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Crap Rap 

Insipid lyrics have devalued the genre and dumbed down youth culture

As we debate about what to do with black kids in CMS, have we considered that the combination of today's vapid rap music with decreased extracurricular educational time could be more responsible for the poor behavior of young people than other popular scapegoats -- like the lack of positive role models?

Vocabulary is a widely accepted measure of intelligence, and I have noticed -- as have my teacher friends -- the collective downturn in the verbal capabilities of young black kids. Information on the CMS Web site also reveals the alarmingly low number of young people reading on grade level. Not only will young people be judged by the world based on their articulation, but poor reading and vocabulary comprehension also impedes their ability to understand the world around them.

We talk about problems in the black community and problems with parents, but in large part, many young people have no contact with either group. But they do meet everyday with the surrogate parent called hip-hop. The standards set by this subculture have the ability to forecast the thoughts, feelings and emotions of an entire generation.

I know this because at one time I cut my hair like Kid 'N Play, I wore shoes like Fresh Prince, and I tried to come up with as many analogies as Rakim. It was a part of my education, except I grew up in a time when hip-hop was the storyteller for communities the news ignored. The eloquence and artistry back then allowed the art form to grow to where it is today, but somewhere along the line, rap turned into crap.

Rap is now nothing but commercials looped onto hypnotic beat patterns that brainwash young people into devaluing education and even common sense. "Laffy Taffy," "It's Goin' Down" and "I'm Hustlin'" are all popular rap songs whose only angle is the repetition of slang terminology that is largely linked to digressive behavior. In each of these songs, the obsessive repetition of the chorus highlights the fact that consumers no longer require much substance to the music, with music videos making lyrics obsolete and booties and diamonds the status quo. The repetition also serves as subliminal marketing for the products or the behaviors exhibited by the artist. Whether it's wearing gold teeth, riding in an old-school car six feet off the ground or selling that "yayo" (cocaine), rap is no longer a window into the ghetto -- it's a commercial patronizing the ghetto.

It seems that the less an artist expresses lyrically has an inverse relationship to the artist's popularity. Even popular rap artist Xzibit acknowledges this: "When you can choose to play a record that says pop your ass or a record that has some kind of positive message or knowledgeable subject, it's easier to accept the ignorance than put out something that has some thought process to it ... The guy who just does ignorant music wins the awards and gets the millions of music sales and that becomes defeating after a while."

In our conversations about why young black children fight and riot in the streets, I wish we would start to ask why black kids like destructive, digressive and racist rap music instead of conscious forms of rap? In the presence of so much perpetuated ignorance in the form of rap music, why don't we reach out to artists to produce something that doesn't work directly counter to young people gaining an education?

E-mail Decker at deckerngongang@gmail.com.

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