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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

One bad genre: rap's supposed consequences

By Tinbete Ermyas

The Atlantic Monthly is one bad publication. I mean bad in a good way, of course. Ever since I picked up my first issue of the magazine, I fell in love with the stories, book reviews, editorials, and culture of the publication.

But my views of the publication changed when an article entitled “Are You There God? It’s Me, Monica” by Caitlin Flanagan appeared in the January 2006 issue.

The article is about the increase in sexual activity of teenage girls and how sexual norms have changed over time and the implications this has on their self-esteem. An interesting article indeed, but I was upset to find that Flanagan’s analysis came at a price.

In her article, Flanagan posits that this grave change in sexual norms can be tied to the popularity that rap has gained in the past 15 years. Flanagan notes that it is this rap culture that has helped to disrupt and saturate “poor and middle class” culture in America through a “prison-yard” genre that helps “brutalize” young girls in America.

Wow, those are fightin’ words.

After I read her critique of rap and its relation to the hypersexualized American culture, I found it hard to put my finger on what exactly it was that bothered me. Was it that she didn’t like a genre of music I hold so near and dear to my heart? Or was it that she related most of rap culture to the fact that teenage girls are becoming more and more sexually active?

I don’t know, I guess I’m still trying to figure it out. But what I do know is that Flanagan needs to realize a couple of things about rap.

First, not all rap is the same. Though many would think otherwise, not all rap is the misogynistic and homophobic rhyming stylings of angry imprisoned black men as Flanagan suggests.

Secondly, rap has made some very beneficial contributions to society. Not only did rap culture establish a new set of vernacular rules (which made bad good) but it also made visible the plight of inner city youth and called upon the nation to hear their voices.

I think both of these facts lend themselves to the idea that rap and hip-hop culture can be used as transformative tools to spread messages to audiences that might not otherwise get them.

But what I think Flanagan’s arguments present is a view of rap steeped in racist attitudes that are masked as caring for younger generations.

I think that Flanagan is disturbed by rap because it is an unapologetic genre that isn’t afraid to bring up many of the issues middle-class white Americans try to sweep under the rug.

She notes that she can’t stand that suburban communities are being exposed to this “smut…emanating from black urban America”. But what would happen if these oversexed young girls were listening to rap that made them appreciate their bodies and wait to have sex (and yes, this rap does exist)?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand what Flanagan is trying to say. I too am concerned with what is happening to America’s young girls, how they are being exposed to adult situations at young ages, and how their vulnerability is being taken advantage of in this oversexed society we call home.

But I think that we should look at rap as more than just mere prison-yard jargon that gets America’s youngsters (especially those in the suburbs) into trouble. It is this mentality, I think, that hinders Flanagan’s ability to view rap as a possible tool to help communicate to American teenagers.

The same can be said for the rest of America. Upon telling many friends about my problems with the articles, I found that many agreed with Flanagan’s views and in turn were not able to view the complexities that need to be addressed when talking about rap.

Perhaps talking in-depth about particular genres is something that arises around genres that also emerge out of African culture yet aren’t regarded as challenging the status quo as much as rap (like jazz and the like).

I guess after all the thought I put into thinking about rap music, I have come to acknowledge the imperfections that are implicit in its existence. Sure, there are going to be bad attributes in rap. What genre doesn’t have its bad apples?

But I think it’s up to us to look past rap as mere ephemera that only speaks to pimps and thugs and sexually active teenagers.

I think if we take a closer look, it will become evident that rap is indeed one bad genre. And I of course mean that in a good way.

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    Nathan BowerSep 12, 2019 at 6:40 am

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  • C

    Carl McLeanSep 9, 2019 at 8:32 am

    Article writing is also a fun, if you be familiar with after that you can write otherwise it is complicated to write.