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Michael Eric Dyson, Yes Hip Hop Is Destroying The Black Youth…

February 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( I’ll rape a pregnant b*tch and tell my friends I had a threesome.” These words came from Tyler the Creator, just one of the many hip-hop artists who’ve taken the power of free speech and used it to mangle their own community.  Disrespect for women has become par for the course in the language hip hop, not to mention messages about excessive drug/alcohol abuse, sexual irresponsibility, the murdering of one black man by another, and financial irresponsibility.

As I headed to Brown University this week to debate the issue with the always outstanding Michael Eric Dyson, I suddenly found myself at odds with my role model and predecessor, like a 10-year old boy forced to fight his 19-year old brother.  It’s awkward for me to disagree with Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, because I respect him so much.   It is also tough for me to disagree with  commercialized hip hop, since I love the music as much as I love Professor Michael Eric Dyson.

In light of my respect for Michael Eric Dyson, I must first admit that I appreciate the fact that he knows how to express disagreement without being demeaning or confrontational.  Every counter point is preceded by a compliment, and his style of communication inspires me to reconsider the manner by which I’ve challenged some of my own colleagues (yes, that was for you, Melissa Harris-Perry, but please leave Cornel West alone – people often forget that you attacked him first).

During our heated and productive public dialogue, Professor Michael Eric Dyson made the point that hip hop, even the stuff we hear on the radio, is one of the most creative and imaginative art forms in history.  The lyrical genius being shown by hip hop artists should be studied in the same manner as Shakespeare, Chaucer and all the other people who bored me to tears in high school.  It is nothing less than racist to presume that hip hop artists can’t be just as brilliant as those with lighter shades of skin.

Dyson also made the interesting point that the same creative freedoms being given to individuals who make violent films should be given to hip hop artists who make violent music.   One could hardly imagine Martin Scorsese being taken to task for the cultural influence of “The Godfather.”

I don’t disagree with Prof. Michael Eric Dyson entirely.   We do live in a country where the actions of black men are viewed with a more critical and negative eye than the actions of our white brothers and sisters.   Also, the oppression that poor black men experience doesn’t disappear when you are educated and middle class (no different from the racism I’ve dealt with at Syracuse University).

The problem, however, is that commercialized hip hop is not like a harmless film, where those who absorb the messages clearly understand that the artist is creating an illusion that is entirely distinct from reality.  Commercialized hip hop is the mass marketing and glamorization of a lifestyle that ends up being emulated by millions of black kids across America.

When Lil Wayne says, “My flag’s red,” implying that he is a member of the LA Bloods street gang, he isn’t making this up (he would be killed for making a false affiliation).  There is an expectation in hip hop that the lives of the artists are relatively authentic, that they are “keeping it real.”  When an artist tells a story about his time in prison, he usually has a criminal record.  If he talks about his days of “slangin” dope and never actually dealt drugs, he is ridiculed.

Hip hop artists on the radio are not just fictional characters in a dramatic story.  Instead, they are more like political figures, marketing a set of ideas to young people.  They are pastors in a media megachurch, bragging about how they live, what they do, and who they do it with.  To somehow presume that impressionable young minds are not being adversely affected by the negative mantras they recite on a daily basis is nothing short of writing off every Psychology research study in the history of all mankind; the same brainwashing that creates a generation of Lil Wayne clones is also used by Nike to get poor black kids to spend $200 on shoes that cost $10 to make.

Artists have the right to free speech.  But we as citizens also have the right to tell the artists, their corporate plantation owners, and media outlets that are distributing this poison that we will not tolerate artists sharing messages that make our kids proud of being ignorant, unproductive, self-destructive, and harmful to their own communities.  Anyone who wants to see the impact of these messages need only be around young people as rappers overwhelm even the best parents when it comes to telling their children how to make choices.

Sure, some kids can look past the music and not absorb the messages.  But as a black man, I see my brothers being impacted by the actions of rappers, who validate and encourage the very worst in them.  I see the men who try to rise out of the cycles of self-destruction that plague so many of us, only to find that the spiritual momentum is in the other direction.  Did hip hop cause all of the problems for the black male in America?  Certainly not.  But one thing we know, without question, is that the music on the radio isn’t helping.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. For more information, please visit


8 Responses to “Michael Eric Dyson, Yes Hip Hop Is Destroying The Black Youth…”
  1. Jill says:

    I’m a substitute teacher in poor black neighborhoods in a midwestern city. It’s near the end of the school year, so I decided that as a treat, I’d let one of my smaller eighth grade classes (nearly all boys) relax with some word search puzzles. All was well until I allowed one of the kids to play “clean” hip hop as background music for the class. ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! They instantly were transformed from sensible humans into complete and utter thugs, cursing, fighting one another, and throwing anything they could get their hands on across the room. It’s no accident: commercial hip hop was scientifically designed to do exactly this. These kids don’t get that their “music” (puh-leez) idols purposely are screwing them over for money and fame. Disgusting.

  2. Tami says:

    Hip Hop makes our race look like apes to the entire world. It is too permeated in American culture to just ignore. But people like me, for our own reasons, stay in neighborhoods where sagging your pants, speaking poorly and being ignorant about basic concepts can’t be seen. And our kids grow up with and make friends with other smart kids. If my family were not blessed financially, hip hop would be a problem for us too. Bit thankfully there is not a whiff of it in our lives or neighborhood. it’s only on netflix or hulu, or youtube, for us, and the kids have no interest.



    9-1-1 ASSASSINS

  4. Milagros says:

    At times I have been guilty of not saying anything or at least not enough to oppose the kind of music that is spoken of here in amerikkka .However that was then and this is now. I spend a lot of time in Cuba(born native) and the same music has swept the country albeit not to the detriment found in amerikkka ..The total disrespect for women the name calling ie ( ho’s and b’s) and the disrespect for women etc..esp mothers( playing the dozens) is unheard of in Cuba. Rather most of the music I like and which I hear is political. The African Cubans as well as those who do not claim Afrika yet still rap and enjoy hip hop are all speaking transition, and hoping to bring out the fiyah of deliverance.
    The deliverance they spiel is about the future and what and how/what they would like to see transition after Fidel or while Fidel is still alive.
    I know that the music they are sharing has advanced thier agenda There is new land allottment, more resources, more advanced health care and more opportunity for better employment..Yes the music and the youth have chipped away at the status quo and its all good…Why? Respect for family women children and elders

  5. Andrew says:

    This is very silly but I have to point out this glaring mistake.

    “One could hardly imagine Martin Scorsese being taken to task for the cultural influence of “The Godfather.”

    It was Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Martin Directed Goodfellas.

    dont like to do comments like these but as a film fan that really stood out >.<

  6. esther says:

    I lost a lot of respect for MED after his criticisms of Bill Crosby. And yes hip hop is destroying us.

  7. Patsy says:

    Great article! It is scary what is happening these days with Too Short and on on!


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