If you are concerned about your kid's love for hip hop, you are part of a long-standing tradition of parental concern over youth culture. Hip hop lyrics often discuss unhealthy behavior and relationships, which raises a red flag for some parents. Your child may want to imitate some of the flashier rappers temporarily, but no form of music can cause lasting changes in your child's behavior.
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Hip Hop as Cultural Force and Cultural Product
Hip hop was born when Jamaican immigrants wedded pre-recorded percussion breaks to rhythmic story-telling in 1970's New York City. Hip hop lyrics discuss issues that affect people of color from their own perspective, prompting rapper Chuck D to call hip hop "black people's CNN." The advent of Biggie Smalls and Sean Combs ushered in a new, more glamorous approach to hip hop. Hip hop testifies to the experiences and aspirations of kids growing up in areas where music or sports can seem to be the only ways out of poverty. Hip hop didn't create the ghetto; it just talks about it.
Can Hip Hop Make People Violent?
Several studies have sought to determine whether violent lyrics, and in the case of music videos, violent images, can cause violent behavior. One study by researchers at Western Connecticut State University in 2006 found that people who listen to music with violent lyrics are more likely to be violent. However, these studies don't always account for factors such as the presence of violence in the home or community. Dr. Tricia Rose, a professor of Africana Studies and author of "The Hip Hop Wars," states that assertions about hip hop causing violence are "incredibly dishonest about the profound role of structural racism, of economic disadvantage that has been produced over decades."
Hip Hop and Sexual Behavior
Hip hop lyrics often discuss promiscuous sexual behavior, and videos may feature scantily-clad women dancing in a suggestive manner. Researchers at Columbia University in 2007 found that men who listen to hip hop regularly are less likely to practice safer sex. But research done at Florida International University in 2008 found that for teen girls, "mothers were regarded both as models of appropriate sexual behaviors and as the parent most responsible for monitoring mainstream hip hop sexual image consumption."
Hip Hop and Parenting
While no form of music can compel your child to do anything, the lyrics that your child listens to might reflect his current mood or his stance on topics including violence and intimate relationships. Find out what your child is listening to, and talk about the lyrics. Hear him out on why he likes hip hop, and discuss limits on what you consider acceptable listening. Both of you might be surprised by what you learn about music and each other.