Storytellers expressing their brutal truth or gaslighting for social acceptance?

Young people lamenting their reality should be a wake up call to us all. Instead their demonisation continues.

The question is not how music is impacting our youth but how life is impacting our music.

Bob Dylan is an iconic figure in pop music. The influential singer became the voice of society by capturing the existing unrest through his songs. He said, “don’t criticise what you don’t understand.”

Many young people navigate their world in fear while the rest of society watches on. Criminalising them without offering solutions to their traumatic existence. All the while a picture is being painted of desperation and hopelessness. Hip hop culture, in-spite of the negativity and controversy that often surrounds it, has had a positive influence on me, it expanded my social consciousness and musical horizons. It gave me an insight into urban stories that strengthened my sense of being and belonging. Marginalised communities the world over resonate with the ethos of resisting exclusion, poverty, discrimination and fighting for equality and justice.

Hip hop music has long had a reputation of being a form of music that represents everything bad about us, despite all this, hip hop has generated a global fan base. Criticised in the media as a bad influence on developing minds, the focus on hip hop is always taken from a negative perspective. Headlines identify the music as a catalyst in negative social issues that existed long before the music became prevalent. The focus is criminalising the reality of everyday life for the marginalised.

Do we ask the same questions and expect the same standards from the film industry or is it just hip hop?

Young men dying linked by the media to the violent nature of the music. But is the music to blame or should we be looking at the economic condition we see disproportionately shared out within society. Authorities have asked YouTube to take down certain videos, yet Hollywood churns our graphic films depicting villains as heroes every year. Artists are issued court orders to inform police of any future intentions to make music, suspended sentences for performing a controversial song, brings back memories of NWA. The media have a history of misreading rap as they are street illiterate, not to say they exhibit views celebrated by the far right. Rap has always illuminated the challenges of existing without the physical and emotional resources to thrive, it illuminates the opposing voice of the oppressed.

Hip hop has crossed the cultural divide and this demonstrates its ability to unify our young people. It’s growth as a culture is prominent in all fabrics of society.

It has been vital in promoting social and political awareness among the youth of today. Seen during recent elections and calls to vote. The power of the genre is revealed by CIA interventions and sabotage during the heights of the culture.

Hip hop is and has always been a channel for people to speak freely about their view on political or social issues and by doing so, it engages its listeners to become concerned and aware of these issues. Making the youth aware of the world around them, the conditions they face in society, and a platform to discuss ways in which they can make a positive change. Stormzy is living proof of the cultural power of Hip Hop.

Hip hop is a reflection of the soul and mind, and is a refuge for both the artists and listeners who may be struggling with the same issues.

Hip hop emerged as a reaction to the gang culture and violence of the South Bronx in the 1970s, and daily experiences of poverty, racism, exclusion, crime, violence, and neglect. It necessarily embodies and values resilience, understanding, community and social justice. Music has the power to culturally, morally, and emotionally influence our society. Thus, the more intentional we become with the sounds, messages, and moods we create and release through our music, the more powerful we will become in making deep positive impacts. We have the mandate and platform as artists and musicians to change the world around us because of the influence we carry, and that truly makes music powerful and something worth dedicating a life too.

Basil Reynolds

Coaching Consultant

Finding the Music Inside