All citizens of the United States experience some type of difficult situation or struggle as they try to succeed in this frustrating world we live in. Each person has their own story and unique experience that molds the way they view life, and the many barriers that come along with living here. Some of these barriers stem from where we grow up to whom or what we are associated with. Today, many of these issues are vocalized through the music of hip hop and rap artists. These artists tear down the American legal system with their music as they creatively attack the injustices and ignorance that has crept upon our society, particularly within the criminal justice department.
In the 1970’s hip hop exploded out of the Bronx, New York. During this time, the area was filled with gangs, drugs, and violence which led to a heavy police presence. The relationship between hip hop artists and the authorities started to become negative as soon as the people of the community were taken advantage of. The unjust treatment of citizens who lived in the Bronx community triggered mass reactions from hip hop and rap artists throughout the country. Many of these artists had faced some sort of discrimination at some point in their life, or had family members and friends who did. They sympathized with these people, and decided that they would take the initiative and vocalize the lack of respect they had for America’s criminal justice department.
Today, artists are still holding onto this same attitude. Chris Brown recently tweeted, “This is for the hood! Place people don’t wanna help and society labels as nothing.”
Early Rappers such as N.W.A set the stage for a negative perception of criminal justice with their aggressive and attacking rhymes.Song such as “Cop Killer” by Ice-T and “Fuck Tha Police” by the N.W.A became huge hits.
The rising popularity of the irresistible culture of hip hop and rap became most apparent among inner city youth, and also reached out to suburban youth. The anti-authoritarian attitude, aggressive language, and sexual explicitness appealed to listeners of all different backgrounds. Whether fans of music artists could relate to the story being told or not, they were all essentially becoming educated on the United States’ flawed legal system. This music culture knocks crime and punishment in the United States in a way that disregards philosophies adopted and adored by legislatures for decades.
Music not only expressed artist’s hatred towards authority figures, but it also incorporated shocking facts about our justice department. Rappers reminded listeners that America has the highest rate of incarcerations in the world. America contains five percent of the world’s population, and strikingly twenty-five percent of the world’s population of prisoners. Many artist’s rapped about racial disparities, and claimed that the U.S. operates a criminal justice system for the wealthy people and another for the poor or minorities.
How can one blame a culture for being bitter towards the system when all the odds are stacked up against them?
Over the years many artists have wondered the same thing, and have come to the conclusion that the only logical thing to do is to educate the people. If hip hop and rap artists can adequately get their messages across in their lyrics, then the only thing left to do is make sure that it is heard. The reason hip hop is obsessed with criminal justice can simply be explained by their wants and dire needs for change. If the hip hop and rap culture continues to influence the minds of listeners, then maybe 2Pac’s statement, “[I will] spark the brain that will change the world,” will soon come true.
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