Who’s to blame for a culture of violence?

In the beginning, hip-hop culture was a vehicle for talented lyricists, poets, graffiti artists and break-dancers to creatively express their thoughts and emotions.

As Northeastern University professor Emmett G. Price wrote in 2006, “Hip-hop evolved during the 1970s as a liberation movement in the form of a diverse culture; it was a next generation civil (human) rights movement sparked by ostracized, marginalized and oppressed inner-city youth.”

And while hip-hop and American society have changed dramatically since the ’70s, the genre remains a prominent medium for many young voices. However, the way young people are choosing to use this tool seems to contradict every purpose hip-hop originally meant to serve. Many times songs from groups like N.W.A. or Public Enemy were political and meant to shine light on an ignored issue, but this is no longer the case. Hip-hop eventually lost its element of storytelling and became a formulaic distraction of simple rhyme schemes, catchy lyrics and beats.

But I digress.

This generation is keeping consistent with society’s obsessions with money, sex and fame, which is presented by musical content that glorifies these. Although, recently, the element of violence seems to be more at the forefront.

For instance, while on YouTube the other day I came across a video by 13-year-old Chicago rapper Lil Mouse. The name of the song was “Get Smoked” (use your imagination with that one) and as usual it discussed the typical elements of any hip-hop or rap song today. The way that Mouse talked about money, girls and guns didn’t concern me nearly as much as his age and the young adults around him in the video that seemed to be encouraging him.

The moral and main question of this story? We have a culture where a mere child is jumping around in a music video talking about a lifestyle inappropriate for someone his age, and it’s disturbing.

Another and more prominent example includes another buzzing Chicago rapper by the name of Chief Keef. The 17-year-old artist took the rap industry by storm over the summer with his hit single “Don’t Like.” The remix of the record, which featured Chicago rap king Kanye West, ultimately led to Keef’s record deal with Interscope Records. (And his career may now be in jeopardy because of an alleged “Twitter mockery of the murder”:http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/14986406-761/anger-over-chief-keefs-tweet-mocking-rivals-murder-explodes-online.html of rival Chicago rapper Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman.)

You can see the madness seems to never end.

Many want to blame artists such as Keef, for the promotion and glorification of violent music. But these young artists are only detailing their experiences and mimicking the things they see, which leads to the glorification.

So, who do we blame?

Personally, I would start with the parents of these young teens. Parents should monitor the content that their children receive, teach them right from wrong and positively encourage them. They should be the first ones to let their kids know that there’s more to life than the scandalous culture presented to them. But, I also understand some children do not have an upbringing with parents and are forced to grow up fast and survive on their own. Kids mimic what they see around them, which leads them to portray the violent culture spewed across the media around them.

We could easily blame the media. We could discuss how media such as television, music videos and video games constantly filter in and promote violence that leaves youth attempting to bring these elements into their everyday lives. Quite frankly, no one is ever going to successfully prosecute and change the media, even if they are the ones to blame.

So if we can’t blame the parents and we can’t blame the media, we should start with the man in the mirror. Yes, you, me, label executives and the audience as a whole that allows and supports this type of music. Downloads, purchases and sharing through social media are what motivate and keep these young artists thriving. Therefore if we celebrate and support violence in music, that’s what they’ll give us.

I’m well aware that many songs are created simply for entertainment, but for others it becomes a reality. They say that if you know better, you do better. While some of these young people may not know better, it becomes our responsibility because many of us do.

_Ta’les is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]_