Hip hop is often blamed for negatively impacting American culture, but Chris Broussard, an ESPN NBA insider and the president of Christian men’s movement K.I.N.G., believes critics are missing the big picture.
“Hip hop is a symptom of the problem,” Broussard told The Daily Caller. “It’s not the root cause of the problem.”
Al Sharpton criticized hip hop in the wake of radio host Don Imus’ “nappy-headed hoes” on-air comment. Actress Ashley Judd blamed hip hop and its “rape culture” for promoting misogamy, and conservative talker Rush Limbaugh argued hip hop promotes the use of words like “slut” and “prostitute,” which he took heat for using last year to describe liberal activist Sandra Fluke. And a Fox News personality John Gibson has suggested the hip-hop culture plays a role in marijuana use and even some deadly shootings, like a 2007 attack at an Ohio school.
Broussard admitted hip hop exacerbates some problems, but stressed that systemic cultural failings are the real issue.
“[Young rappers] are writing about the things that they see and may, in some cases, experience in their neighborhoods,” said Broussard. “Poverty, injustice, crime, fatherlessness, family breakdown — because all this exists in their community, they’re writing about it.”
Broussard cited the results of two studies released in 2013 by the Sentencing Commission and researchers at Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy. Black males typically receive prison sentences that are approximately 20 percent longer than the sentences received by white males who commit similar crimes, according to the Sentencing Commission. That percentage has increased since the 2005 restoration of judicial discretion in sentencing.
“You’ll literally have black people going to prison for crimes that white people are not going to prison for,” said Broussard. “This impacts the family.”
Home ownership is 28 percent higher for white families than it is for black ones, according to the researchers at Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy. Their study revealed that among the households whose wealth grew from 1984-2009, white families’ wealth grew 30 percent faster than black families’ did. Family income, college education, inheritance and unemployment accounted for 65 percent of that gap.
A young white male from suburbia may receive a slap on the wrist for marijuana possession and go on with his life like nothing happened, Broussard said. Meanwhile, a young black male may go to prison, which would earn him a criminal record, cost him a job and disrupt his education — consequences than can lead to fatherlessness.
Bizzle, a God Over Money Records hip-hop artist, recently released the single “Dear Hip Hop,” a letter addressing complaints about the musical culture that commentators like Sharpton and Limbaugh often make.
“[Hip hop] practically raised me,” Bizzle told TheDC. “Everything that I saw my favorite rappers doing, I wanted to do, and everything I saw them being, I wanted to be.”
He said that, while his father was in the picture growing up, he wasn’t in the house. He said his mother — and hip hop — helped raise him.
Bizzle explained that “Dear Hip Hop” told the story of how the genre shaped his perception growing up. He believes hip hop numbs its listeners to issues like violence and degradation of women.
“[Social ills] that we might have been offended by or saw as wicked, we see as normal now, because we’ve singing about it for five years to different records,” said Bizzle. “Hip hop in general, you’ve got a lot of [big-name] rappers like your Lil Waynes or your Rick Rosses, who are very influential, and of course I think there’s a better way to use that influence and really paint a full picture of reality.”
The artist admitted that before he became Christian, he rapped about whatever would earn him the most money. Selfishness fueled him. He didn’t care about the repercussions, or potentially twisting his listeners’ perceptions of reality.
When artists don’t care about their listeners, negative influence is inevitable, he said.
“I don’t see hip hop as a compartmentalized part of culture,” Dr. Terriel Byrd, president of the African American Caucus of the Academy of Homiletics of North America, told TheDC. “I just see it as a part of the culture in which we live. So, it’s going to influence the lives of people in the culture because it’s a part of culture.”
Byrd added that hip hop transcends racial, ethnic and cultural lines.
“Music that [some rappers] are putting out is reaching people who don’t live in that neighborhood and reality,” said Broussard. “It’s impacting and making them want to do those [negative] things. You have young kids who are from nice, two-parent households who have a good education, and they may be dumbing themselves down to act like the rapper that they idolize.”