Is Our Music Influencing Us? (Perspective)

I walked into my mass media class, anticipating the assignment we were previously given. As someone who majors in communication, I often analyze the media we are given.

Therefore, I was curious about our assignment to analyze the Top 10 songs in the U.S. However, as someone whose primary playlist consists of grunge rock, old school hip hop and showtunes, I only knew about half of the songs listed. The music varied in genre and covered the basic things: heartbreak, wealth, love. Amongst these pieces were the several songs of Travis Scott and Lil Wayne.

I can’t say I was surprised by the misogynistic lyrics. Hip Hop is well known for its male dominated industry and largely sexist and homophobic views. It is present with Biggie and Tupac just as much as our current artists.

Again, I was not surprised about the lyrics, the number of times the word “bitch” is used, or the mention of sex, money and drugs.

What struck me as particularly disturbing was how this went over the heads of many of my male classmates, as they mindlessly nodded their heads to the “mumble rap.” When asked about the “cultural storytelling,” or how this music impacts our culture, many of them defended the music.

“It's just party music,” remarked one of my classmates.

Yes, it is party music with a good beat and occasionally clever wordplay. What’s troubling is that’s what people tend to remember.

We mindlessly rap and sing the lyrics (those which are comprehensible) and dance to the beat. My question is, is this storytelling of the music with which we can barely understand the words, affecting our view of women? I feel like my question was answered with this statement from one of the males in my class regarding Lil Wayne’s “Mona Lisa”:

“It shows how manipulative females can be.”

Wow, I thought, how timely this conversation is. If you’ve listened to “Mona Lisa”, it basically tells the story of a woman seducing a man and stealing his money. I am aware that this very loosely relates to the claim I am making. However, it is not just the song lyrics that create conflict, it is how these lyrics are interpreted, as shown with my classmates use of the word “manipulative” to describe women in general.

Many will say that music is music, it is only reflecting the views of one person; it’s not important. But how can we say that as we simultaneously watch one of the biggest women’s movements unfold?

Two weeks ago, the nation watched as Christine Blasey Ford made a testimony against the next Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Women bawled at the chilling account of sexual assault by Ford. Alas, the testimony and evidence against Kavanaugh were not enough. According to the New York Times, Kavanaugh was inducted into the Supreme Court with a vote of 48-50

With this new development, women across the nation stood up in anger, sadness, and disbelief. In the midst the #MeToo movement, women and men felt compelled to tell their stories and advocate for #BelieveWomen. With all the liberality, however, came the expected backlash of other groups calling Ford and other survivors “manipulative” or “a liar”; phrases we commonly hear when someone is accused of sexual misconduct.

Sound familiar?

I am not saying all new rap music is bad, as there are many of these songs with important messages (the works of Kendrick Lamar being a prime example.) I am not trying to shame you if you listen to this music nor am I trying to call out my classmates. Many forms of media influence how we think, and this only serves as one example from my experience. The take away from this is simply to be aware of what you’re consuming, whether that be the music we listen to or the news that we watch. Whether we like it or not, music, in addition to several other mediums, is a reflection of our culture. How can we understand what we are supporting if we don’t even understand the lyrics?