Is Hip Hop Destroying Black America?




Is Hip Hop Destroying Black America? To answer this question fairly, we must first discard the distorted image of Hip Hop that mainstream media has passed off for the past 20 years. Hip Hop is a movement consisting of 4 main artistic elements: DJ’ing, Rapping, Breaking and Graffiti. But at its core, it is a philosophy based on the idea that self expression is an integral part of the pursuit of peace, love and unity. It was created by young visionaries who tapped into their greatest potential and gave birth to one of the most important cultural phenomenon the world has ever seen. Shaped by the spirit of Africa, The Carribean and Black America, it is a culture that binds us under the belief that we must strive for excellence through our respective artforms, as well as within our souls. It’s a lifestyle that unites people from the U.S to Nigeria, France to Brazil, Japan to Mexico, often unable to speak each other’s language but fully capable of understanding all that makes us who we are. True Hip Hop is the MC who raps from the heart or enlightens the people. It is the DJ who speaks with his hands. It is the 6 year old B-girl who break dances like her life depends on it or a group of young dancers whose moves defy gravity effortlessly. It is the graffiti artist whose shapes and colors breathe new life onto gritty city landscapes or the beatboxer who manipulates sounds like a one-man orchestra. It’s the aspiring politician who genuinely reflects the people she represents, the progressive educators who give voiceless youth a platform to express their deepest thoughts and the grassroots activists who launch campaigns against a corrupt music industry. For millions of people here and abroad, this is Hip Hop, the way it was meant to be…and it is NOT destroying Black America.

If this doesn’t sound like the kind of Hip Hop you’re familiar with, blame the music industry and mainstream media for bombarding you with a steady diet of rappers talking about drugs, sex and violence for over two decades. Blame MTV, BET, and other networks for trying to redefine what Hip Hop is in order to sell it and shove it down the throats of unsuspecting consumers. It’s easy to blame simple minded rappers for promoting negative messages and images while multi billion dollar companies and shrewd businessmen who market these artists are free from criticism. It’s easy to blame someone like Chief Keef who becomes the obvious poster boy for mindless rap while Jimmy Iovine, the head of Interscope Records, keeps a low profile and avoids having to address his part in promoting “death through entertainment”. It’s easy to protest flavor of the month Trinidad James who raps about Molly, the industry’s latest fashionable drug, while Def Jam’ president Joie Manda proclaims his new discovery as “the cutting edge of what’s happening in the culture today.” It’s easy to blame talentless top 40 rappers for dominating the airwaves of so called hip hop radio stations like L.A.’s Power 106 or New York’s Hot 97 while Rick Cummings, president of programming for Emmis Communications, which owns both stations, isn’t held accountable for his part in broadcasting filth to millions of listeners.

Time and time again, the real decision makers get away with murder while rap artists are projected as the embodiment of everything that is wrong with Hip Hop and young Black males.

Kind of how gangs are perceived as the lone cause of urban violence while those who bring guns and drugs into the community remain anonymous.

Kind of how so many young Black men are written off as criminals and sent to prison in disproportionate numbers while the system that causes this tragedy is profiting from growing incarceration rates.

Kind of how Black students are labeled as troubled underachievers while school districts across the nation, including Philadelphia and Chicago, continue to close down schools in predominantly Black communities to save money.

And all of it devalues the lives of Black people in exchange for financial gain.

So is Hip Hop really destroying Black America? No. The challenges facing Black America are much bigger than Hip Hop. But for what it’s worth, when untainted by outside influences and corporate vultures, Hip Hop in its purest form is about empowerment, unity, culture, creativity and hope. And God knows we need it.
Sebastien Elkouby is a Hip Hop Culture historian and award-winning educator. He is responsible for the 2013 campaign to promote conscious rap music. Check out his educational program, Global Awareness Through Hip Hop Culture and his blog, Contact him at or on Twitter @SebIsHipHop (Although he rarely uses it!)

Christopher says:

We live in the internet era, so the power of the music industry is gradually declining. The industry has zero control over what I listen to. I like rap and all of its incarnations, from the violent/raunchy artists to the militant/political/intellectual artists and everything in between. Anyone who only listens to the radio is allowing themselves to be conditioned into enjoying a narrow view of the genre.

Dire Leon says:

I wonder what society would be like now if the record lables artificially propped up Satanic Metal and Nazi Punk for two decades in white culture? Rap and Hip Hop are genres of an art form. The record lablels seem to think they (Hip Hop and Rap) are the art form. And only the violent racially charged forms at that. If people had a variety of music to choose from, I believe society would be better balanced as a whole.

Borrild says:

To Cat:
Am not sure you understand the whole content of the article. You are taking your point from a different angle, don’t argue blindly. What we are saying is that the reason why Hiphop was created has been changed. The so called golden age of Hiphop is distroying the livestyles of the youngsters, not only the blacks even the white. What we are saying is that the people responsible for this are the rappers who sold their origin by turning hiphop to a completely senceless music. Before, hiphop was meant to empower the youth morally and the content of the music brings great change to the society cos every youth wanna be useful to the community. But these days, all these Rappers preach about ass, drugs, bitches, violence and hoes. Now if ya telling me thats a good thing for the society, then i’ll know how much love you have for your community.

suree noo isn’t destroy … the black america is known with hiphop arts ..

cat says:

“Kind of how gangs are perceived as the lone cause of urban violence while those who bring guns and drugs into the community remain anonymous.”

This statement is moronic. The gangs ARE the ones bringing the guns and drugs and violence into communities. Don’t put blinders on your eyes. Put the blame where the blame belongs. STOP making excuses for a whole generation of youth who haven’t learned respect for their elders or themselves. Hip hop isn’t destoying anything. That like the old folks back in the 50’s saying rock and roll is corupting youth. Just because you don’t like a certain type of music is no reason to denigrate the ones who do, or the ones creating it. Pull your heads out of you know where and get real about the situation. This article is lame.

LaMar says:

Very well put. I love how you address the problem of anonymity. People love to place the blame or point the finger, but often don’t know what direction to extend their hand.

Sean says:

Some good points, but no one held a gun to the head of Jay Z or other big rappers to force them to create and sell mindless records about bitches and hoes, jewelry, violence and about how they are so tough. They could have politely declined the record deal if their vision was of a higher standard. It’s call having musical integrity about your craft. I suspect these artists came to the party with no regard or concern about the long term damages their spits would have on the black community. They were trying “to get paid” as has been repeated over and over again in their lyrics.

Impressionable young kids with their baggy clothes, jewelry, disrespecting women, calling them bitches and hoes just mimic what Jay Z and the hip hop world have been pushing for decades. They are like native Americans selling alcohol to other Native Americans. Blacks selling drugs to other blacks. The black pimp victimizing young black girls. The hip hop artists get rich perpetuating stereotypes, enabling the stunted growth of their people and making millions of dollars in the process. And they get a free pass from the black media. No one criticizes Jay Z.

Someone like Common refuses to release that rubbish because he has integrity and he doesn’t sell as many records as a result. So you can’t blame the music exec’s. Business is business. They are out to make money. Now the hip hop artists should have more concern about their people. Unfortunately the lack of education by a growing underclass in what is fueling the continued success of this poisoned, art form. You have to blame the messenger. If all hip hop artists refused to create negative lyrics and images, that side of the craft thankfully would die off.

@PTRILLA says:

I will say this everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should be held accountable for their words,actions,beliefs. Growing up Rap/Hiphop and countless genres,classical,rock,techno,rave,pop, and some other geners like house which i listened to helped mold me into the man i am. None of those genre’s effected me and also helped me deal with issues of poverty by wanting to become a peace advocate,heath advocate, and speak on issues i saw coming up. Hip hop helped me heal from the issues of everyday life knowing the artist on t.v. were or at one point went through similar struggles. What i can say is this black america and any minority group has issues which like in business have nothing to do with who speaks on the issues but the fact the issues are prevalent in any community. The issues effecting black people are that we dont have enough outlets to voice our opinions and when our voices become tools of competition without ridding our communities of underlying facts in our communities then that is cultural destruction which has happened generation after generation. I dont blame music i blame myself i blame the system and i blame the media for not ending the facts of our lives and preventing these issues. Doesnt mean we shouldnt take up causes, rally or protest or promote peach through music it just means african americans dont have to identify with what hasnt changed since we were brought to these shores. Music is our powerhouse and to say that were being put in ring against one another is disgrace but some of these people who do have the money which controls what our community listens to should try to find other artist with messages and campaigns who actually want to make a difference its not like these other artists dont make those kind of records its just that the mainstream media wont allow sociallly conscious records or artists with peaceful messages to have same or share same spotlight with what looks visually appealing to most of our people. That is self destruction and in art art has to sale so i think thats a bigger issues than hip hop or rap. That is a issue in black community of homosexuality and that promotes gender inequality and companies like klanned parenthood to pump cancer into our pipes to kill our bodys so we can have abortions by being confused about ourselfs. In short we shall not drink from the tainted fountain but from the fruit of life and our voice is our fruit dont taint it. Yet we shall find the fruit of life and to people on this forum who speak in volumes get like me create music for those who you want to cater to their ears push your message to them to change them encourage them to listen if not then dont complain if you cant find these people in positions of power and convince them to change their companies. just my thoughts get at me on twitter

Tyrone says:

As black people, we need to realize that it is a conspiracy. I have no love for NWA and the filth they created. Whites, not blacks, were and still are the biggest supporters of “Hood Uncle Toms.” We need to stop giving self-loathing blackmen a pass. Too many blackwomen and babies are dying because some young black male has been brainwashed to hate his own people. And Obama has the nerve to associate himself with Russell Simmons, Ludacris, Jay-Z, and other clowns within our race. We ain’t free, we’ve been lied to by the likes of Jackson and Sharpton who kiss the ass of the white male power nexus in media and entertainment…I Rebuke Them!

jahshaolin says:

I work at a crisis shelter for teenagers, most are black. And I can tell you first hand how devastating rap is. We cannot watch Youtube videos at the house because all they want to watch are chief keef, soldier boy, gucci mane. We cannot listen to “urban” radio because of the sociopathic nature of 90% of the tunes on the air. These youth follow their marching orders.


Once again it’s everyone else’s fault. ALL rap music was created from black people, especially the garbage you call gangster rap. Tell me something, why is it that black people never, ever, take responsibility for what they do. That is at least if what they do has a negative affect and portrays them in the negative light that THEY created for themselves, well, that’s always someone else’s fault. If it turns out to have a positive affect, well then black people and black people alone are the responsible party. Everything else is all evil whitey’s fault. Gangster rap, created by a evil whitey not NWA. Crack cocaine, evil whitey made me do it, “I don’t got no planes to fly dees drugs in, its evil whiteys fault that I smoke crack all day”. Hispanic guy shoots a little thug for breaking his nose and smashing his head into the side walk, it’s evil whiteys fault. Black people are by far the most racist people in this entire country, and by trying to shift the blame of the destructive gangster rap culture which THEY CREATED FROM BEGINNING TO END to some evil whitey executives proves it, again.

AyP says:

Hip Hop Is A Drug! Hip Hop is destroying who shall be destroyed and empowering who shall be empowered. take me for example. before i started to rhyme, or try to for that matter. i didnt own 5 books. now i have close to 1000 dollars worth of books on topics ranging from self-help, to story telling, to science, and even novels such as The Tropic of Cancer. the point im making is is that the black community has to start looking at hip hop from a behind the music glimpse vs the on screen view which fools some to be constant fun. cause if not? well, were just getting high on our own supply.

Fortheloveofhiphop says:

The N word does not have any real power. It’s just a word. It only has as much power as you give it. Sexism, violence, and drugs seem to be all hip hop is about today. If you are anything outside of that, even black music entities will not support it. In their mind, “you got to make what sells”. (Foolishness) If I was looking from the outside in, I would try to prevent kids from listening to it period. Why should they have to suffer in the long run from someone else’s ignorance that will eventually have an effect on their personal life? But because I’m looking from the inside out, I know for a fact that there are a lot of positive artists underground that promotes music that is pure from the heart. All messages are not just about freedom fighting either. It’s soothing to listen to because it’s not plagued with negativity. At the end of the day the black culture should blame themselves. We are the only ones with the power to override the negativity. But instead we support our own black entities that tear us down. It’s not just white America. Most hip hop magazines are plagued with sexism, hood this and hood that. Like that’s all we know as black folks. It’s sooo insulting. Hell, if you’ve really been in the hood your whole life, you should be singing a new tune. A tune that was created to get you out instead of keeping you there; glorifying a lifestyle that was meant to destroy us, and almost did. Now instead of being sprayed, with water hoses, bitten by dogs and being wrongfully convicted, the negative tunes that we’ve been singing for twenty years continue to grow the black prison population that these private sectors profit from. It also keeps us in the highest percentile for poverty amongst Americans, and gives us the highest failure rate in the no child left behind act. What’s missing in today’s urban youth? Responsible adults who fail to enlighten the unenlightened mostly found in the hip hop culture because all they have on their mind is money as well. So before they change the tunes that they sing to their own people, they will continue to promote it. Making us look less than what we really are.

Dilland says:

First off, it isnt just “black” peopls effected by the lack of creativity in music. Plenty of young white men and women see hip hop as a lavish lifestyle, just as the powers at be chose to make it seem. Scarface references have become all to redundant, and selling drugs has been purposfully painted as easy, and financially rewarding. Until people start supporting artists that push themselves outside of a foolish cycle of “drugs, guns, and bitches” the mainstream “art” (foolish to even call it that) will continue to thrive. I see infants dancing to 2 chainz in the grocery store, and mothers of those infants singing it to them. Families need to bring back morality, and above everything else, not accept this crazy BS as culture, and especially entertainment.

Jim says:

Hey Sebastien,
I’m not dismissing your response and I respect what you’re trying to do. Raising the level of popular music and giving kids better role models benefits everyone. I just don’t think that suggesting that it’s part of a corporate agenda is accurate, or more importantly, provides any path to change.

Calling consumers of mainstream music idiots isn’t coming from industry insider destain (sadly, I’m far detached from anything that relates to this article), it’s just pure music fan snobbery. I’m being dramatic, clearly, but terrible music dominating the mainstream isn’t a new thing (disco!), or part of a nefarious corporate conspiracy as you suggest. It’s record labels with their eyes on the bottom line not taking chances. It’s consumers who either don’t care, or don’t have exposure to a wide selection of music buying what’s right in front of them. It’s artists whose overly sexual/violent content is irresistible to teenagers. And it’s the same story across all mainstream music genres. Hopefully as labels weaken, more independent distribution channels pop up, and even sites like yours create buzz for worthier artists, that’ll break down. I wish you luck.

Sebastien Elkouby says:


Thanks for your feedback.

Sebastien Elkouby says:


You make a couple of good points but your overall perspective is shortsighted. You speak on behalf of the industry’s interests, probably because of your Viacom background, but lack the grassroots/community based insight which is one of the problem addressed in this article. Ironically, you acknowledge the industry’s inclination to market anything, including rapping chickens, to listeners who you label idiots and lowest common denominator. This statement alone reeks of disdain, elitism and complete disregard for the people your industry profits from. To people like you, morality and social accountability are completely divorced from business…which, in truth, is nothing new. But I represent grassroots people who oppose your sterile and blind support for the corporate bottom line because there’s more at stake than money…a concept you are apparently detached from. You keep representing corporate interest while we educate those “idiots, kids and common denominator” about what folks in your industry really think of them. Of course, I’m sure you’ll laugh this off and dismiss my response as overly simplistic and showing a “fundamental lack of understanding the music industry”. But it’s this type of narrow thinking, corporate loyalty and social unaccountability you have to live with.

Jim says:

You’ve basically laid out some unsupported opinions, looked up the names of a few white execs and landed on this gem of a thesis: mainstream hip hop sucks, it’s not destroying Black America, and it’s all part of white corporate/media agenda.

The whole idea shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the music industry (beyond hip hop), what the role of an exec is, a market economy, etc. This article is based on assumptions at best, and it’s not a good look.

Here’s the problem: You’re not giving artists enough credit and you’re giving mainstream hip hop fans far too much.

If the horrible state of mainstream hip hop is part of a conspiracy by “shrewd businessmen”, then I have some good news for you – it’s not just targeted at Black America. Mainstream rock, and even country to a lesser degree, don’t speak to/for real fans. They speak to the lowest common denominator (kids, idiots) who represent the bulk of album and ticket sales. Face it: 2 Chainz is more popular than Talib because that’s what the market wants. Uneducated buyers don’t share your taste. If you figure out a way to educate the masses and prevent them from liatening/buying garbage, let us all know (seriously – I’d love to listen to the radio again).

Execs could care less. They’d gladly sign a rapping chicken if his mixtape generated enough buzz to guarantee a good ROI. And speaking of mixtape, you’re really dismissing how much effort many of these “simple minded” rappers put into their own branding and marketing long before the evil execs get their hands on them. It’s convenient for you to dismiss them as puppets, but that doesn’t make it true,

There’s no conspiracy, just dollars. It’s as transparent as sites like this writing articles with shocking headlines to generate ad impressions.

ConciseMag says:

I agree, it’s economics, capitalism, republican, it’s going to be hard to stop what sales, people love ignorance, educate and start dividing the wealth, keep um dumb down and don’t wake the sleeping Giant…

michael mailey says:

There is a need to boycott lamestream crap music listen to music that has meaning to it.As for me i keep to chamber and orchestral music.

melvin says:

Yes it plays a big part on young black americans because they are our future but if they think the hottest gear, the sexiest women or man, flashing money and big car on big rims is important well we are doom. Pants sagging n extra tight clothes is the least, we need positive feedback to guide these young adults, not negative hip hop

Tom says:

We wonder why the youth of today are disrespectful and disinterested. You are what you eat if this garbage is all you listen to day in and day out it warps your reality. You begin to believe what your listening to. If all they rap about is disrespecting women and getting high and killing people. Thats what the youth will emulate. There is no balance in rap because it is not hip hop anymore.

levz says:

So if no one wants that type of rap, and no one is supporting that type of rap, these ‘cheque cutters’ are self funding this ‘bombardment’……These guys are business men, they supply a need. If people supported ‘real’ hip hop then we would be bombarded with that simply because that’s where the money is. Your argument is flawed. If you are depending on a business man to save Black America then Black America needs to speak loudly about what it wants. Stop supporting garbage and put the money where you want the focus.

Sen says:

they’re not only supplying a need, they create a need. This doesn’t only affect Black Amerika, but youth everywhere. So you have to wonder why do these people create this need, why do they want to dumbdown people and promote violence? When you have an answer to those questions, then we can talk about a solution.

Clark says:

I’ve been saying this for the last ten years about the rap that is blasted into the faces of youth and America in general. It sets an example and acts as a terrible role model for most to follow and not only destroys black America and the youth within it but the whole of America as well. People who were blaming “white corporate” need to stop looking at it as a conspiracy…they’re out to make money, whether it degrades blacks or whites, last I checked we were all equal and this was America. We’re all brothers and sisters and were all in this together. What affects one affects the other, maybe not directly but in similar ways somewhere down the line. I see the underground culture and the masses waking up every day, and this is one step closer to not killing each other because some clown glorified it. I just hope it isn’t ruined by people playing the pity game and acting a victim. We’re all to blame.
Peace and love

everton says:

the last time this had a national forum that attempted to confront this was the imus incident and in early april of 2007 a pide piper came out and quickly said “this is freedom of speech!” remember russell simmons? russell rush the cold rock stuff? and it all of sudden stopped. It’s time to confront what effects you head on, don’t look for media leader’s like al sharpton and the like to do it for you because it gonna happen.

Josh says:

This article is speaking the Gospel truth! We have to come together as a people and say we will not accept anything and everything mainstream media throws at us. This is still a set up just like the liquor stores and gun shops in the hood. They are not in the white neighborhoods. They want us to get drunk (killing productivity and progression as a people) and kill each other. After the civil rights acts were passed racism didnt stop. So they had to figure out a way to take care of “the black problem” without actually having to “pull the trigger.” They realized that their greatest enemy was also their greatest ally, because black people will do all of the damage for them. Just like you dont hear white music glorifying killing each other and degrading women. Certainly not to the extent that Hip-Hop does. The higher-ups at these labels are pushing for music to “dumb down” the black community to make sure we ultimately remain “second-class citizens.” And it is sickening. WE MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS TRAVESTY!

Michael says:

Totally agree with what you are saying Josh. Gangsta rap came out when I was a teenager and the first thing that came to my mind was that it had to be some kind of plot against black people. I did not know exactly what then, but I can see that my initial thoughts were true.

kerry says:

I’m happy to see we’re finally saying names now of these check cutters but we’re is the meat of this article? Good Start

Teyah says:

Great article! While the music executives should be held accountable for the music they push, we as black people must hold ourselves accountable as well. We must stop settling for anything and selling our souls for money. Like the saying goes, if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. And that’s exactly what’s happening now. We are accepting anything as a culture and falling for everything that’s shoved in our faces. It’s time for us to demand what we will accept and what we won’t. If we could come together, we’d be unstoppable.

Amen! Unless we want to accept our plight in life as perpetual slaves without any decision making power over our own selves & work then we must first & foremost claim that power in accountability. Record execs. & program execs. are accountable to making their corporations profitable not to the well being or not of our society/ community so really the buck literally starts & stops with us. Without us feeding the beast it can not survive.

Charles N. Sanders says:

The article was outstanding. I think a lot of hip hop is confrontational and causing a lot of self hate. I mean why would it talk about killing each other…we’ve seen how they glorify weapons how we wipe out each other and talk about keeping it real. The first thing we need to do is stop calling each other the n word and stop using it as a term of endearment. I’m getting a little upset with the disrespect toward our senior citizens and the disrespect for each other…not all…but a lot of our stuff is self inflicted and we need to recognize! Stop hating one another put the weapons down.

Jason says:

I know that there is always gonna be rap geared towards sex, money and drugs. The problem is now every rapper is saying the same thing the same way. There is a lack creativity with lyrical content nowadays. We get it fed to us in every way everyday. I think rappers think they wont sell unless the topic is sex money or drugs. So u cant blame the rapper. We cant control whats being played. It starts at the top. As lyrical as Kendrick Lamar is his number one single was swimming pool. But i think the radio only played it because of the hook telling people to drink even though the song is about not drinking. Anyway i think it is affecting our community…good article

Ivan Cohen says:

When every rapper is saying the same thing the same way, you don’t have creativity anymore. You just have cookie-cutter performers. Their CD’s may get play on the radio but they will remain unsold in the stores. When they come to town for a performance, disc jockeys won’t even be able to give away the tickets.

Ray Abu Yusef says:

Very good article! I enjoyed this one for sure… We have to cont. to get this truth out … Peace and love!