Hip-Hop: A Misunderstood Generation (by Itay Lerner)


thMy theme for this term was Music, and I offered a free recording session in my home studio to a local artist for my community service. While trying to find a research question, I dove deep into many different topics in regards to recording music. I did research on studios, recording, as well as producers and engineers as I tried to answer whether or not producers are essential to the recording process or whether people with access to professional equipment are obligated to help those who have talent but lack the means to create opportunities for themselves. After hitting several brick walls, I finally decided that it would make the most sense to focus specifically on the genre of music that I am most passionate about: Hip-Hop. Since the artist I recorded for my community service project was a Hip-Hop artist (as are most artists I work with), and there has been so much talk in Portland lately about whether or n Hip-Hop is associated with gangs and violence, I found it very fitting that I pick a research question that is constantly being talked about within my community: Can Hip-Hop music and culture be a positive influence on a community? For my public writing, I chose to write a letter to Lucian Grainge, the CEO and Chairman of Universal Music Group, the largest music corporation in the world, to see what he is doing about the current state of Hip-Hop.

Part I: The Research

1.) Greenburg, Zach O. “The Man Who Invented Hip Hop.” Forbes 7 Sept. 2009: Web. 9 Aug. 2014. 

http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/09/afrika-bambaataa-hip-hop-music-business-entertainment- cash-kings-bambaataa.html.

  • This article is about Afrika Bambaataa, the founder of Hip-Hop. It talks about how and why he created Hip-Hop, as well as what he thinks of the current state of it. This article sheds light on the truth behind Hip-Hop’s founding ideals as opposed to the watered-down music we hear on the radio today. This is important research for my project because it talks about why Hip-Hop was created in the first place and the founding ideals of Hip-Hop, which are indeed very positive.

2.) Romano, Kathleen. “Hip-Hop’s Influence on America.”Kathleenodenthol.hubpages.com. 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 9 Aug. 2014. <http://kathleenodenthal.hubpages.com/hub/Hip-Hops-Influence-on- America>.

  • This article speaks on some of the different was that Hip-Hop has had an effect on youth culture over the past couple decades. Along with discussing the different ways that Hip-Hop has helped redefine cultural norms, it also sheds light on some of the problems Hip-Hop has caused such as the obvious promotion of drug use, violence and materialism. However, this is not what Hip-Hop is about, nor are these problems exclusive to Hip-Hop music. This article is very helpful to my research because it highlights many of the pros and cons of Hip-Hop as far as being an influence on the national community.

3.) Barnes, Tom. “Harvard is Stepping In to Save Hip-Hop, But Does Hip-Hop Need Saving?.” Blog. arts.micmic.com. 17 Jan. 2014. Web. 9 Aug. 2014. <http://mic.com/articles/79285/harvard-is-stepping-in-to-save-hip-hop-but-does-hip-hop-need- saving>.

  • This is a very interesting article about a program at Harvard that is giving scholarships up to $50,000 to research Hip-Hop culture and spread the message that “education is power.” The article talks about how although this seems to be a good idea supporting Hip-Hop, it also discusses how Hip-Hop, even when positive, is very anti-establishment; which is ironic because Harvard is beyond established. I really enjoyed this article and I think that it is crucial to my research because it makes some interesting points about positive Hip-Hop, and how it can be extremely empowering for the lower-class and racial minorities. This might be the reason why many people in charge call it ‘negative’…

Kae, Rae. “Is Hip-Hop Responsible For Murder?.” Blog. Black Youth Project. 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 9 Aug. 2014. <http://www.blackyouthproject.com/2013/12/is-hip-hop-responsible-for-murder/>.

  • This article was about the glorification of violence in some Hip-Hop music and how damaging it can be for a society. More so, it was about why this type of music is prevalent in our country today and what effects we are seeing and will see from those implications. I found this article to be an excellent read and it offered some great opinions as to why there seems to be such a negative message from a lot of this Hip-Hop music that we hear today.

Part II: Public Writing

Dear Mr. Grainge,

I am writing to you today with high hopes for a better tomorrow, as I feel, and I’m sure you will agree, that we are in a fairly dark time for popular music. Being arguably the most influential person in the music industry, I hold you as one of the people personally responsible for the over-saturated message of violence and sex in popular music around the world. I understand that you run a business employing thousands of people, and money is the motive. I also understand that you are not personally giving record deals to the artists leading the trends in pop culture. However, you are in charge of the largest music corporation in the world, so I hold you at least partially responsible for what seems to be one of the saddest reflections of our nations youth I have ever seen.

There are many artists signed to your label who make music glorifying and promoting violence, dealing drugs, and plenty of other offensive lyrics. One artist named Cheef Keef, signed to Interscope Records, which is a division of your company Universal Music Group, stated that his album will literally “raise the murder rates up” in his hometown of Chicago. This is the same 18 year-old felon to whom you are granting hundreds of thousands of dollars so his “art” can reach the millions of young people it does. Some of his past hits include “I Hate Being Sober,” “Killer,” “Fuck Rehab,” and “Go To Jail.”

Mr. Grainge, I am an eighteen year old male who is constantly subjected to the harsh reality of the affects of the message that comes out of your corporation. I see the young people listening to this music, admiring it, and aspiring to be gangsters and and thugs. My goal here is not to attack you, although I do believe that you are in a unique position to do something great. Young people are our future, and I truly believe that you would like to leave this country better than you came into it; knowing that you have made a significant, positive change. I urge you to think about the way your decisions are not only affecting you or the people around you, but the entire nation on a grand scale. I ask that you reincentivize your company. I understand that the main goal of a business is to make money, but the thing about the music industry is that it is more than just business. Music is a reflection of culture, and since the “music industry” is a fairly new phenomenon, I urge you to really think about the effects that supporting and developing artists such as Cheef Keef on such a major platform can have. Thank you for your time.


Itay Lerner



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