What then is to be done? I seriously doubt that our society will change overnight on the principle of using sex to sell, but I do think that hip-hop has a responsibility to renew its focus on instilling not just an empowering and healthy sense of perseverance but also the guidance of what is to be valued and what constitutes “success.” There needs to be more emphasis on what type of “mastery” is truly desirable and why. It seems as though we now have a generation that has seen some of the most “successful” hip-hop artists tout their toughness as a sign of their value and power. Powerful? Maybe…. But being powerful in the bulletproof sense, while it may be a great thing if living in a war zone, bears absolutely no relation to one’s artistic skills, let alone general quality of life. You could be as untouchable as Superman and still have poor artistic skills, or trite and immature lyrics. Does that mean we should have to listen to you on the radio 24/7? It doesn’t, but as long as people keep supporting and requesting it, you’re going to have to keep listening to it.
This brings me to my final point in this series. While it is important to examine the causes of our current problem if we hope to really resolve it (and if we hope to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past), it is more practical to look at ways that we can help quickly change the landscape of current mainstream hip-hop. Another time-tested business principle: “Vote with your Dollars.” We can talk all we want about it, but as long as we’re buying, they’ll be selling.
Thus, a key component of the solution to the problem is for people to just stop endorsing artists who pursue an irrelevant type of power that is ultimately destructive to our community and society. As long as we’re buying albums, merchandise, magazines, and concert tickets that promote misogyny, then it’s not going to get any better no matter how vocal we are in our opposition, or how much energy we devote to dissecting the reasons that it came to this point. Even just leaving the dance floor when those terrible lyrics (no matter how kickin’ the beat might be) come blaring over the speakers can begin to have an effect on the culture. But this is all old hat really… I still think that focusing on education about why some things should be valued more highly than others to our children would carry much more weight in the long run. Plus, since when has just telling teens (or anyone for that matter) that they can’t do something ever stopped them? You’ve got to explain why, and now hopefully the previous installments of this article may give you a bit of ammunition!
If you’re sick of the negativity, the degradation, and false values that are being instilled in this world… you’re not alone. Hip-hop isn’t to blame for this, but is just another example of people taking a good thing and letting selfishness, pride, or a general distortion of values ruin it. But we’re not giving up on it. In fact, it is still the true spirit of hip-hop that will see this culture through this as we all “StayBattlin.”