaking to their everyday existence? I swear I've witnessed plenty of debates that swirled around this topic and I've never seen anyone retreat from their position. However,

these conversations were always conducted under the pretense that

everyone was telling the truth. If the emcee said he grew up in a less

than stellar home with barely present parents and was raised by the

streets; we took him at his word. We understood and empathized even if his life wasn't ours. We shook our heads at his realism and brainstormed on ways to make it better; but never did we once consider he was lying.

How bad is that lie in the spirit of the artistic venture or the journey to mega-sales? Is that emcee actually better because he doesn't participate in those tales of street soldiering he spins or portions thereof? Or

does that make him worse because he's peddling a fake, doomed life to

his fan base without concern for the affect his words might have? Before

you jump, understand that I do know Hip Hop and the narratives

incorporated within do not exist in a vacuum. I know the

disenfranchised have more pressing issues than song lyrics and I

realize in many instances those lyrics are born of those problems. However, the issue at hand is taking the story most try to run from and running to it.

The issue is the lie.


that life is not what we want; if that life is the underbelly of the

community; if that life is the reason some write their first bar, then

why do people wrap themselves in it like a hood flag to create this

criminal persona? Why do they think we will respond in larger numbers

and with grander enthusiasm if they report having been through the

belly of the beast? Are they right?


mean, we all know that in a lot of situations our folks are handed s**it

to carve into a community, but do we need to mold a baton out of it and

run so some young guy living in Iowa can live that life vicariously as

he skips through the corn rows?

I remember when that kind of falsehood was unacceptable. Even now there are folks who rail against the fibbers, but for the most part it's accepted. There are those who will even tell you what they are spitting isn't real. It's some nightmarish hood fairy tale. I

guess they and the powers that be in their musical careers think if

they graduated from high school or possibly college and raised a couple

of babies with their wife, we wouldn't be interested in that life story.

I can't sit here incredulously wagging my finger and turning my nose up at anyone. I'm guilty as most of us are of being drawn into some of the darker lyrics and not questioning myself. Is

it human nature; like being fixated by a car wreck? Or have we been

socialized in a way that prompts us to respond positively to negativity? I don't know. What

I do know is it's so much of what we listen to and that dark tide is

damn near formulated in a studio petrie dish at this point.

I'll be honest with you. I

don't care for liars, but I'm not sure how dangerous this particular

lie is or what it says about how the Hip-Hop audience is viewed. I

suppose personal responsibility is the lynch-pin and in some ways the

antithesis of our veracious appetite for street credibility, whatever

that is. The adopted back story should be held in its proper

perspective, which in my opinion should be akin to a grain of salt.

However, if everyone felt that way, the story wouldn't be needed in the

first place.


I've done nothing to relieve my confusion. I think I've created more.

The music can be very powerful and people are obviously more

impressionable than they will admit. I also know that we are bombarded with these negative impressions on a daily basis and not just through Hip Hop. So

much so that those who pilfer and then sell our culture back to us have

decided that we thrive on the negativity enough that they will present

it to us without consideration of authenticity; which I think is right

around the spot where I started.