When I was in high school I liked rap music. I still do, but back then I was less particular about the quality of the music’s content. It was about money, drugs, and women. To my shame, I sang along many times to lines like, “Face the wall shawty, put your hands on it, bounce that ass up and down make a nigga’ want it…” I was aware of the lyrics’ content and thought of it as silly, telling myself that I enjoyed the songs only for their beats, but it is impossible that the messages were not sinking in to some depth.
My parents struggled with how to address my enthusiasm for such music. I remember standing in my kitchen with them when I was in middle school, playing an Eminem cd for their approval. They did not approve, but I listened to it in secret anyway. With the new access to music facilitated by the internet they could not control what I consumed.
Sut Jhally makes clear in Dreamworlds 3 that the sexist, racist, or otherwise degrading messages in music are nigh inescapable in modern society. And as someone who would like to educate future generations to see the world differently in terms of gender roles, I will be responsible for mediating my children’s cultural consumption. But I can’t always be there to restrict the overtly detrimental content or to contextualize the content they do consume. The ultimate goal must be to change society so that there is no demand for music with such messages, but I am unsure that people can change this way. Won’t people always want to hear about sex, money, and violence? All I can do is try to control what enters my and my children’s world, and how it is understood.
Ying Yang Twins (feat. Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz) “Salt Shaker” The Orchard: 2003. Accessed December 6, 2012. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJEzl31zL-I>
Written, narrated, and edited by Sut Jhally. Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video. 2007.