Is Rap/Hip Hop Bad for African Americans

This opinion was originally written four years ago.

The Bottom Line If you don’t want to read my whole essay, The answer is YES! If you want to know why, read on.


The question of the day, my friends both white and black, is, “Is Rap/Hip Hop bad for African Americans?”

For all you readers that like Rap, let me tell you, I don’t, and that makes me more impartial with regards to the negative effects of Rap on the black community. What, you don’t think there are any negative effects? Well thats where we disagree and that’s why we’re going to discuss this.

Now, some of you may know me and some of you may have guessed, so I won’t keep you in suspense, I am White but I’m not racist. Am I color blind? probably not. Very few people are. My wife is and I think my kids are but I’m older and grew up in the forties and fifties. My father was an Archie Bunker type and was a closet bigot. Funny thing he used to rant about the Russians and the Poles more than the Blacks(they were known as coloreds then) and the Jews. Maybe that’s why I married a Jewish woman and have Black Friends(they’re really my wifes but I made them mine too).

I had been thinking about writing this essay for many months but thought it might be too controversial and cause bad feelings, that is until I read an Editorial by Leonard Pitts Jr. a black columnist for the Miami Herald, on Oct, 26 of this year, called HATE THIS GAME? The game in question is called Ghettopoly, however, the article is really about Rap and the bad impression it sends to mainstream America about the African American community. Pitts insights are profound and mirror my own thoughts, therefore I will be quoting him when appropriate.

My musical tastes do include the various incantations of Rock and Metal but it wasn’t always that way. In the fifties, I lived in Chicago and when I was twelve, thirteen and fourteen, I attended The Art Institute. My favorite baseball player was a rookie then on the Milwaukee Braves named Henry Aaron(ever hear of him?). I used to listen to the games on Milwaukee radio station and I’d also listen some of the black radio stations to hear Rhythm and Blues and the real birth of birth of Rock and Roll.

I’ve always been a non conformist, never settling for what everybody else liked, knowing there was something better, so while Guiselle Mackensie and Snokey Lansing were singing about Old Smokey and The Doggies in the Window on Lucky Strikes, Hit Parade, I was listening to Muddy Waters, Joe Turner, Bo Didley, Screaming Hawkins, The Dells, Fats Domino, The Spaniels, The Ojays, The Del Vikings and a bunch of other artists that I no longer remember.

Eventually this underground Blues and Rock and Roll was absorbed into mainstream top 40 music, first through surrogate white artists like Pat Boone, the Diamonds and the Crew Cuts covering the the music and then by the black artists, like Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino themselves.

The late fifties and early sixties was a golden age for for the black rock and roll musicians. The fifties brought us The Platters, The Penguins, the Rays, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Coasters, Clyde Mcphatter and the Drifters. The sixties brought us more Drifters, Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes and the Supremes. This was when Black music was at it’s acme both in popularity and creativity.

Black Music continued to thrive with black superstars, Stevie Wonder, Jackson Five, Ray Charles, Whitney Houston, Prince and Tina Turner.


Then in the late 1980s, catastrophe hit. Rap music, the music of the Ghetto, the music of despair and thuggery was born and although Black R & B and R & R didn’t die it was thoroughly diminished. It is to this ill conceived birth that Leonard Pitts Jr. addressed the following comment, “I keep wondering where all this fury was when rappers like 50 cent, Nelly, Ja Rule, and Snoop Dogg first started pimping, drug dealing and drive by shooting all over the video channels…….Where was the moral indignation when Black people were reducing Black life to a caricature?…….With a few isolated exceptions – activist C Delores Tucker and Rev. Calvin Butts – Blacks have been conspicuously silent as Black music, once the joy and strength of Black people, has detoured into an open sewer of so-called “hardcore rap””.

Pitts goes on to say, “The vast majority of that practitioners are nothing more and nothing less than modern day Uncle Toms, selling out Black dreams by peddling a cartoon of Black life unencumbered by values.” This is strong stuff but I’m afraid it’s true, Rap/Hip Hop has crammed out the good black music, the music everybody, white, black, brown and yellow liked and substituted a predominantly hateful message, and I’m afraid White music has suffered too. There’s been a noticeable decline in the quality of all music over the last five to ten years but unlike the Black community this decline does not translate into a negative perception of the white community.

But Pitts is not yet finished. Here’s more, “It is a cynical knowing act promulgated by men and women who get rich by selling lies of authenticity to young people, White and Black, who are looking for lessons of Blackness. They are as much minstrels and peddlers of stereotype as Stepin Fetchit, Bert Williams or any Black performer who ever smeared black goop on his face or shuffled onstage beneath a battered top hat”

I may be wrong but I get the impression that most African American people are proud of Rap/Hip Hop. They think it is a Black creation and it is but it’s nothing to be proud of. It’s not a product of their African heritage, the Blues was that. It’s a product of the Black Barrio. It was born in, and is about the worst aspects the Ghetto. Christ, it glorifies demeaning life in the Ghetto with it’s angry message.

I’m sure there are others but the only recent successful Black music artists I can think of Mariah Carey, Seal, Boys II Men and Destiny’s Child/Beyounce. This compares to a bevy of Rap artists, which means that rap is perceived by White America as the music of choice for Black America and by association is perceived by the lifestyle of choice for Black America.

I doubt if anybody thinks this is good or helpful to the Black community as a whole. It is good to the Black Rappers though. It gives something else to talk/sing about as they go to the bank with their troves of cash. They now get to rub their wealth in their fans faces in their music.

As Mr. Pitts says “Black people of my generation(I’m 46) have resisted speaking forcefully against this because, like all baby boomers, we are deathly afraid of appearing less than hip. But as I recall, our parents never worried about that. They understood their role to be not hipness, but guidance”

“I am of a generation that has largely failed that role, that turned “judgement” into a four letter word. The fruit of that failure lies before us; an era of a historical young people who traffic in stereotypes that would not be out of place in a Ku Klux Klan meeting”

Now I know that after 15 years there is bound to be a Rap song or two or maybe dozens with a positive message but please save your examples. Save them and live by them for to live by the others is a recipe for disaster, a ruined life. I’m Talking about the negative message pervaded in the overwhelming preponderance of Rap/Hip Hop.

I sincerely hope I haven’t offended anybody. This needed to be said and I hope it makes you think.

November 27, 2007. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . African Americans, ghetto life, Hip Hop, misogyny, Rap, Thugs, women. 14 comments.