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Made in America Festival 2013 Credit: Amanda Suarez , Ola Osinaike

This year’s freshmen were required to read “Book of Rhymes,” a book about the poetic origins of hip-hop. However, understanding the current trajectory of the genre is a much more important problem than students’ ignorance over its artistic origins.

Gangsta rap started out in the mid-1980s as another sub-genre of hip-hop that allowed youth to express their personal struggles. Since then, it has evolved into a social culture that glamorizes violence and is now a dominant form of hip-hop. Many gangsta artists proudly encourage violence in their music and lyrical disputes between different artists have elevated into real-world murder. Most recently, at the end of September, rapper L’A Capone was shot and killed outside his recording studio in Chicago.

This is just the most recent example of the many poets who possessed an immense talent to combine rhyme and entendre into sparkling prose but are now dead as a result of gangsta rap. Rapper rivalries have also led to the deaths of other rappers, such as Big L, Jam Master Jay and Lil Jojo.

I don’t mean to insult icons like Tupac postmortem, but when people are murdered over pride and “street cred,” the music has transcended too far into real life.

Hip-hop fans — like those who defended Tyga’s invitation to Spring Fling last year — retort that the music form is “a cry for help” from urban communities. This mindset may have been valid when gangsta rap originated and urban kids were just expressing themselves. But now, it simply justifies the increasingly violent and detrimental nature the music has taken on.

Experiencing violence is not an excuse for encouraging or perpetuating it. However gruesome your childhood may have been as a result of your urban upbringing, repeating the crimes you grew up around only keeps the vicious cycle spinning.

Tyga’s music is full of misogynistic lyrics toward women, and many of his peers go as far as openly supporting murder and domestic abuse. The idea that murder threats are at all excusable or deserve to be played on the radio because they might be familiar to a certain community is ridiculous. We all have the right to free speech, but some messages should be shunned and discouraged.

Of course, no one ever calls gangsta out on its racism against black people, because it’s mainly made by black people. The gangsta rap genre stereotypes all black men as criminals and shuns those who make an effort to get an education. Apparently, accusing someone of racism against their own race is too taboo an issue for society to address, even now in our age of liberalization and globalization.

The prevalence of gangsta rap is not only detrimental to society and black culture, but also counterproductive to the civil rights movement. You can’t support civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Baldwin and simultaneously be a fan of hardcore gangsta rappers like Chief Keef.

I can’t say that I have any personal connection to civil rights leaders, but I’m sure most of them would roll in their graves at the knowledge of this culture. Gangsta rap, and the modern form of hip-hop, has worked against all the progress made by the civil rights movement in the mid-twentieth century.

I wouldn’t limit this criticism to the gangsta rap sub-genre only. Even the less radical forms of hip-hop are full of racial slurs. In many hip-hop songs, every black man is a n*gga and every minority woman is a b*tch or a h*e.

Undeniably, there are many rappers who shun domestic violence and rap simply off of lyrical creativity. Common, Lupe Fiasco and A Tribe Called Quest have all built reputations based on lyrical skill rather than notions of street superiority. However, this peace-preaching narrative has become a mere alternative to the aggressive nature that exists today.

For the “Year of Sound,” the priority was for incoming students to understand the complicated attributes of hip-hop music that might not be apparent on the surface. But really, the message of the tune is much more important than the rhetorical devices by which it is embedded.

Ola Osinaike is a College and Wharton sophomore from Chicago. His email address is “Aristeia” appears every other Thursday.

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