It’s Bigger than Hip-Hop, but Let’s Blame the Music Anyway. : ThyBlackMan

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

It’s Bigger than Hip-Hop, but Let’s Blame the Music Anyway.

December 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( I am just a few birthdays shy of officially becoming an old head. I’m actually looking forward to entrance in that club. I’ve been able to grow a full beard since the age of 15 so I’ve always looked old as hell anyway. Specks of grey made their first appearance in my 20s. At the time, I was being referred to as sir by women my age or slightly older, scuttling any possibility of being able to finagle a phone number in an age appropriate night spot. When I was in my mid 20s I could be found prowling the over 30s clubs and juke joints where Freddie Jackson, Keith Sweat, or Ray, Goodman & Brown were more likely in rotation than “hit maker of that moment” Gin-u-wine.

But with advanced age come responsibilities. Not the obvious ones like taking care of your children and holding down a steady gig. I’m talking about the really important old head activities linked to criticizing black popular culture. To fit in, it’s critically important to denounce everything loved by the youngerHIPHOP generation. If you don’t find a way of being a serious, dedicated hip-hop hater, you will be in grave jeopardy of being denied that coveted membership card.

Not some, but ALL of the problems in the African-American community must be associated with hip-hop culture. This can take the form of rigorous critique of music, fashion, movies, rims, art, and even dentistry. If I listen to the ladies and gentleman in the cohort I hope to soon join—Hip hop is to blame for all of the ills in the African-American community. Including but not limited to, the destruction of the two parent household. Imbalance of power between child and parent. Misogyny. Homophobia. And most importantly violent crime. No exceptions!

If we elect to follow the logic above, why are crime rates decreasing while the ignorance imbedded in popular music is purportedly increasing? All evidence points to a decrease in crime in the United States even during the latest recession. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports on Homicide clearly state that the U.S. murder rate was higher in 1972 than in 2007! In fact, the murder rate was higher in 1935 than 2005. Notice I said nothing about incarceration rates. That’s a business, and jails the size of those springing up all over the country must be fully occupied by any means necessary. I can only hope our perception of a more dangerous America isn’t being shaped by that big ole prison springing up in your back yard.

Supported by the FBI’s own stats you were more likely to get shot and killed at the club in 1980, the year Michael Jackson was awarded his first  Grammy for a track off his “Off the Wall” album, than in 1995 when Three Six Mafia released Tear Da Club Up.” But I don’t hear the elders saying anything about that. The 70s and early 80s was such a time of innocence. Really?

So why do the old heads insist that the soothing sounds of Frankie Beverly and Maze or Earth, Wind & Fire were somehow less harmful to our community than Chief Keef and Trinidad James are right now? They never miss an opportunity to blame hip-hop for the pervasive lack of morals and violent blood thirst of today’s youth. The blame is placed because…they’re haters! Haters that truly wish to have a connection with a younger generation. That connection would help them forget that they are in fact getting older and are now as “out of touch” as the parents they once criticized in their youth.

Besides, it’s much easier to spit a damning critique at music you don’t personally like, rather than accepting some level of responsibility for the failure of one’s own children. Easier to point a finger at the music maker than admit that the real or perceived chaos in the streets of America has more to do with bad parenting, the militarization of policing, the need to fill up what in a better world would be relatively empty prisons, and a rapidly changing economy. Blaming hip-hop feels better than admitting that the world we live in now is actually safer than the one that’s been portrayed as a golden era by middle age and elderly black folks.

The fact the word “bitch” wasn’t used in 70s Soul didn’t make the music any less misogynist. Teddy Pendergrass’s command of his woman to, turn ‘em off! [the lights]” was probably as scary as a Glock pistol being cocked. I’m not at all serious with the Teddy P. quote, but let’s be real, women’s rights in the 70s was a certified, hardcore struggle that barely registered in the sound of the decade.

The perfect world projected by our elders with its appropriate soundtrack dripping with love was actually a whole lot scarier than our parents care to remember or to share. With music that was far less serious or politically motivated than they claim. For every Marvin Gaye Here My Dear or What’s Going On there were 200 Van McCoy knock off tracks that were talking about…well nothing. Meanwhile heroine, murder, rape, and urban blight were commonplace.

I’m not a criminologist. Those professionals have spun theories that are no clearer on the sources of crime reduction, than blaming hip-hop for a perceived uptick in danger. From the legalization of abortion in the 70s, to broken windows theory, to some sort of positive impact on life chances represented by America having its first black president. Google all of these and be kept busy reading about the many theories attached to the downturn in violent crime and crime in general in America.

Perhaps in all of our complaining we’ve missed that black community engagement, worship centers that care more about kids than tithes, a stigma attached to using hard drugs, and young people taking personal responsibility earlier than their parents did, may in fact be leading to lower crime rates. The African-American narrative is so connected to oppression and misery that even when things are getting better, we find it hard to acknowledge progress.

If either of my grandfathers were still alive, I think they would say that my life and life chances were better than their own. I shouldn’t be made to feel like Armstrong Williams or Clarence Thomas for believing that. Otherwise the story of African Americans will always be submerged in pathology and dysfunction.

Before I start preaching and get elected to old head status earlier for engaging in their favorite pastime, I’ll just end by saying, knowing full well how corny and overplayed it is, that the source of the real problems in the African-American community are bigger than hip-hop. A Dead Prez plug wherever you can find it is a good thing. We still have a long way to go, but some progress is being made. Final Question, can I still be an old head if I dig Juicy J and Bobby Womack? I gotta get right before I take that entrance exam.

Staff Writer; Christopher Keith Johnson

This talented brother can be reached on Facebook and Twitter.



19 Responses to “It’s Bigger than Hip-Hop, but Let’s Blame the Music Anyway.”
  1. Pat says:


    You should offer your services to a website like this one for instance:

  2. Jay Gatling says:

    I’m a firm believer that music, just like all the other arts (Movies and television) reflects what going on in society. In the 60’s it was all about that fun and dancing. The 70’s was all about love, anti-war, and disco. During the 70’s crime and poverty were at a all time high and artists and executives made a conscience effort to instill pride in their respected communities. (That so not the case now)
    The 80’s a new genre of music has emerged on the scene with a mixture of party, criminology, and social consciousness. We know identify that genre as Hip Hop.
    Hip Hop in today’s form has varied since it’s conception back in the late 70’s and 80’s. It’s now one of the biggest corporate marketing tools used in today’s society. Instead of informing the people about social ills, it now used to promote ratchedness and foolery. Even with all that said, the music is just a mere reflection of what going on in today’s society. Music isn’t uppercutting broads on public transportation, we are. Music isn’t the one leaving our women alone to raise our bastard ass kids, we are. We been doing that since slavery, so we can’t blame that on African drums. SO!! Will Smith was right, “Parent Just Don’t Understand”. Shit I don’t understand it either but what I do understand is that (I) am control of my actions, not music, society or whatever else that supposed to influence one actions. I know right from wrong and this new wave of music is just too wrong for me, but I understand my place in this equation. I’m a non factor. Today’s music targets 18-30 year old that than rather bust it (pussy) wild open and pop molly (ecstacy) than talk about the economy, healthcare or anything else that responsible adult are into.
    Once again Dr. Johnson, good job. I understand where you are coming from with this one my brother.

  3. Ramses says:

    As long as they’re paying….I don’t do nada for free

  4. Peter says:


    I hope that you give seminars to inform our community how we can thrive financially.

  5. Ramses says:

    Just because you’re older. doesn’t make you an elder. These young Gods making moves without the aid of these dinosaur ass, broke ass elders. They’re creating businesses while these clowns cashing checks from whitey in their black studies programs and complaining why they didn’t get tickets to barack’s inauguration (Cornel West). I love Juicy J, Project Pat, Just like I like Common and Tupac. They all capture the reality of the times through their storytelling. Tupac in his message to the grassroots echoed this sentiment. The only thing so-called elders showed us how to be is broke. When I start talking about trusts and shit like that, these negroes don’t know what the hell i’m talking about. They are just as dependent on the “system” as welfare queens. This brother, who I met on the phone bout a year and a half ago (we’ve never met personally) was the first Man who showed me how to get money, on my own, without doing illegal things to get it. It took for me to be 32 years of age for someone to show me how to get money legally. And I don’t mean in the climb the corporate ladder way either. i am not compromising my manhood for crumbs. I mean owning companies type shit. Business credit shit. Dun and bradstreet shit. Until then, all i heard in college was broke ass niggas and bitches complain about the white man and how he makes it hard on us. I see 50 cent, who started from crack selling, to getting his boxinh license so he can become a boxing promoter. Looks like he’s doing what his ancestors did during the times with Black Wallstreet (turning nothing into something). he working with whites, jews, and all types of groups. I’m not saying he’s without his faults. But who isn’t. Educated negroes always think they’re more positive than those like 50. I know both sides. I’ve been in projects and I’ve been in higher education settings. The ones I see getting money (illegal or legal) are dudes like 50. Most educated people make 30,000 a year and get basic benefits. But can you create wealth? Can you create jobs? Harvard just honored Reginald Lewis, the first person in Harvard’s history who was accepted into it’s law school before he formally applied. Even though he died suddenly at age 50, he died a billionaire. Wrote the book “Why Do WHite Guys Get To Have All The Fun.” This was brother. You’ll out here hating white folks, which alienates them from you. Then you hate those who come from you and find success because they don’t come and give you some. Why should they? When they were going through shit you’ll didn’t support them. Now you want them to give back to the community. What community? Sorry black people need to stick with their kind and the good ones need to stick with the good ones or branch out. Being loyal to black people just because has played out for many of our leaders and it does not work because we assume that all black people deep down are positive. That’s the biggest lie ever promulgated. Love the article brother. These old dinosaurs end is coming and I’m glad because onces they die off (physically or career wise) then maybe we can actually get some real work done. All they are doing is taking up space and bloviating all over the place. Sick and tired of that shit. Get Rich Or Die Trying best thing ever said. Being poor is a curse. No matter what your ethnicity is.

  6. Christopher Keith Johnson says:

    Typo on previous comment. Correction–“ghetto, trash, vulgar, sexualized.” Fit that within my previous comment

  7. Christopher Keith Johnson says:

    The article clearly addresses (1) the prison industrial complex (2) personal responsibility (3) deindustrialization and its impact . Calling old heads “haters” is “provocative, it gets the people going!” Of course FBM, EWF, and Teddy P are essential and have been sampled enough in the hip-hop to be a part of its DNA.

    We should not say that we are “all good.” Or fall into the lie that America is post racial. We should acknowledge that we are not completely doomed! Young black people are doing incredible things and involving thmselves in activities that are beneficial to the community and fully respectful of their elders. Even when they are listening to “ghetto, trach, vulgar, sexulaized” music that the over 40s, 50s, and 60s aren’t digging.

    I love that the comments are ranging from folks possibly in their 20s to those pushing 60. That’s why I love this website.

  8. Boyce says:

    Also crime rates have declined because you don’t have more crime when you simply lock up all the black men you can find.

  9. Boyce says:

    “So why do the old heads insist that the soothing sounds of Frankie Beverly and Maze or Earth, Wind & Fire were somehow less harmful to our community than Chief Keef and Trinidad James are right now?” – Come on brother, really?

  10. Reginald Williams says:

    Good article Mr. Johnson with a good percentage of truth. However with that said, I am 53 years young. If you do the math you should arrive at the conclusion that this old head is hip hop; watched my older brother plug his turn tables into a lamp post to play his music on the block or in the park, helped him load his truck with crates of records on his way to a party. While some old heads may be hating, there are a lot of old heads disappointed in how such a beautiful artform used in the 70s to silence violence, now promotes it (that ain’t media). Rap music and the hip hop culture gave voiceless black kids a voice and now the voice of their ancestors his primarily used to spew garbage.

    Today, I love my Motown, continue to listen to my hip hop; got some yougen on the ipad playlist and some unknowns. I’ll give you that hip hop can’t and should not be blamed for the world’s problem, you give me that these yougens are just as irresponsible as the old heads that you speak of.

  11. hoodgirl says:

    Awesome Article! My husband and I are both 47. He’s into Nina Simone’s Mississippi GODDAMN and anything Curtis Mayfield. I’m feeling Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man and Gene Chandler’s Rainbow 80. It’s easier to blame hip hop for our woes than to admit that parental supervision is desperately needed in our children’s lives to increase the probability that they will evolve into productive members of society.

  12. Ramses says:

    Concur with Peter

  13. Peter says:

    BW, I really like your comment.

    I am fed up to meet young Black people who refuse to educate themselves. I met last year two sisters (one was doing her MBA), they didn’t know who was Condoleezza Rice. This level of ignorance is unacceptable!!! I am sure that these girls must know all the lyrics of 50 cent, etc. In fact, it is not just young people. I spoke this year to a Black grandmother who didn’t know what is a vasectomy. My jaw dropped especially when we know there are so many unwanted pregnancies in our community. Last night, I saw the movie Lincoln, I was the only Black person in the movie theater to see this film!!! Same thing with the documentary on Obama which was released this year (I forgot the name) and the movie on J Edgar Hoover. I go to free museums, I don’t see our people there. I could go on and on. It seems that too many of our people decided to limit themselves or they have very limited interests: church, music and that’s pretty it!!! I am an editor, I received this week an article of 10 pages from a so-called journalist brother. I saw over 300 mistakes on his paper. It was clear to me that he never read a book in his life!!! I feel like our people in some ways decided to remain poor and I am not talking about the materialistic aspect of this. Too many of our people have low standards for themselves!!!

  14. Christopher Keith Johnson says:

    First, I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my work. I’m being called an “internet intellect,” by someone not quite digging where I’m coming from with this article. I’m guessing that’s meant as a diss, but as someone with a Ph.D., I’ve often found the discussions engaging internet articles to be as exciting and as well informed as those happening in some of America’s best graduate schools. More folks of different backgrounds speaking their minds make for great conversation. Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your views. Even when an opinion differs from my own I love the interaction.

    Some of my “stuff” is written with tongue firmly in cheek. Those who know me will see some of that in the article, but I stand behind the accusations of hate. And it’s nothing new! Every generation has been accused of having bad taste by the generation that came right before it. There was some Platters or Nat King Cole loving mom who absolutely hated Marvin Gaye and Al Green! They blamed them for stirring up sexual energies that they were praying to control in their children until after they were safe within the great institution of marriage. It didn’t happen. And it often didn’t happen with a condom! Ask the old heads how familiar they were with those in the 60s and 70s.

    Point is, things change. My man Brian alerted me to that in a conversation about professional wrestling and on the music tip I’m constantly being updated by good friends DL and Jay and others. Through an awareness of graduate school term–“fluidity”– I’ve come to accept that the music of today is neither “good” nor “bad.” It flows from the same base, but changes with the times.

    A lot of stuff just isn’t being written with me in mind. I’m totally okay pushing 40 and not feeling anything that my 22 year old younger sister thinks is dope. We just need to grow up. Accept change. And either be okay with being the old man or gal in the club. Or stay the hell out of it! Some Bingo parlors are more hyped than Jay-Z’s night spot anyway.

  15. BW says:

    It’s funny how younger people can tell someone older to take responsibility. I guess I’m one of these older people that needs to take responsibility. Yeah, crime has always been here, but it was not as glorified in the music as it is in hip hop. Plus the disrespect that a lot, not all, of these kids show was not there when I was growing up. A lot of the young adults (18-21) that I see into the hip hop lifestyle, all they want to do is chill and inpregnate these fast girls.

    One of the problems I see in our community is that no one wants to hold these young people responsible. It’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault and for some strange reason, we refuse to make them grow up. I see young adults that don’t have jobs wearing new cloths and using cell phones all the time. Who’s paying for that? They’re not. No one wants to hold anyone accountable. Little 19 year old drop out gets some girl pregnant and everyone acts as if this is a good thing. I’ve even seen where the ones thats be in and out of trouble get respect while the ones who work and stay out of trouble get treated viewed as a square. Why is that?

    I’m just saying you need to watch who you tell to take responsibility and who you call a hater. It’s not the older people who work and bust they assess for a living. While I’m working my 8 HR shift, there’s plenty of young adults running around commitng crimes and smoking weed.

    But I’m the one who needs to take responsibility

  16. Shawn hudson says:

    Hip hop is like a mirror and America is standing in front of it. Everything that you say is “wrong” with hip hop is actually whats wrong with society. Think about it racism, crime, greed, corruption, poverty, aids/hiv all were here before hip hop but as african american we continue to go at each others heads like the white man wants us to and blmae that for our kids killin each other and our marriages turning into divorces. Old heads blamin the youth for the worlds problems and youth don’t listen to the old heads becuase they hate on everything that they do.

  17. denzel says:

    If i had a dollar everytime the latest young black internet intellect said it’s bigger than hiphop i’d be rich 2 times over. time for a approach this is getting real tired.

  18. DL says:

    Great observations Chris… I can’t wait to be a hating old head 🙂 However, since I work at a college and manage the student station at that college I keep getting sucked into today’s pop culture. I actually find something to like in some of the most ignorant songs like Lil Wayne “No Worries” but since I am almost an old head its pretty embarassing for me to admit in my circle lol.

    Seriously, I think that the thing that has probably shaped our perceptions that hip hop is the purveyor of all of our societal ills is the one thing you didn’t mention, THE MEDIA. Don’t get me wrong hip hop does a pretty good job all on its own of promoting the idea that its “bad” but media reinforces the idea as much as it can get away with it.

    When you watch a movie or a drama if it has a black criminal in it there is a good chance that he represents the stereotypical image of a black urban male. He is wearing a hoodie, brandishing a gun, listening to hip hop, has rims and tint and a gold teeth.

    In order for old heads to embrace hip hop the narrative about hip hop has to change and last time I checked we don’t have the keys for that vehicle.

  19. Brian J. says:

    I think you touched on some deep issues. It’s quite easy to blame music and in particular, a culture on the problems in the African-American Community. Despite the fact that Marvin Gaye sung about African-American issues, it’s easy to dismiss for the “old-heads” because it hides the fact that they don’t want to take personal responsibility.

    It’s interesting that you brought up the fact that murder rates have gone down from more recent times. It reminds me of a video I watched that despite statistics, people believe that there are more black men in jail than in college. It’s all about false perception and as you said so well, hatred. Hatred that under a parent’s watch, their kids relate to and listen to hip-hop artists more than the parent themselves. Digging into my old head playlist, like Richard ‘Dimples” Fields sang, “If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another”.

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