Fucking bitches, doing drugs and splashing out on material goods. Sound like your favourite rapper? Me too.
A large proportion of mainstream rap nowadays seems to endorse the use of illegal substances, misogyny towards women and place an emphasis on materialistic goods. I’m a firm believer in the proverb ‘live and let live’, in which you should allow others to live their lives as they wish (certain circumstances excluded). However, when that person holds a position of influence over a large audience, should they be deemed morally responsible for what they say and do? Should a rapper be wary of promoting ideologies (such as those mentioned above) in likelihood of young people believing them to be ‘the right’ way of life? In this article I hope to address both sides of the argument, leaving a decision to be reached by you, the reader.
People are quick to judge rappers and celebrities alike for their slip ups, but are also quick to forget these people are human. They make mistakes, just like you and I, and by the same token they are entitled to their own beliefs and philosophies. Just because they’re in the public eye does not mean they should taper their lives, in this instance their arts, for fear of influencing young people. Some might say it’s ridiculous to promote such an idea. For start, art, in any aspect, is a personal reflection of feeling and thought. If a rapper chooses to rap about sleeping with a great number of women/men, let them do so. They should be able to express so without censorship. For if art were censored in accordance with moral fortitude, it’d not be genuine art. Looking at the bigger picture, a person is entitled to freedom of speech (within reason). This allows them to voice their opinions without censorship. If we were to start telling rappers they couldn’t rap about x y and z, what would rap be? A poetic compilation of words citing government and industry approved content. Sounds amazing doesn’t it? You must remember art is a reflection of the artist. Their living conditions, upbringing, surroundings and story. The minute you start editing it, it’s not ‘their’ story anymore.
‘if art were censored in accordance with moral fortitude, it’d not be genuine art’.
Rap is part of the entertainment industry. Operative word entertainment. It’s purpose is to engage the audience and keep us intrigued. So exaggeration may be necessary, white lies too. I think it’s fair to remember that a large proportion of rap can be put in the ‘dick swinging’ category.
‘…point to remember is that rap is part of the entertainment industry. Operative word entertainment. It’s purpose is to engage the audience and keep us intrigued.’
On the other hand, I think any person in a position of influence must accept some level of moral responsibility. For example, I personally try to promote a lifestyle that is attainable and positive. Through social media I display my interests and hobbies, consisting of an equal balance (I’d like to think) of both mental and physical abilities, placing emphasis on the equal importance of both. Whilst my following may not be as big as that of any rapper, I still have the ability to be a positive role model for my audience.
‘…any person in a position of influence must accept some level of moral responsibility’.
As an older brother I have the ability to demonstrate some moral rights and wrongs to my younger siblings. I’d never promote any sort of discrimination or disrespect towards women or the use of violence. I’m not promoting an unrealistic lifestyle, my friends and family know I have my slip ups. I’m not saying that splashing out on clothes is bad, I do a lot. It’s all about balance, and making sure you use the position you’ve obtained, for good. I believe that rappers should be held responsible for promoting unrealistic lifestyles and goals. It’s not healthy for the youth to believe that living a life of drug abuse, misogyny, violence and wealth will lead to happiness. Whilst arguably those aspects in small quantities may bring you temporary happiness (for arguments sake), it’s nothing that should be sustained.
‘It’s not healthy for the youth to believe that living a life of drug abuse, misogyny, violence and wealth will lead to happiness’.
Celebrities and rappers alike have a platform unlike many others, in which they have the ability to promote the positive and draw attention to topics that matter, like discrimination, climate change, the migrant crisis etc. – topics that wouldn’t get that sort of press without their attention.
I’m still undecided myself as to what I believe (as you can probably tell). Do you think that rappers should be wary as to what they promote? Or do you think as an art, any sort of censorship should be discarded for fear of losing the ‘art’ itself? I’m interested in hearing what you have to think.
By Tayler Prince-Fraser
Image credits Highsnobiety