For as long as I can recollect music, well rap music in particular has been held under great scrutiny for it’s correlation to violence, aggression, and misogyny. Over the years many lyrics from artists such as Tupac, Eminem, even our very own Giggs has been at the forefront of the debate of what effect music has on individuals, especially our young, impressionable, up and coming minds.
For a long time, I have been fighting the good battle with the rest of the world against the belief that music can incite a certain type of behaviour. I have been an avid crusader sweating with passion when discussing the idea that music cannot influence individuals to commit crimes, use weapons or even entice people to live an overly glamourised and unrealistic lifestyle we all know many can’t afford. But recently, something happened to me that made me alter my point of view.
As you probably already know I have been going through my own personal growing pains and due to this my mood has fluctuated from happy go lucky to real down in the dumps and at times this can happen in seconds flat. The other day I was having one of my extremely rough days where getting out of bed was one big ass struggle. I attempted to do everything within my power to pull myself out of my funk; I watched silly videos on social media, I bantered in the group chat, I even watched some ratchet reality TV (and ya’ll know I love me some ratchet TV) and absolutely nothing worked.
Alas, I began my morning routine and left for work as per. And like clockwork, I blocked out the world plugging my headphones in, sinking into the abyss of my favourite depressing sounds. Naturally I chose music that matched my mood, you know the slow jam with lyrics that are filled to the brim with heartfelt pain and suffering that my dismal disposition could identify with. And with that tone, I fell deeper into my pit of despair resigning to the fact that today was going to be one of those shitty days.
My tunes stay on shuffle so I usually just keep flicking through until I find the track that suits my vibe. As I was stuck in some sort of transit between trains I lost control of my song choice and was unable to override the library reorder being surprised by an RnB throwback from 2005 from one of my most loved artists Keyshia Cole. Now Keyshia comes about 2nd to Beyonce when it comes to empowerment jams but either way she still knows how to boost your confidence when it comes to getting over heartache. As soon as I heard the intro to “I just want it to be over” it was like I felt a chemical shift or surge in my body. Half-way through the first verse and I was immediately a changed woman, I was still woeful but ready to let go of my solemn and motivated to start the day correctly and rid myself of these demotivated feelings. At that very moment, I could no longer deny that the type of music you listen to has little effect in the way that people act.
This event took my thoughts back to my younger years, I have always listened to an array of different music. Some inherited from my parents and older sister and others adopted by the era I was born into. But as a teenager, my favourite genres were RnB and Garage and both evoked different feelings and acts from me as a young woman evolving. I remember the summer of 2005 when I was just 16 years old and it was barbeque season so the vibes were live, Pow by Lethal B was the anthem of the season and when I say I have never seen so many adolescent girls emulate the movements and acts of an East London road man for a mere 3 mins . I was very far from the road life even though I lived streets away from it, but when I heard the Forward Riddim me and my girls would be thugging it out on the dancefloor like the roads were embedded in our blood.
Fast forward 13 years and I have traded in the gangster life for my residency at club ratchet as an “Ayyy Girl” and Cardi B is my artist of choice, there is just something about her New York demeanour and raw lyrics that makes me feel like I am in a strip club making it clap with dollar bills in the air.
What I am saying is, the type of music and lyrics that are put out evokes responses from us without even noticing and at times even having control over it. Have you ever been at a work function and heard your favourite inappropriate song and as much as you resist your feet or shoulders involuntarily participate despite your mental protesting, or when you’re on the train and your jam comes on but making any kind of obvious movements in front if all those people will make you look like an absolute whack job.
Our reactions to our favourite tracks can be positive like it was for me but it must not be overlooked that negative matters in what we see can affect how people operate. London has been a humongous breeding ground for knife and gun crime, with the tabloids reporting that 4 months into this year alone the city has surpassed New York in the number of deaths of young people. And I cannot help but feel that the lifestyle portrayed in a lot of the current music and music videos is assisting in fuelling a lot of this conduct.
Pushing drugs, carrying a weapon, taking illicits even the way women are poorly treated are common themes in the current music videos of today, and although they probably serve as sheer entertainment value for the viewers. The majority of those are our susceptible youth who are looking to the media and celebrities for role models. It is our job as those who have arrived before them to guide them firmly to greater outcomes, but I have found that musicians of today forgo their role of mentors and even idols to the public and stick with the current popular trends instead of making an affirmative difference to better the world.
The music I listen to has so much of an effect on me that it often puts my thoughts into words that I would never have been able to express, It can give my low mood a severe boost and can inspire me when I believe that I have reached my limit. Yes, I have a catalogue of club jams where the content of the song is unnoticed and I only enjoy it because of the beat and hype around it. But the bulk of the music I love has meaning to me and has shaped my life over the years and serves a cultural purpose. But I am a grown woman, who is wise enough to make informed decisions about my choices, not everyone has reached my point of growth and can ignore the subliminal messages being thrust upon them. This platform should be used to educate and enlighten instead of encouraging the population into a life of negative practice. I feel we underestimate the power that music and musicians have, we need to remember that what is put out can grab the attention of the right people in the wrong way, the world appears to have fallen in to the ways of the get money and blow it fast flow. And if it continues who can be sure of what will become of the world we occupy.
Just food for thought…