In his song I Used to Love Her, Common, explains why he fell in love with Hip-Hop Culture and Rap Music. Everyone who has fallen in love with this siren that we know as Hip-Hop at some point in their life understands the sentiments behind Common’s classic track. There is little room to debate that for those that love her, Hip-Hop Culture is akin to a love affair that you pray will never end.
During the eighties and nineties, most Hip-Hop disciples found a way to not only engage and enjoy the culture, but also managed to live relatively balanced lives. There is no doubting that balance is an important part of life and those who fail to find it among the various aspects of their lives will eventually find themselves in a compromised place socially, psychologically, and economically.
Considering the current plight of droves of African-American males, it is obvious that they have failed to strike any semblance of balance in their lives; particularly, in regards to the place and influence Hip-Hop culture has upon their lives. For many, it appears that they have bought into a pervasive lie that being an emcee is the only available occupation for today’s Black males, but also they are destined for rap fame and glory.
As a person who has worked with African-American youth for nearly two decades, I have closely observed so many of my students be infected by what I term the Hip-Hop virus. Once the alluded to virus enters the blood stream, the priorities, goals, and aspirations of the infected are instantaneously, and oftentimes permanently, changed.
It appears that the Hip-Hop virus causes its carriers to abandon traditional paths to success such as education; the individuals of whom I speak of not only by-pass such tried-and-true methods of uplift, but also have the audacity to cast disdain upon those who embark upon such a path, in their pursuit of rap fame and fortune. They have convinced themselves that they are the next big thing in the rap world. Although focus is integral to success in any arena, for those infected with the Hip-Hop virus, focus is used for the strangest reasons, such as developing what could be best termed ‘street credibility’, unbeknownst to them this is the path to death and destruction.
Unfortunately, far too many African-American males pursuing rap stardom behave as if the following activities are pre-requisites to any hope of success.
- Producing out-of-wedlock children with women they have no intention of ever marrying.
- Frequent engagement with the criminal justice system.
- Use of illicit drugs.
- Ridiculous anti-social public behavior.
- The use of language that if not curse-laden, is indecipherable to most humans.
Although there will be a scant few who experience a modicum of fame as a result of Hip-Hop culture, for the vast majority, the Hip-Hop virus will ultimately result in shattered lives and dashed hopes for anyone associated with them. Such destruction is predictable when one considers that most aspiring rappers singular focus upon their craft comes at a steep cost of a marginal education and criminal record, two factors, especially when combined with an inability to pass a drug test, dooms them to outsider status in regards to the mainstream economy.
I think that it is obvious that the time has come for the young men in our community to diversify their professional goals and aspirations as it is the only known vaccine for the Hip-Hop virus.
James Thomas Jones III, Ph. D.
© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2015