Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Episode # 7 is live as we’re joined by Hip Hop artists Ill Camille, Hip Hop publicist DeeDee Branch, Associate Director of Urban Talent at ASCAP Mir Harris, and 14 year old aspiring rapper Page Stevenson. This all-women panel discusses everything from Hip Hop culture and the music business to community activism and social justice. They went deep, spoke truth, and had fun doing it! Also, check out new music by Ill Camille, Akua Naru ft. Dynasty & Sa-Roc, Priest, and Sean Price(RIP). And don’t miss our young MC who spits a dope verse over a classic beat. As always, you can contact both hosts on Twitter at @SebIsHipHop and @ or on InstaGram @TakeNoPrisonersRadio. Spread the word!



I’ve spent the past few years tirelessly writing about the music industry’s deplorable portrayal of Black people. I’ve verbally attacked record companies, radio stations, TV networks, and executives who profit from Black death and dysfunction. I’ve harshly criticized rappers like Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz, YG, and Rick Ross for glorifying crime, sex, drugs, violence, and general ignorance. I’ve gone after clueless bloggers and hipsters for praising the very worst that rap has to offer. I’ve watched an industry blossom from the exploitation of the most vile and obscene racial stereotypes imaginable and openly accused it of promoting a covert white supremacist agenda. I’ve called out media conglomerates for their proven connection to the private prison industrial complex. I’ve been vocal and unapologetically determined to expose the industry for what I’m convinced is a deliberate attempt to dumb down generations of unsuspecting listeners. I’ve gained friends, supporters, and allies but also made a few foes in the process.  And although it’s become increasingly difficult to say something I haven’t already said in past articles or interviews, as long as the industry keeps pushing its propaganda, I’ll continue speaking out against it. For every person who’s heard my arguments a hundred times before, there’s someone else hearing it for the first time.

Throughout this amazing journey, I’ve observed how strategically wicked “the enemy” really is. I’ve watched how this industry seduces young impressionable artists at their most vulnerable, builds them up with false hope, manipulates them to think they’re in control, and discards them when they no longer serve a purpose. It happened to Chief Keef and Trinidad James, it’s happening to Bobby Shmurda now, and it will probably happen to Columbia Records’ latest acquisition, 23 year-old female rapper Dej Loaf whose radio hit “Try Me” has her killing entire families and rapping lines like “I really hate n****s, I’m a Nazi”.  After years of indoctrinating the masses to view Black men as criminals and animals, an image that has undoubtedly shaped the George Zimmermans and Darren Wilsons of the world, the music industry has turned it up a notch by promoting this young Black woman as a psychopath and murderer. With co-signs from Drake, E-40, T.I, and Wiz Khalifa who are either blind to the industry’s racial exploitation or mere forgiving beneficiaries, where does an inexperienced artist like Dej Loaf turn to for wisdom and guidance? Besides Erykah Badu who called Dej to offer advice, who will pull this young sister to the side and warn her of what is likely to happen after her short-lived fame fades into oblivion? Who will stand up for her humanity, her soul, and her dignity as a woman…as a Black woman? No one in the industry will…unless it offends white sensibilities. Who can forget how quickly Snoop apologized for making fun of Iggy Azalea after T.I. stepped in to defend the honor of his artist? No such pressure from the industry ever prompted Snoop or his peers to offer this swift of an apology for the way Black women have been portrayed through commercial rap in the last 20 years.

A few days ago, Nicki Minaj released the video for “Only”, an animated short that incorporates what many have called Nazi imagery due to its military theme, swastika-styled Young Money logo, SS-like soldiers, and Nicki playing the role of the ruthless dictator. Although there were no literal mentions of Nazis or Hitler, the sensitive nature of the video elicited countless complaints from fans and a public statement from the Anti Defamation League condemning the video. Nicki immediately issued an apology via Twitter and explained that she would never intentionally promote Nazism. Far from being the first to apologize for offensive content, artists ranging from Micheal Jackson to Kanye West have been censored or pressured to change their lyrics as to not offend various groups including Jews, 9/11 survivors, and white people in general. In the meantime, Bobby Shmurda shares celebratory tales of Black on Black murder via a boardroom performance attended by the mostly white staff of Epic Records and its proud “papa bear”, chairman and CEO, L.A. Reid.

Former BET executive and founder of RapRehab, Paul Porter has a long history of media activism. The outspoken industry veteran has gone head to head with high profile decision-makers and spearheaded many successful initiatives designed to hold media accountable. Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne, BET, and the Oxygen Network are just a few of those who have succumbed to Paul’s demands. “Programmers and record labels have a bad case of amnesia,” he says. “They want us to believe that content has no effect on the audience they covet. Millions spent on promotion and advertising is common sense evidence that content matters.”  Never one to hold his tongue, Porter concludes, “it’s sad. Even some child molesters admit they’re sick.”

At the end of the day, no matter how many protests, movements, boycotts, and public outrage denouncing the music industry’s depiction of Black people have occurred in the past 2 decades, none of them have made a significant impact. The industry just doesn’t give a shit about Black people unless they’re entertaining the masses.  But can we really expect industry execs to apologize for turning the criminalization of Black people into a billion dollar business when so many artists are willingly dancing to their own demise?

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Billionaire Donald Sterling won’t see his bank account shrink anytime soon since he’s still the owner of the Clippers…for now. But at the very least, his racist ass is exposed. Of course, there’s plenty more of exposing to do. I’m hoping that the same level of outrage which led to Sterling’s $2.5 million fine and lifetime ban from the NBA can extend to the entertainment industry’s sexual exploitation of children. Am I asking too much?

It’s no secret that for decades, the entertainment industry has used sex to sell music, movies, TV shows, products, and even lifestyles. However, recent events point to something much more disturbing…and sinister.

The Disturbing:
While “Love & Hip Hop” star Mimi Faust is being dragged through the mud for having released a sex video, both Vivid Entertainment, the company distributing Mimi’s video, and VH1 are working collaboratively to ensure that the extra publicity will attract maximum viewers to Love & Hip Hop’s 3rd season beginning early May 2014. A couple of weeks ago, the movie’s unedited trailer (I didn’t even know they existed for porn) flooded social media, making it the most preordered adult film in Vivid’s history. Good job VH1. I think the cable network has also broken records by being the first “non-adult entertainment” channel to blatantly use pornography to promote a TV show watched by both adults and young people. I’m sure many horny teenagers were overjoyed to get a free glimpse of the film’s action scenes conveniently accessible on their Facebook timeline. How this didn’t violate Facebook’s “community standards”, while just a couple of months ago, a racist/sexist picture of First Lady Michelle Obama was allowed to circulate across FB land, is beyond me. But that’s another story.

I’m confident that Love & Hip Hop’s new season will kick off with huge numbers, thanks to VH1′s genius marketing campaign. Viacom must be proud of their baby. After all, we may be witnessing the beginning of a new era in marketing. How exciting! Mainstream porn for everybody!

The Sinister:
I few weeks ago, X-Men director Bryan Singer was accused of drugging and sexually abusing a teenage boy back in 1999. While Mr. Singer categorically denies these allegations, the issue has opened a can of worms and uncovered a much larger network of Hollywood big wigs who have been sexually exploiting children for decades. The truth is, these allegations are nothing new. For years, many industry insiders, including former child star Corey Feldman, have spoken publicly about pedophilia being Hollywood’s biggest problem. Feldman explained that over the years, the FBI had been notified on several occasions but failed to take action. According to sources, this Hollywood “sex ring” has been around for a long time and consists of agents, directors, and executives who use their power and influence to drug and molest children who are trying to break into the business. To make matters worse, many industry folks know who the culprits are but remain silent because it may jeopardize their careers and bank accounts. Singer’s recent accusations have once again placed the spotlight on this “Hollywood secret” which will hopefully result in the prosecution of every single monster involved in this tragedy, including those who know about it but keep their mouths shut. Anyone who believes that a career in the entertainment industry is more important than exposing a pedophile sex ring needs to be locked up immediately. Sadly, I’m sure many of the guilty parties are well-respected Hollywood power houses we’d never suspect.

Are these two seemingly unrelated examples connected in some way? Have the entertainment industry and sexual exploitation always been so disturbingly intertwined or are we witnessing the next level in depravity?  Have we reached the point where people will happily sacrifice their humanity for a spot in the entertainment industry?

What I do know is that money and power are at the root of this sickness. In one case, a major network is selling sex to increase their show’s viewership and advertising dollars; in another case, the rich and famous turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of children because it could affect their social status. This is absolutely insane and no one is holding anybody accountable.  In the meantime, our daughters are watching music videos that glorify strippers and our sons dream of making it rain on them.
And here I am, an educator and eyewitnesses to the damage this is inflicting on our kids, listening to these children dream of a lifestyle promoted by an industry that wants nothing but to suck the life out of them.


Last week, Doran Miller-Rosenberg, a writer for published  “Why the ’6 Ways to Stop Your Child From Being Brainwashed By Mainstream Rap’ Guide Got It All Wrong’”, a nasty rebuttal to my original article which was an over-the-top, comedic take on what parents need to do to wean their kids off commercial rap. Mr. Miller-Rosenberg, a 20-something hipster from Brooklyn didn’t get it. Whereas a simple critique of my article would have been within reason, Doran, or D-Bag as I like to call him, spent the majority of his digital ink on attacking my person with cheap shots and half-baked arguments while completely brushing off both the satirical nature of my article and the very real social implications of mainstream rap’s influence on kids. Of course, that’s to be expected from someone whose social awareness is most likely limited to which neighborhood has the best organic bagels.

But he’s not the first cornball hipster to write about rap and be ridiculously off base. So here’s to D-Bag and all his Generation Y cohorts: stay in your lane, kids. Stick to writing about Williamsburg’s trendiest coffee shops, Coachella, or why the series finale of “How I Met Your Mother” left you disappointed. Let conscious-minded cats who live and breathe Hip Hop speak for the culture. You’re not welcome in this house.

Waxing poetic about Chief Keef’s brilliance while ignoring the depressing realities the rapper’s music reflects is a luxury only a clueless, disconnected snob can afford. While you arrogant clowns absolve yourselves of any accountability by arguing against the moralizing of art, misguided kids are trying to live out the lyrics to songs you and your grad school homies party to. While you celebrate Gucci Mane’s reckless abandon as the ultimate display of counter-culture cool, the artist known as Radric Davis is spiraling downwards, in and out of jail, and in my estimation, in need of serious therapy. Magically, the average garden-variety trap rapper becomes your personal virtual tour guide through Anyhood, USA wherein you can live your wildest “ghetto” fantasies vicariously, “fuck as many bitches” as you want, make it rain on the baddest chicks, hold heat, sip a little lean (which you’ve probably already tried with your best friend Ethan and some free-spirited blonde named Dakota one boring Saturday night)…all while finally experiencing the liberating sensation of dropping the N word at will.  One can only dream, right?  And then it’s back to your regular life as an espresso-sipping, greasy combed-over-haired, trust-fund dick head who’d piss your pants if you ever found yourself face to face with the very same hood characters you get hard daydreaming about.

Ahhhhh…..stereotypes can be so fun. But you know that all too well.

Those pseudo-progressive ideologies and faux anti-establishment leanings you cloak yourselves in quickly come apart when life invites you to fully embrace your privileged background and trade in your so-called love of Hip Hop and thrift store fashions for a suit, a tie, and a cushy job at some marketing firm in charge of promoting everything you once claimed to stand against. People like you can’t be trusted. You’re too self-involved and will change like the wind when opportunity knocks.

But for now, your youthful delusions give you just enough balls to believe that you can rewrite, remix, rearrange, reshape and redefine Hip Hop, a culture in which you have nothing invested, no matter how much you’ve “studied” it or how large your vinyl collection is.  But you’re not Hip Hop and will never be. You don’t speak for the culture and get no love from those whose blood, sweat and tears made Hip Hop what it is. The publications and blogs you write for have no credibility in the eyes of those who have dedicated their lives to this culture. Your thoughts, words and ideas are as irrelevant as MTV’s annual Best MC’s of All Time List. Still, as irrelevant as you may be to genuine Hip Hop culture, as long as outlets like Spin, Gawker, Fader and Pitchfork pass you off as tastemakers, your uninformed rantings might just be accepted as law by younger, more impressionable rap fans who tend to believe anything they read. This is why you must be neutralized. I’m not going to watch passively as you rewrite Hip Hop’s current narrative without calling you out on your bullshit. You can try to intellectualize mainstream rap’s dysfunction until the grass-fed cows come home, but your poorly disguised racial fetishes expose you every time.

For many of us, Hip Hop culture saved our lives, or at the very least, gave it a purpose. Our worldviews,  politics, social awareness, and sense of self have been shaped by Hip Hop. Some of us have become activists, community organizers, educators, healers, youth advocates and socially responsible entrepreneurs because Hip Hop gave us the spark to believe we could change the world. And here you come, smug and pretentious, imposing your values on a culture that doesn’t need you or want you, just like your predecessors imposed themselves on lands that weren’t theirs and how you follow suit today by gentrifying and redefining countless neighborhoods that don’t want you either. Most of you are Hip Hop culture vultures on a safari of appropriation and exploitation. You take and give nothing back. You’re the worst. Stay away from Hip Hop.

But at the end of the day, Doran Miller-Rosenberg, we don’t even have to look that deeply. The proof is in the pudding. I write for RapRehab, You for Elite Daily.  That pretty much says it all.



Seb pic


In January 2013, I wrote a revealing, soul-baring article titled “Confessions of a Failed Hip Hop Publicist” which expressed my profound disgust with the music industry, my disappointment in the caliber of rap artists soliciting my services, and why I chose to retire. Written both as a cautionary tale and as a form of personal therapy, my goal was to let the universe know that I was done with this crazy industry, once and for all. No longer would I subject myself to working with second-rate rappers whose only goals were to become the next Chief Keef or 2 Chainz.  No longer would I have to put up with self-important media gatekeepers who wouldn’t recognize real talent if it beat them in the head. But as the saying “God works in mysterious ways” implies, the universe had something else in store for me.

Immediately after my article was published by Pigeons & Planes and picked up by countless blogs and social media platforms, I began receiving thousands of emails, Facebook messages, tweets, and phone calls from people around the world thanking me for having the heart to speak my truth.  My story struck a nerve with everyone ranging from artists and rap fans to bloggers and industry execs. These folks either urged me to stay in the business, expounding on the merits of my professional integrity, or wholeheartedly supported my decision to walk away, assuring me that what I labeled a failure was in actuality a breath of fresh air amidst a rotting industry. More interestingly, I heard from my professional counterparts, many of them high-profile publicists who echoed my sentiments and shared their own nightmare experiences in the field. The feedback I received was overwhelming but encouraging beyond my expectations.

Of course, the haters also had their say.  Some accused me of being a self-righteous jerk; some said I was a crappy writer; others ridiculed my lack of business-savvy.  More interesting were the interactions I had with high-profile executives who, in an attempt to defend their industry, casually revealed their true feelings about the average music fan/consumer.  To paraphrase what an executive at one of the world’s biggest mass media company told me: rap fans aren’t the most intelligent bunch so we can pretty much sell them anything and they’ll eat it up.  Just to be clear, he was one of many prominent decision-makers I spoke with who felt this way about their target audience.  These “gems of human beings” were simply reinforcing my decision to exit the game.

The ironic by-product of my “retirement” letter was the feedback I got from hundreds of extremely talented artists interested in representation, publicity, and plain old guidance.  The caliber of artists I had previously been seeking were now flooding my inbox, one after the other, proclaiming their music to be unique enough to make me reconsider my retirement.  Here I was, boldly giving the industry my farewell speech only to have it laugh in my face with more potential business opportunities!  Some of these artists were complete garbage, the type I was running away from, who must have skipped over the part of my story where I explain how I loathe everything they represent. Others were incredible, though-provoking artists who reaffirmed the fact that great Hip Hop music is alive and well. Nonetheless, steadfast in my resolve, I kindly turned away all artist solicitations and proceeded to pursue my other passion – education.  I resurrected the award-winning educational Hip Hop program I had neglected when my work in publicity took off.  It felt good to be back in the classroom, making a real difference in children’s lives, away from immature rappers and their silly pipe dreams.

At around the same time, I became a contributing writer for RapRehab, an incredible platform that welcomed my no-holds-barred commentaries on a wide range of controversial topics such as the prison industrial complex, institutionalized racism, the state of Hip Hop, corruption in the music business, and pop culture’s influence on youth culture.  My articles were surprisingly well received and allowed me to establish something akin to a fan base, nothing like Justin Bieber of course (sarcasm intended) but significant enough to have me respond to fan mail a few times a week.  However, day after day, I would hear from countless artists looking for publicity, some trying to convince me to get back in the game, others who completely missed the part of my story where I said I quit. So I responded to every request with business advice and constructive criticism of their music, also reminding them that I was no longer a publicist but still willing to share my knowledge…and brutal honesty.  Try telling an artist that you respect them as human beings but recommend they completely reinvent themselves or pursue an entirely different career. Surprisingly, my harsh but sincere words were always welcomed because they were tempered with good counsel. Not one for sugar-coating, I took great pride in challenging the yes-man syndrome.  Little did I know I was slowly beginning to carve out a new professional identity for myself.

The months passed with my educational program going well, my relationship with RapRehab stronger than ever, and my undefined role as an “advice-giver” for indie and unsigned artists growing every day. No matter how much I had initially tried to distance myself from the music industry, my public confessions of a failed Hip Hop publicist had opened a brand new door, one I was now comfortable walking through. I had unknowingly yet seamlessly morphed into a self-styled creative consultant for Hip Hop artists and it was time for me to consciously accept this role.  As a publicist, I hated having to cater to the whims of delusional artists or play pretend-nice with arrogant media heads just because the client is paying.  My integrity had been a huge disadvantage as a publicist but was now my greatest asset as a creative consultant.  As a die-hard Hip Hop head since the early 80’s with more than 20 years of music industry experience under my belt, it became clear that guiding and advising artists is what I was meant to do.  Make no mistake, I’ll never stop working with young people.  A matter of fact, when I’m not consulting with artists, I’m working with incarcerated youth to make sure that they don’t ever find themselves back in the belly of the beast.

Retiring from publicity was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I would have never imagined that revealing my failures would bring on bigger and better opportunities. Today, I run a successful business as a creative consultant, using my experience to lead developing talent in the right direction.  While there are tons of fly-by-night artists who only get in the game to make a quick buck, there will always be those whose genuine passion for music truly shines. They deserve better than what this twisted industry has been feeding them.  Fortunately, I’m now in a position where I can guide a new generation of gifted artists on their way to becoming tomorrow’s legends.

What a difference a year can make!

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Today’s popular Black culture, as seen in mainstream media, is a corporate fabrication: a caricature born from the mind of narrow-minded white executives whose racism and bias created an image of Black people based off their stereotypes, fears, and fantasies. And sadly, for too long have so many willingly played the part while impressionable minds, young and old, have accepted this as who they are; who Black people are.

And all for what? Money?

Looking back through the years, white advertisers and marketers have always painted their own version of Black people as lazy, ignorant, clownish, and untrustworthy by appealing to white consumers’ innate racism in order to sell anything from soap and food to household appliances and clothes. Historically, movies and TV shows have also played a huge part in perpetuating racial stereotypes, thus conditioning the masses to accept these as truths. While white America was entertained by Stepin Fetchit’s portrayal of a lazy, slow talking, self demeaning fool, the actor, LincolnTheodore Monroe Andrew Perry, was a millionaire (at his peak) and a writer for the Chicago Defender, a weekly Black-owned newspaper. The 1915 movie, Birth of a Nation, depicted the KKK as heroes while Black men (played by white actors in black face) were shown as unintelligent and sexually aggressive toward white women. This movie was considered groundbreaking for the time (although there wasn’t much competition) and the highest grossing movie until 1939, when Gone with the Wind, another movie glorifying slavery, was released with unparalleled success. Both movies’ incredible popularity over the span of a few decades speaks volumes about how racial degradation was widely accepted.

Old cartoons were just as bad. A quick YouTube search on racist cartoons will bring up clips of Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, and a hundred other characters many of our parents grew up with. Here, the same portrayal of Black people as unintelligent, inarticulate, and untrustworthy rears its ugly head once again, this time indoctrinating children. Even today’s cartoons continue to promote stereotypes albeit in more subtle ways when depicting the lone Black character of an all white cast as the basketball player or the cool, street smart, wise cracking kid.

In the 70′s, Blaxploitation movies straddled the fence by showcasing characters who were either pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, and criminals, or smooth talking ladies’ men and ultra cool, bad asses. Despite showing some Black characters as crime fighting good guys, a welcomed change for the times, Blaxploitation movies (appropriately named) simplified the humanity of its characters by presenting gross extremes (heroes vs villains) rather than more developed, nuanced portrayals. Still, this showed Hollywood that there was indeed a market for movies with strong Black characters.

While some positive and realistic representations of Black people  were seen throughout the years, thanks to a handful of visionary entrepreneurs, directors, and executives, the dominant white media continued its promotion of one-dimensional Black characters, virtually uninterrupted. However, the 80′s groundbreaking “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World” introduced educated, intelligent, empowered, positive Black images to prime time TV and mainstream America, something the average TV viewer hadn’t often seen. Despite some concerns that Cosby’s picture perfect world ignored the realities and struggles facing Black America, the show ended up becoming one of TV’s most successful program ever. In the meantime, the influence of “A Different World” contributed to an increase in Black college enrollment. Coincidentally or not, the late 80′s also saw the era of pro Black consciousness and Afrocentricity in Hip Hop music, helping to popularize important historical figures like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers and giving millions of young people across the nation a sense of strength and cultural pride. Looking at the impact of these TV shows as well as Hip Hop’s role in empowering youth, it’s hard to deny the media’s power of influence, be it positive or negative.

The Cosby Show ended in 1992, A Different World in 1993, and the pro Black/Afrocentric era of Hip Hop around 1992. With it came the end of positive portrayals of Black people in mainstream media…and the rise of so-called gangsta rap, the thug life mentality, as well as every other racial stereotype that mainstream media has exploited and capitalized off. This short 6-7 year window into positive Black images might have been too much for mainstream America to handle.

Did mainstream America miss the caricatures they had previously grown so comfortable with? After all, in a media industry dominated by white decision makers, there’s little room, value, or genuine interest in promoting positive Black images. From their standpoint, there may also be little long-term profit to make from it when Black people make up only 12 % of the population. After all, how can positive Black images attract a large white viewing audience when the average person really only seems to support Black entertainment when it reaffirms their twisted fetishized perception of Black culture, as illustrated by the likes of white college students in black face who organize “ghetto” parties, Miley Cyrus, Riff Raff, or some of the fashion world’s most celebrated designer.

And just in case some still find it difficult to believe that the average white audience isn’t interested in seeing Black characters who don’t fit their beloved stereotypes, consider this: in the 2012 movie “Hunger Games”, audiences were outraged and disgusted when they realized that one of the book’s sweetest character, Rue, was played by a 12-year-old Black actress, something they hadn’t pictured when reading the book. Fortunately, because of the internet, the hateful venom these bastards posted online is forever documented in cyberspace for all to see.

Since ’92-’93, the mainstream entertainment industry has repackaged its old racist views of Black people, found hungry, eager, impressionable artists willing to take on these roles, and sold the same distorted images the likes of “Birth of a Nation” and Stepin Fetchit portrayed years ago. The unintelligent, hyper sexualized, untrustworthy, criminally inclined Black man now mindlessly played by the likes of Chief Keef, 2 Chainz, and Juicy J is beamed to more people than ever before, thanks to the power of technology, bombarding both Black and white people with the same filthy stereotypes of decades ago. And somewhere in TV land, Jerry Springer and Maury have given birth to new talk shows that still sell us Black dis-unity and dysfunction for entertainment, even if most of the “baby mamas” and “deadbeat dads” featured on these shows are actually paid actors.

We’ve come so far and yet have barely moved forward when our young people are still conditioned to believe that media’s long held racist beliefs and stereotypes are reflections of who they are…who they should be.

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As a Hip Hop purist, I’ve always hated the fact that most commercial rap music promotes negative images and messages. Having used Hip Hop culture as a medium to empower youth for the last 15 years, I’ve seen first hand how mainstream rap impacts young impressionable minds. It is disturbing. Having also worked with incarcerated youth, I’ve seen how rap that glorifies irresponsible and criminal behavior has become the soundtrack to their daily lives.

The music industry’s role in promoting negative music has been a hot topic for many years. I’ve personally written about it extensively. What is too often under reported is how young people, including incarcerated youth, are directly impacted by the music. Although the overall effect is easy to imagine, specific details are extremely revealing. Here are some of my personal observations gathered from years of work with teens in traditional schools and juvenile detention centers.

  • When asked to explain what Hip Hop consists of, the majority of kids list violence and gangs as being elements of Hip Hop.
  • When asked to list what their favorite artists rap about, the overwhelming majority list guns, sex, violence, cars, thugs, jewelry, and money as popular topics.
  • When asked to name rappers with positive lyrics, most kids name Drake, Tupac, and Kendrick Lamar (within the last year) but seem unaware of any others.
  • When asked to name female rappers, the overwhelming majority can only think of Nicki Minaj.
  • When asked if rap music influences them, the majority say yes.
  • When asked if they know anyone who tries to emulate what rappers do, 99% say they know one or more people who do.
  • The majority of girls say that most boys seem to learn how to treat girls from their favorite rappers.
  • The majority of boys say that rap music has taught them that girls cannot be trusted.
  • Over half of kids use slang they picked up from the newest songs in their everyday conversations.
  • 99% of kids get all of their music for free. Most have never even owned a CD.
  • The majority of kids only know commercial rappers and aren’t very familiar with the underground scene.
  • Most kids don’t realize that they can use the internet to discover new artists and end up only acknowledging rappers who top the charts.
  • Half of all youth state that they’ve never heard rappers use big words.
  • The overwhelming majority of incarcerated youth say they listen to “gangsta shit” to pump them up to get high or commit a crime.
  • Over half of incarcerated youth refer to rappers who glorify negativity (ex: Chief Keef, Gucci Mane, Lil’ Boosie, 2 Chainz, etc) as “real shit” while rappers whose content is more progressive are labeled “weak” or “corny”.
  • Over half of incarcerated youth dream of becoming rap stars when they get out of jail.
  • During rap writing sessions, most kids write about the same topics commercial artists rap about. 99% of incarcerated youth have an extremely difficult time writing about anything else besides the streets.
  • Half of incarcerated youth say that slow and bass heavy instrumentals (trap music) inspire them to do negative things. They say “something” in the beat has an effect on them.

The previous data is usually gathered within the first few days of working with youth. After I’ve had enough time to teach kids about Hip Hop culture, the music industry, and the “Commercial Rap to Prison Pipeline”, I expose them to pioneers and iconic Hip Hop artists as well as new underground and independent rappers, of whom most of them have never heard before. Some of these artists include:

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious FiveRun DMCPublic EnemyRakimBig Daddy KaneMC LyteDead PrezPharoahe MonchHomeboy SandmanSa-RocSupastition (AKA Kam Moye)Jay Electronica, and Ill Camille.

After having spent a few sessions with me:

  • The overwhelming majority of kids say that the artists I’ve introduced them to sound better than commercial rappers.
  • Most kids wonder why radio doesn’t play these artists in heavy rotation.
  • Most say that they didn’t know rappers could speak intelligently and still sound good.
  • About half of the kids state that mainstream rappers sound stupid in comparison to these newly discovered artists.
  • Many of the kids who are aspiring rappers ask me what they can do to become better lyricist.
  • The majority of them are mad at the mainstream music industry once they’re exposed to alternatives and conclude that the industry is intentionally promoting music to “brainwash” them.

These findings are both disturbing and hopeful. As I’ve stated in previous articles, mainstream rap music can’t be blamed for all of today’s social ills as unemployment, poverty, gangs, drugs, failing school system, and institutionalized racism are the real culprits. However, mainstream rap’s impact on youth cannot be ignored and has undoubtedly contributed to an already troubled society. Still, when seeking solutions and innovative ways to effectively reach our youth, it’s good to know that Hip Hop culture, in the right hands, can have the kind of impact on young people that may help to save their lives.

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