Changes by Tupac Shakur
Of the variety of factors that affect the social consciousness music is one of the most prominent ones, as the creativity is sometimes the only way to tell the world about the inequality, discrimination and injustice that is happening. Throughout the past decades, rap music had contributed to the social consciousness a lot, as it displayed the problems the Afro-American poor had. Despite of the positive effect the rap songs had, nowadays lot’s of people blame them for the rapid increase of the level of violence in the U.S.
Psychologists and sociologists say, that young people tend to act as their idols do, so that when they see popular artists, actors and singers consuming alcohol, smoking, using illicit drugs, shooting and committing other violent acts on TV screen, teenagers little by little get used to the thought that those actions are normal, and moreover, needed to look “cool”. Grossman and DeGaetano in their book “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV Movie and Video Game Violence” (1999) pursue this idea even further, as they prove that media not only conditions children and young adults to violent behavior, but also teaches them the “mechanics of killing”.
The adherents of this theory consider rap music to be one of the greatest threats for the soles and minds of young Americans. Jay Nordlinger in his article “’Bang’: Guns, rap, and silence – violence in rap music” published in National Review (April 2001) claims that “gangsta” rappers … glory in guns and gun violence in song after song after song.” He, along with the other social activists tries to persuade the society that gun violence promulgated in the lyrics and videos of some rap singers is one of the main reasons for the children to bring guns to school and shoot their teachers and classmates.
But it’s obvious that rap music videos solely are incapable of creating this effect. Social conditions such as poverty, racial discrimination, substance abuse, inadequate schools, joblessness, and family conflict and dissolution contribute to an environment that fosters violence not just rap music videos.
Some journalists and psychologists prove that rap videos are just one of the ways of “selling” rap culture. It’s true, that for many of the rap singers their music is just the way to earn money and popularity, thus they fill their songs with the content that sells successfully. Unfortunately, there is always a demand for violence on our market.
Before blaming rap music and videos for encouraging children and teenagers to commit violent acts, we should try to find out why is this music so popular among them. Why American teens and young adults, at list part of them, want to listen and watch songs, clips, and movies where people abuse, rape and kill each other? Maybe something is wrong with our educational system, as it’s unable to persuade the youth in the futility and danger of violence, to teach them that their goals can be achieved using other methods? Or the problem lies within the society that cannot offer some of its young inexperienced members other sphere for actualizing their potential than that of crime and violence?
Typac Shakur, who’s one of the most prominent rap singers, of our time made a great impact on part of our contemporaries. His texts expressed the opinions for all of those, who were underprivileged because of their race and financial state. This singer had himself grown up in a poor Afro-American family, thus he knew about the realities that were present in his songs. Lots of people say that Typac, together with other rap singers often overcharged the difficulties and severities the Afro-American poor have to experience, but, nevertheless, his songs became tremendously popular. A question arises here which’s would his creativity have been so popular if he were lying in his songs?
Tupac’s song Changes is one of his attempts to let the world see what is going on in the blocks were the poor Afro-Americans dwell. Most of us don’t believe it until we see it by ourselves, as our life is safe and sound and it is hard to imagine that something like that could be happening just a few blocks away from our neat an safe houses. “Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero. Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.” – Tupac sings. Unbeliavable, isn’t it? But for some people we see on the streets this is the reality of their lives. And after that we complain that the rap music provokes violence in those who listen to it. That’s true, it does, and this fact is proven by the statistics, but the thing that no statistics wants to deal with is that the contents of the rap songs are usually provided by the environment their authors live in. You’ll presumably agree that the texts full of crime, violence and shooting do not emerge when people feel themselves safe, protected, and socially secured.
The Afro-American poor often cannot afford to buy a proper food and clothing for themselves and their children, or they have to choose between having a supper and paying the water and electricity bills. Most of them don’t have any medical insurance, and those who have it wish they didn’t, because it takes the considerable share of their earnings. Low-wage workers often experience problems finding the accommodation and paying for it, as the rent is too high for them. They are often constrained to live in tiny flats, attics and shacks.
Of course this state of things influences the kids’ physical and psychological condition badly. Living in a small flat, often even without the proper living conditions, when food and paying the bills is the main concern for the family differs a lot from the life of the stars, depicted in movies, news reports and music videos.
Thus it’s maybe that we have to provide more attention and security to the social groups from which the authors of the songs, preaching violence emerge, instead of prohibiting this music and condemning the authors and singers who produce it. Those are the cries for help; the only way those boys and girls can tell the world what is going on with them, their families and friends. “I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?”” – Shakur writes. And it is not an exaggeration for to make the song more dramatic, it’s rather a reflection of the feelings almost very poor young Afro-American experiences from time to time.
But Typac doesn’t blame the whites for all the problems the Afro-Americans in the U.S face. In his pinion it’s rather they who are to blame for the attitude that exists towards them “Sellin’ crack to the kids. “I gotta get paid,” Well hey, well that’s the way it is.”. – Typac describes the usual state of things in a ghetto. “We gotta make a change…” – he calls up. “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live and let’s change the way we treat each other. You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do what we gotta do, to survive.”
Most of people prefer not to struggle with the injustices they see in the outer world, just because they are sure they are unable to do anything with it. Tupac, and other singers like him chose to try to make at least something. It’s true that their songs are sometimes full of blood and guns, but it is the only way they are taught to act, as no other is effective in they society they have to dwell in.
So, maybe violence in the rap music videos is not the main reason for the high delinquency rates among American youth? We live in a violent world, and violence is around us, and the media is always there to confirm this statement in case we forget about it. Apart from the violence portrayed in the rap videos some Afro-American teens and tweens face it every day, whether from their parents or neighborhood kids.
Of course, the scenes of violence shown in the rap music videos have their negative influence on those, who watch them, especially when the viewer is young, but we cannot call it the main reason for the increasing of delinquency rates among the American youngsters. The reason is that rap music is popular only among a considerably small part of American teenagers and young people. Popular movies that contain elements of violence have audience much bigger than the rap songs and videos do. Henry Giroux, the author of the “Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence and Youth” proves that “serious films have given way to the blockbuster… and the tradeoff has been an increase in the number of violent films shown in movie theaters across the United States”(1996).
Of course, it’s easy to put all the responsibility for the youth violence on the media. But before agreeing with this viewpoint, put yourself a couple of questions: “Will the happy, self-confident and loved teenager use drugs, rape or shoot anybody?” The answer is no. Or: “Whether the rap songs, or movies where violence is shown, make their viewers feel themselves unhappy?” The answer is no altogether, as nobody would watch or buy them if they did.
As we can conclude, there are numerous reasons that provoke violent behavior among American youngsters. Those are social factors like poverty, joblessness, drug abuse, alcoholism, discrimination etc. Of course, media also plays a considerable negative role in forming the teens’ attitude towards violence, but it’s not the main factor that leads to the delinquency rates increase in the U.S. Rap culture also sometimes imposes negative impact on their attitude, but, as Davey D, the UNESCO Courier correspondent says “…there are violent incidents associated with hip-hop, but they do not define the mindset of the culture. Beware of the trap of stereotyping.” Gun violence in rap music videos may provoke a youngster for committing an act of violence, but there must be a serious background except from music for the person to do it.
Tupac managed to avoid a mistake lot’s of young singers cross with. He didn’t address his songs to those who live better and safer than the Afro-American poor do, and he either didn’t promote violence towards them. He perfectly understood that the Afro-Americans themselves are his target audience, the ones, who would listen for their songs. So he encouraged them to change, for to make their life better, safer and happier by changing their patterns of thinking and acting.
- Shakur. T. Changes, Music lyrics. Lyrics 007 Website, http://www.lyrics007.com/2Pac%20(Tupac%20Shakur)%20Lyrics/Changes%20Lyrics.html
- Grossman, D.; DeGaetano, G. Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV Movie and Video Game Violence. Crown Publishers, New York, 1999
- Davey D. A convenient scapegoat – hip-hop music blamed for inciting violence. UNESCO Courier, July 2000
- Nordlinger, J. ‘Bang’: Guns, rap, and silence – violence in rap music. National Review. April 2001
- Giroux, H.A. Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence and Youth. Routledge, New York, 1996.