True or false: If Woodstock were to occur today, would parents want their children there? Was John Lennon the kind of role model, and were The Beatles the sort of people, that were held up as modern day Wagners or Buddhas? Perhaps they were not; yet today the argument seems to be that the perceived deterioration in the general culture can both be linked to and seen in today’s hip-hop.
Witness the oft-quoted statement from Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, delivered during the recent House hearings on hip-hop (as reported in The New York Times): “Violence and degradation have ‘reduced too many of our youngsters to automatons, those who don’t recognize life, those who don’t value life.’ ” Evidently, the greatest threat this nation faces today is that posed by.impropriety.
Impropriety, furthermore, that is no longer counterbalanced by “art.” Though at the time a good number of people were somewhat horrified by the new, more chemically-infused rock and roll of the 1960s and 1970s, it gained its defenders because from time to time it reached the realm of art and because of the “radicalism” contained within those now venerated songs. And as time moved on, the groups of that era garnered ever-more-fawning praise as the initial furor surrounding them died away. What of the music before that era, one may ask? Well, that’s ancient history now.
Nobody harbors misgivings about their sons or daughters listening to Jimi Hendrix, who, lest it be forgotten, became famous for drug abuse and produced some songs that-whatever their stated meaning-could certainly reference recreational sex and/or drug use. In the same vein, idolizing the Rolling Stones is perfectly acceptable to those who grew up in the era of their greatest fame; the content of their lyrics is evidently of no concern.
Yet hip-hoppers and rappers who espouse similar values are.threats? They are perverting the minds of our youngsters with awful ideas of sex, drugs and even violence? Does anyone see a problem here? Groups from the past can talk of debauchery or revolution and suffer no criticism. However, rappers who communicate similar ideas through their lyrics are dubbed obscene. It seems as if the only logic for this unequal treatment lies in the more vulgar lyrics of hip-hop; because its presentation is obscene, its content is assumed to be as well.
The great irony here is that the presentation of rock and roll in the 1960s and afterward was no cleaner than that of hip-hop today. Who could forget, for example, the infamous instrument-breaking episodes of Hendrix? Nothing whatsoever about the rock of those days was in any way cleaner than hip-hop of today, which is blamed for social ills by those unwilling to remember that the music of their generation preached the same values, and that they followed them to the very same degree hip-hop listeners do today.
Andrew Hamner is a freshman majoring in journalism and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.