The Rap on Gangsta Rap; A Lesson or Two on Hip-Hop and Wall Street

Article excerpt

Byline: Deborah Simmons, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

hip-hop: a form of popular music that originated among inner-city African-American youths in the 1980s, drawing from rap, funk, street sounds, and fragments of melody and rhythm borrowed from previously recorded sources; the culture or a fashion, dance, etc., associated with this music.

rap: a kind of popular music in which rhymed verses are chanted or declaimed to the accompaniment of forceful and repetitive rhythms, played usually on drums or synthesizers.

gangsta: a variety of rap music that is distinguished by an emphasis on themes of violence, explicit sex, and drug use.

All three of the above definitions are in the Fourth Edition of Webster's New World College Dictionary. I printed them to help educate myself and you, the reader, because, as we soldier up in the culture war from time to time, it's important to know what we're up against and who's on our side.

That's not to say that hip-hoppers or rappers are our enemies; they are not.

Like it or not, the hip-hop industry is a formidable force on Wall Street. While it has no seat on the stock exchange, the hip-hop industry manifests itself at Old Navy and the Gap, Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor's, Wal-Mart and K-Mart, General Motors and Mercedes-Benz, Nike and Reebok, FUBU and Phat Farm. The Grammy Awards, NAACP Image Awards, People's Choice Awards, MTV Awards. And Hollywood? Suffice it to say, many of the gangsta rappers we railed against in the 1980s - including Ice T and Ice Cube - are as mainstream today as Marlo Thomas and Jennifer Lopez.

Indeed, many a wealthy American owes a debt to the hip-hop industry.

What we need to be up in arms against is not gangsta rappers, but their unrelenting stereotypical images of half-dressed truths and naked untruths that are burnished into the impressionable psyche of young Americans.

BET. VH1. The grandmother of them all, MTV. Madison Avenue perpetuates stereotypes. Recall the TV ads that used to have youngsters singing "I wanna be like Mike" (as in Michael Jordan). Today's ad is of a pint-sized black boy, with the attitude of Ice Cube, who "thanks" His Airness by talking tough.

Revisit those three definitions. Does it seem that hip-hop was hijacked by gangsta rap, a hedonistic dominion of drugs, violence and misogyny - a place where only the contemptuous rock? …