Hip-Hop is Dead

Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac, better known as the “Kings of Hip-Hop”, were easily the most influential artists in music history. Not other artists have put on imprint on music like Biggie and Tupac did. They both added competition and rawness to their music and raised the standards for other artists. They focused their time on producing music, not because of the money, but because they had a passion for it.

You do not see this passion as much in the hip hop industry today. Artists care less about the quality of music they produce, and more about how much they get paid. Rappers have grown an obsession with money. The quality of music produced has decreased because of the lack of dedication towards it.

Today, hip-hop music has gone mainstream. Artists want to produce songs that will be purchased on iTunes and play on the radio. With this being said, rappers have incorporated dub-step and auto tune into their songs. This results in the songs losing their originality and sounding like any other song played on the radio today. Kanye West recently released an album called Yeezus. Nearly every song on this album has dub-step, auto tune, or some sort electric sound added to it. One song in particular comes to my mind; “On Sight.”

The only Biggie and Tupac songs that include electric music are the songs that have been remixed and mashed up. In the Biggie and Tupac era, hip-hop music consisted of simple instrumentals and classic beats. The simple instrumentals directed the listeners’ attention towards the lyrics. With the loud, obnoxious instrumentals used today, the rappers lyrics get drowned out by the overpowering music in the background.

A question to think about: Where would rappers be today if Tupac and Biggie never existed?

Tupac and Biggie influenced several rappers throughout their lives. Jay-Z was somewhat involved in the feud between Biggie and Tupac. Biggie and Jay-Z were both from Brooklyn, and used to rap battle as kids. Thus being said, Jay-Z was good friends with Biggie and was seen as part of B.I.G.’s crew. Obviously, during the rap feud, Jay-Z often found himself in the middle of it. Tupac made digs at Jay-Z on several occassions, but Jay-Z never really had any beef with Tupac. He saw them both as icons in rap music. In an interview, Jay-Z describes his relationship with Biggie and Pac, and how he tries to keep their legacy alive.

Tupac also influenced several artists. In an interview, 50 Cent said, “Every rapper who grew up in the nineties owes something to Tupac” (Rolling Stone). Snoop Dogg was also a party of Death Row Records for a period of time and got close to Tupac. However, after Tupac was shot and was in the hospital, he asked Snoop Dogg how he felt about B.I.G. and Diddy. At the time, Snoop was friends with both Biggie and P. Diddy, so he responded, “They my homeboys, I love ’em” (hiphopdx.com). Tupac obviously wasn’t very happy about this. Snoop and Tupac didn’t end on a very good note.

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Biggie and Tupac aren’t just remembered by their feud. They are remembered by their passion for competition and raising the standards for all artists. Their feud may have ended in their tragic deaths, but both artists produced tracks that were known around the world.

In music today, there is no competition. Instead of getting into competition, they get into drama. Drama does not produce legendary music, it is just annoying. There was a small sign of hope, when Kendrick Lamar released a verse that shocked the world. He was featured in a song with Big Sean called, “Control.” Listen to the specific lyric that Kendrick includes that stirs up competition and a good old fashioned rap feud. But, unlike attacking just one specific artist, Kendrick attacks all of the new up and coming popular rap artists.

Notice how Kendrick not only calls out  numerous artists, but he also refers to himself as the “King of New York.” That verse definitely stirred up some drama because that was Biggie’s nick name, and it was almost disrespectful of Kendrick to call himself that (Lang 12). Of course the song got a lot of attention; both praise and critique. Many artists responded via twitter, like Tyga.

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Clearly Kendrick’s verse sparked competition and some rappers even applauded him for bringing back the rap culture.

Since artists are spending less time on their music, they have ventured into different industries to make even more money. Jay-Z and Kanye West own clothing lines, Dr. Dre created Beats By Dre headphones, and P. Diddy came out with his Ciroc vodka. As if these artists don’t already make enough money, they have to dip their toes into advertising, fashion, and products to increase their income. Jay-Z had a deal with Samsung to release his recent album Magna Carta Holy Grail to Samsung Galaxy X users, before the rest of the world. He also made a commercial with Samsung to advertise the deal. Overall, Jay-Z made $5 million from Samsung (Business Insider).

Money over Music?

With these alternate incentives, artists are not producing music like they used to. Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac had a relationship and rivalry like we will never see again in history. They continue to influence rappers and the whole music industry long after their deaths. Their legacy may live on, but hip hop will not. Hip-hop was buried with Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace in the 90’s.

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Works Cited

Cooper, Roman. “Tupac Reveals Last Conversation With Tupac Wasn’t A Pleasant One.”                 29 April 2013. Web. 20 November 2013.

“Jay-Z’s $5 Million Samsung Deal Will Change Music Forever.” Business Insider. N.p.                      4 July 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2013.

Lang, Holly. The Notorious B.I.G.: A Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007. Print.

“Notorious B.I.G. Biography.” The Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner, 2001. Web. 25 Nov. 2013

Shakur, Tupac. “Something 2 Die 4.” Rec. June 1992. Interscope Records, 1993. CD.

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Connecting with Autism

Autism is easily the most misunderstood neurological condition in existence. The word itself has a negative connotation. Through music, we will be able to eliminate these societal factors that divide those with autism from the rest of the world and learn to appreciate them and understand what makes them “autistic”.

According to the official website of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, or NINDS, Autism is characterized by “difficulties in social interaction and problems with verbal and nonverbal communication.” A strict set of implicit, unspoken rules exists in our society. They govern the way we act in public and communicate with one another. These rules and implications separate people with neurological disorders such as autism, from the people with “average” brains who comprise the rest of the world simply because they are biologically different and do not perceive the world the same way. As of now, “no diagnostic test based on biological markers currently exists for autism; at present, the diagnosis is based solely on observations of a child’s behavior” (Digitale.) To put it simply, autism is currently something that we, as humans, do not yet understand; yet our society feels as though it should be fixed. Since there is not a place for autistic people in our world, they are labeled as outcasts, and are sadly unappreciated.

By simply using the term “autism” we are putting up a barrier in our society. Organizations negatively connote the term as well. On twitter, there has been a public outcry using the hash tag “#boycottautismspeaks.” For example, one woman said “I’m ‪#autistic, I am woman, mother, friend, daughter, student, colleague, lover, I am many labels, I am a human being ‪#BoycottAutismSpeaks” (Autisia).

When children are first diagnosed, their symptoms are combatted by way of intensive therapy and behavioral interventions to correct them. These forms of therapy for young children focus on helping the child develop social and learning skills that will help them in a school setting. Treatments for adolescents with autism focus on “independence and employment opportunities” that will help them transition into adulthood (autismspeaks.org). This places an unnecessary demand on the integration to our culture. Attending school and attaining a mainstream job are both unfit for complex, autistic minds. Fighting autism is yet another cause of the growing barrier that separates autistic people from our society. By attempting to treat it as an impediment, we are not only diminishing those with autism, but we are also being ignorant to the fact that there is still a lot we can learn from those people. Because it deals with the fundamental aspect of the human existence, it can be our common language.
Music has a chemical effect on our brains, specifically in our cortical circuits. Cortical circuits occur in the cortex of the brain. This area deals with our senses, such as sight, touch, and most importantly in this case, sound. According to the New York Times article, “Why Music Makes Our Brains Sing,” “these cortical circuits allow us to make predictions about coming events on the basis of past events. They are thought to accumulate musical information over our lifetime, creating templates of the statistical regularities that are present in the music of our culture and enabling us to understand the music we hear in relation to our stored mental representations of the music we’ve heard.” (Zatorre and Salimpoor).

One of the biggest distinctions that differentiate those with autism is the developmental abnormality that occurs in the cortical circuits of their brains. Circuits are sets of interconnected neurons form pathways and networks to allow for the travel of chemical signals. They continue to shift, change and multiply throughout our lifetime as we form memories or are introduced to different information (Tau and Peterson). Up until recently, it was believed that autistic peoples brains had a lack of this connective property. However the most recent breakthroughs have proved quite the opposite. Just this past summer, The Standford School of Medicine observed brain connectivity in those with autism. Dr. Vinod Menon, the man who led the study, took a look at the simultaneous activation of signals, which caused synchronization among different parts of the brain. He described their brains to be “hyper connected.” This study led to the current widespread hypothesis that their brains are not deficient at all. There is a vast abundance of connections that overlap parts of their brain and create a state of mind that is biologically impossible for the average person to identify with. So in actuality you could say that their brains are “on overload.”

This element of hyper and overlapping connection means that their way of processing music is a multi-perceptual experience. Considering the cortex of the brain is attributed with the senses, observing the way autistic people respond to music can give us clues to the activity of their cortical circuits. For example, someone’s optical circuits could overlap with their auditory circuits and make their own connections amongst each other. So, when this individual listens to a piece of music they would visually experience that sound as well. Although the integration of different circuits is evidence to this theory, the abstract nature of this concept makes it physically impossible for the average person to comprehend. “The distinguishing feature in autism is an inability to relate to others” (Graham). This could explain why the only people who know what it is like to have these kinds of connections are those who experience them.

The Discovery Science channel aired a documentary in 2008 about the life of a man named Kim Peek, one of the most well known savants. He was asked the question “What do you know about Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony” by Dr. Treffort, the man who invested most of his time into researching Kim’s fascinating mind. He replied by explaining that the symphony begins with three short notes followed by one long one, and three dots and a dash is the Morse code for the letter V. He went on to say that the letter V in roman numerals represents the number five, hence the connection back to Beethoven’s “Fifth” Symphony. When I asked my roommates, who are examples of people with average brain’s, this same question, they replied by saying it reminded them of “movies” and “action.” Their responses were much less complex. Kim Peek’s response, I believe, is one of the greatest examples of how different connective properties in the brain make people with neurological disorders experience music in ways that are unimaginable to the average person. Kim Peek did not necessarily have autism because he was able to properly communicate with others and act “normally” in social situations. However, his brain had the exact same type of hyper connective quality as Dr. Vid Menon discovered in those with autism.

Instead of trying to change autistic people to fit in with our society, we should try to understand the chemical makeup of their brains and learn to appreciate them. Once we have a better understanding of how and why they listen to music the way they do, we will have evidence to the connective properties in their brains, and therefore be able to explore the reasons why they seem so different. In turn, this will breakdown the barriers that keep us separate, and generate a society where they do not need to be forcibly integrated.

Music Lyric Censorship

My mother, someone who has called America her home for 22 years, yet still holds her Egyptian customs and values, is displeased by the radio in America. Whenever it plays around her, I hear, “What are you listening to? It’s trash.” As music is such a big part of my life, and just about every other adolescent’s in America, I am accustomed to hearing the popular themes and bleeps on the radio my mother dislikes so much. I did not understand her perspective until she recently informed me of the differences of Egypt and the United States when it comes to this issue. The fact of the matter is, Egypt is a much more conservative country, and the majority of artists would not even think to write or sing about the themes we hear on a daily basis.

The FCC censors obscene, profane, and indecent content on the television, internet, and radio.

The FCC censors obscene, profane, and indecent content on the television, internet, and radio.

Today, the majority of songs played in America prominently depict the themes of violence, sex, and drugs, and profanity is certainly prevalent. The depiction of these themes and profanity cause the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) to be quite busy with censoring songs before the public is able to hear them on the radio.

Some well known songs this year, include Rihanna’s “S&M,” and Robin Thicke’s, “Blurred Lines,” featuring Pharell, and “23,” with Wiz Khalifa, Juicy Jay and Miley Cyrus. These songs are similar with their scandalous themes of sex and drugs, and music videos. The artists that sing these similar songs are also very well known and successful artists, as conveyed by Rihanna’s recent award for “Icon of the Year,” at the American Music Awards. The FCC censored the words, “sex,” “chains,” and, “whips,” from the “S&M” chorus, which strongly outraged Rihanna, as she tweeted, “Are you fucking kidding me???” in regard to the changing of the radio version. However, with this song, and others similar to it, being on the radio, the enablement of young children being introduced to such topics has undoubtedly increased. These popular singers are considered role models to those that are still struggling with discovering themselves, and look to the admired and successful icons as guides.

Why are these themes the most prominent today?

The fact is that the morality in America is declining. This nation has transitioned from traditional values of the past to more secular ones, as we are moving further and further away from Christian values and beliefs, as noted in the conservative radio talk show host, and author Laura Ingraham’s book, Of Thee I Zing: America’s Cultural Decline From Muffin Tops to Body Shots. In the past the legalization of drugs, gay marriage, and revealing clothing would be deemed immoral or shocking to the majority of Americans; however, the tables of turned, as Americans are most accepting towards these issues. According to a CNN article by Elizabeth Landau, “What’s Behind Precipitous Decline in American’s Morality, a survey was done conveying 45% of the population surveyed considered American Morality to be poor and only 15% considered it excellent. This poll also showed 76% of Americans considered our morality becoming progressively worse. These rankings were noted as the lowest of the decade, and that was three years ago! It is unimaginable to think of what Americans perceive our morality to be like today, as it certainly has not improved.

How does this impact the listeners’ of today’s music?

The Journal of Genetic Psychology published a study in December of 1999 that tested the behavioral effects of the lyrical messages of music. 83% of the adolescent population studied conveyed that messages contained in lyrics affect behavior. Therefore, lyrics that promote drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sexual acts, antisocial behavior, etc, are believed have an influence on listeners’ acts and thoughts. The study concluded that although lyrics do not have a direct scientific affect on behavior or mood, the adolescents that were studied have a rather strong opinion that the lyrics of today’s well-known songs certainly affect or alter behavior.

In a book titled, “Media Violence and Children,” Donald Roberts and Peter Christenson addressed the emotional impact violent lyrics play on its listeners. They noted it is common to match music to one’s negative moods, which enhances one’s anger if violent lyrics are involved. The authors of this book have also conveyed that adolescents follow the more controversial lyrics the most that are described as, “defiant, alienating, and threatening, (159)” negatively influencing them. This conveys the direction in which teens are moving towards, which would make the role of censoring such controversial lyrics more significant. This psychology book also stated that there have been suicidal cases where heavy metal and other songs with violent lyrics were listened to during the last hours before suicides, possibly reinforcing their perilous moods. Although these lyrics are certainly not the main factor in causing detrimental acts, they do have an impact on listeners’ behaviors and thoughts, especially those already disturbed.

Bill O’Reilly’s Interview with Marilyn Manson

On the FOX News show, The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly completed a segment on the “corrosive effects of the popular music world on some American children.” In an interview with Marilyn Manson, O’Reilly sought the thoughts of the controversial singer regarding the level of influence his music has on adolescents. Manson even acknowledged that O’Reilly made a valid point, as O’Reilly noted that disturbed children might take Manson’s lyrics, “You’ll understand when I’m dead,” as, “If I die, people may know me [or my purpose],” and commit suicide or other harmful acts to themselves or others; however, this is not what he is trying to get across to his listeners. O’Reilly mentions that Manson and other singers’ lyrics can be perceived in harmful ways or may provoke certain behaviors, as he says they “can be very troubling to children, who don’t have direction, who don’t have responsible parents.”

On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School went on a killing spree, shooting 12 students and a teacher, and injuring 21 others, then preceded to commit suicide. Marilyn Manson and another dark and controversial music group, Rammstein, were blamed for the Columbine shooting, ranked the fourth- deadliest massacre in United States history. He conveys that he is not at fault for the way his listeners perceive his messages, arguing, people fail to perceive the difference between art and real life; however, copious amounts of people thought otherwise, especially towards this tragedy. Although his intentions were probably not detrimental, the effect his lyrics have on some of his listeners is quite harmful.

Despite the conservative talk show host’s belief that Manson and other dark musicians have a negative impact on children and adolescents, Michael Moore, a liberal commentator, filmmaker, and author had a contrary view. He also interviewed Manson in a segment called “Bowling for Columbine,” and agreed with the singer that mentioned the government should also be considered a negative influence on children, as they were bombing other areas of the world at the time, during a war. Moore also mentioned other factors should have been considered, instead of violent lyrics, such as the prescription drugs the two shooters were on.

The apparent increase in these troubling themes of contemporary music conveys the decline of morality and conservatism in the American society, which shows the detachment from past traditional values.

Clearly, lyrics with violence, sex, profanity, and references to drugs are becoming more prominent in today’s society; however, the detrimental effects on the listeners are also present. Although the intentions of singers are not to negatively harm their fans, in certain circumstances, they do by: enabling a misinterpretation of their lyrics, gearing them in the wrong direction, as teens look to some of them as role models, and enforcing their negative moods with violent lyrics. The apparent increase in these troubling themes of contemporary music conveys the decline of morality and conservatism in the American society, which shows the detachment from past traditional values, as well as provides reasoning for the U.S. government’s censorship.

I have also attached my podcast that addressed this issue as well, with an interview and song clips. Check it out.

RELATED ARTICLES
  • Bowling for Columbine (mediatechnologyimpactingyouth.wordpress.com

  • Work Cited

     America. Federal Communications Commission. Obscene, Indecent and Profane Broadcasts. Federal Communications Commission, n.d. Web.

    Bastawrous, Megan. Personal Interview. 3 December 2013.

    Bastawrous, Megan M. Audio blog post. WordPress.com. N.p., 3 Dec. 2013. Web.

    Bowling for Columbine (Fear and Consumption). Dir. Michael Moore. Perf. Michael Moore and Marilyn Manson. 2002. YouTube Clip.

    Cafferty, Jack. “What’s Behind Precipitous Decline in America’s Morality?” Online Posting. CNN. N.p., 17 May 2010. Web.

    Ingraham, Laura, and Raymond Arroyo. Of Thee I Zing: America’s Cultural Decline from Muffin Tops to Body Shots. New York: Threshold Editions, 2011. Print.

    Landau, Elizabeth. “Music: Its in Your Head, Changing Your Brain.” (n.d.): n. pag. CNN Health. 28 May 2013. Web.

    Logo of FCC. Digital image. Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

    Marilyn Manson on The O’Reilly Factor. Adapt. Razzia. Perf. Bill O’Reilly and Marilyn Manson. 2006. YouTube.

    Rihanna. “Are you fucking kidding me??? I’m on it!” 6 February 2011, 10:02 a.m. Tweet.

    Rihanna. “S&M.” Rec. 21 Jan. 2011. Rihanna. Bardadian Recording, 2011. CD.

    Roberts, Donald F. “The Effects of Violent Music on Children and Adolescents.” Ed. Donald A. Gentile. Media Violence and Children. By Peter G. Christenson. Ed. Irving E. Sigel. N.p.: Praeger, n.d. 153-71. Print.

JR’s workcited forgot to post

Bloom, Daryl and John Bloom. Interview. Jonatha Houser. November 2013.

Chiacchieri, Glen. Musics effects on people and culture . n.d. novembe 2013.

Edmundson, Mark. Can Music Save Your Life. 8 June 2012. Database.

Lynskey, Dorian. 33 Revolutions Per Minute. New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 2011. Book.

Now Playing LOUD! (NowPlayingLOUD). ” Music a powerful ally in Mandela-led revolution: Political movements often have their protest music.” 8 Dec. 2-13, 10:18 pm

Rodnitzky, Jerome. “The Sixties between the Microgrooves: Using Folk and protest Music to Understand American History, 1963-1973.” (n.d.).

Screamin’ Metal (ScreaminMetal). “I heard a lot of old sixties protest music being played… New faces, new weapons, new tactics, but same ole same ole at the core.” 8 Dec. 2013, 2:17 pm. Tweet

The Relationship Between Hip Hop and Rap Artists and the American Legal System

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. hiphopbronx

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.

ice-t              download

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.

Check out my podcast:

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