To begin, let me apologize--because this is going to be a long one. Recently, rappers have become quite a target for media to blame anything from drugs, violence, or even public school performance. For example, the rapper Cam'Ron (notorious for promoting pretty much everything that the average person finds objectionable) was put on 60 Minutes to discuss the "stop snitching" policy, an informal law by which anybody who cooperates with police in any way, especially with regard to violent crimes, drug dealing, and gang-banging, is subject to retribution. The rapper Serius Jones responded to this media portrayal with an AllHipHop.com editorial.
So you know what my initial thought to this whole show was right? “Get tha f**kada here!” These white American media dudes are hilarious! First of all, the only reason they trying to pull this attack on Hip-Hop trick out the bag is because some racist old white radio host finally got caught out there talking reckless (Don Imus) calling a group of Black female student/athletes “nappy headed hoes” for no reason.
So, in an effort to take the spotlight off the fact that there are still a bunch of reject Klan members running around in positions of power, they decided to re-direct the public’s attention and blame Hip-Hop with the same tactics of a snitch. Talking ‘bout, “Well they say the word hoe too!” Then using more media trickery they spin it to act like rappers made up the term “snitching”! Like it’s a race, and they have snitch rights or something… Since when does anyone like a snitch? Even the Feds used to put black bags over snitches heads in court just to humiliate them.
This topic's been the subject of much debate--at least among adults. The rapper NYOIL followed up with a post that (among other things) included the following ideas:
First, I am an adult and, as a parent, I agree wholeheartedly that the language and images portrayed in Hip-Hop today are damaging and destructive to the minds of our children. I bare witness to this everyday in my hometown of Staten Island, NY, where I watch kids emulate lifestyles they aren't even living - until they are truly living that lifestyle. They invariably find themselves trapped in situations that they are ill-equipped to escape.
Secondly, as an MC and a devout Hip Hopper who loves the complete culture and this lifestyle. I am concerned because I can see a "lowering of the Boom " on Hip-Hop as it is being made the scapegoat for mass media's systematic corruption of our nation and people in the international community. It is being used to cloak the nefarious deeds of corporate entertainment companies and corporate radio. All the while focusing on the bad elements and further promoting them and their presence while totally ignoring artist such as an NYOIL, Wise intelligent, Immortal Technique, Little Brother, Uno the Prophet, Dead Prez, and so on. Artist that make the sort of music that these demagogues seem to be screeching for.
Why is this debate important for teen librarians? Two reasons:
- As alluded, lots of the debate about rap music is really a veiled commentary about teens--especially young African Americans. We're still a profession struggling to maintain diversity, so it's important that we maintain our professional filters when it comes to not letting media messages affect our perceptions and judgments of the teens we serve.
- We're a media provider who can use this discussion to inspire us to provide balanced collections that pair rap artists like Cam'Ron with those who don't glorify violence, drugs, misogyny, homophobia, and a whole host of other issues that people take with commercial rap music. The idea isn't to censor or judge the interests of our teen patrons but to ensure that we are providing a wide array of alternatives--not just among genres but within them.
That's why the YA-MUSIC list recently compiled options for contemporary rap artists and hip-hoppers that you can use to provide more balance to your collection. Our criteria focused more on general feel than analyzing music for any instance of something that we might find objectionable. It's still not the most diverse list possible, but it's a start! So without further ado (and in no particular order):
LL Cool J
De La Soul
A Tribe Called Quest
Black Eyed Peas
The Saturday Knights
Gift of Gab
The Poets of Rhythm
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Handsome Boy Modeling School
Del tha Funkee Homosapien
Eyedea and Abilities
More or Les
MC 900 ft. Jesus
Mix Master Mike
Peanut Butter Wolf
Whew! And for a couple of additional resources:
Hip-Hop Summit Action Network
Take A Stand Records (new resource started by Master P)
Beyond Beats & Rhymes (resource guide surrounding the documentary by Byron Hurt)