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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I spoke to a professor the other day who explained the powerful impact of music and how it affects the way we think. The scholar was convinced that, through exhaustive research, he could show that the subconscious messages of music impact us in numerous ways that we don’t even notice. He said that if you listen to sad music, you become sadder. When you listen to romantic music, you become aroused. When you listen to violent music, you become more aggressive.
This led me to wonder: So, what happens when a 12-year old boy is listening to a song with a chorus that repeatedly glorifies murdering other black men, sleeping with every woman that he can get his hands on, and smoking weed every day? I think you know the answer to this one, and so does every good psychologist in America.
We must get past this idea that a child can hear a violent or counter productive message every single day of his life and then walk away unaffected. Hip hop music on the radio has become a highly-financed version of weaponized psychological poison that forces black boys to try to succeed in a world where they are surrounded by other men who’ve been hypnotized by messages that make them exhibit A in the skyrocketing occupancy of prisons, morgues and hospital beds across America. Even when a brother wants to build a better life for himself, he must fight through the zombies around him who believe that their job in life is to ruin the future of anyone trying to do something positive.
Some try to shield artists and their plantation owners from accountability by referencing this abstract concept called “creative freedom.” The problem is that hip hop artists owned by major corporations that have the single-minded motive of making a profit don’t have creative freedom. They are not allowed to engage in a broad range artistic outputs that define the breadth of the human experience. They are told from day one that in order to keep your record deal, you have to dress like a rapper, act like a rapper, throw money at “hoes” in the club, talk about slinging dope, disrespect women at every turn, and openly brag about murdering other black men. There is no creative freedom in a minstrel show.
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