I grew up listening to rap music.
My father is big into music, and he was listening to Eric B. & Rakim and Public Enemy for as far back as I can remember. Though I never got into learning or performing music like he did, I still listen to it every day.
I came of age in the 1990s and early 2000s, the days of New York dominance (single bachelor Jay-Z, Biggie, Mobb Deep, 50 Cent, NaS, etc) and Death Row (a pre-wholesome Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Dr. Dre) on the west coast. Rap, and what soon became “gangsta rap,” was and still is my genre of choice when listening.
Gangsta rap is the kind of material that a listener would be unwise to emulate. Most of what gets said on gangsta rap songs would get you murdered or incarcerated in real life. It’s lyrical porn, as I heard someone put it: not necessarily good for you, but you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home / headphones and no one is harmed by it.
The thing about music, though, is that what you listen to does have an effect on you. If you listen to aggressive, “toxic masculinity” material all day, some of that content will seep into your consciousness and come out in your energy and actions. Gangsta rap has surely affected me. You can hear it in my voice, see it in my posture and read it in my writing. That energy is a part of me, and I think I have too many years of it in my to flush it out.
Here’s another thing: I don’t want to flush it out.
The skill that I developed in taking that material in (combined with a solid base of home training from my parents) is that I channel that aggressive, confrontational, disrespectful energy into wholesome, positive actions like playing sports, hosting a podcast and writing books. I know others who had the same musical influences who, unfortunately, never learned to channel that energy into anything other than to emulate what they heard, and things didn’t go so well for them.
When I play sports, broadcast, or work out, I have the same energy as the guy on the street corner who’s been in and out of the prison system. The only difference between us is that I know how to transmute that energy into something productive and legal, and that other guy either doesn’t know how or doesn’t want to.
It’s the enjoyment vs. the example. I enjoy gangsta rap. But I don’t view it as an example of how to live.
Others took it as a blueprint for life, and later realized that most people who follow that blueprint don’t become famous entertainers.
A female reader asked me some months ago how I feel about Instagram “ass models.” The context was that she didn’t like seeing many females leverage the removal of clothing and suggestive poses as a way to draw attention to themselves.
I replied with the same sentiments I have for gangsta rap.
As a heterosexual male, I appreciate the IG ass modeling industry. It’s culturally acceptable soft porn, freely available to one and all. You used to have to pay for a sketchy website or stay up until 2 AM to see this stuff, plus hide your activity while consuming it. Now, you can get it anytime you want, and everyone is in on it.
Long live the ass models!
I understand why some women, who keep their clothes on and their *faces* the focus on their photos, aren’t feeling it, the same way a preacher may not like that the drug-dealer-turned rapper can draw a bigger audience than the church. I also understand that the game is the game. And the game is always changing.
Would I want my wife, daughter, sister or mother to be an ass model? HELL NO, if I had a say in the decision. It’s the same way I wouldn’t want my son or brother to live out the content of 50 Cent’s album. I can enjoy the existence of a thing without needing to partake in it.
Enjoyment vs. Example.
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