Urban music is a prominently used term but the nature of its origin is not clear. Today, it is popularly known as a term used in referring to black music or music of black origin made by artists regardless of nationality or descent. Debates and arguments about the term and its wide scope is an ongoing topic among the music industry, music fans and artists across the countries. Urban music is a genre that is very broad. If you look underneath urban music, there are a number of core elements that include hip-hop, R&B, garage and into that obviously comes soul music.
Urban music also includes reggae, rock n roll, blues and jazz but the term is most popularly attached or instantly linked to hip-hop. According to J. Decibel, urban music is a cultural movement among African Americans that began in New York City in the early 1970s but it was in the 1980s that urban music or hip-hop became popular1. In Hip-Hop and Youth Culture, Hip-hop is defined as mostly rhyming, rhythmic spoken word art-form known as rapping2. It includes a whole larger culture that involves rap, baggy clothing, break-dancing, graffiti, language and a lifestyle.
Urban music or hip-hop in particular has become a common form of communication and enjoyed by young adults and children relatively throughout the world. Unlike in the earlier days, this music genre is no longer limited to plain art of music and dancing. In Hip-Hop and Youth Culture, it was mentioned that urban music has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry that has greatly manipulated a lot of industries like automotive design, fashion, television programming, collegiate and professional sports, media marketing and advertising3 .
Music is essential in youth culture and in that sense urban music’s potential to influence is rampant that it has stringed its way into young people’s lifestyles particularly because it is a form of recreation that promotes creativity and self expression. Rapping in particular is a way of pronouncing one’s pride in his/her community that also becomes a form of competition where a rapper can display his skills and support or defend their respective communities. It is unquestionable that adults tend to defer acceptance of this culture in comparison to young adults.
Young adults are more inclined in adopting the culture when they are being reprimanded and especially when they know that adults don’t understand nor like what they were into. Young black people embrace the culture because they sympathize to the music that is singing their lives. For young people that do not have any connection to the urban community or urban culture, there is still a lot of question as to why hip-hop or urban music fascinates them and this is nothing new especially for middle and upper-middle class young people.
One apparent reason could be fascination to what is prohibited. Another could be that hip-hop music is exciting and offers a brutally honest view of life that embodied the prevailing values of society. Hip-hop and rap music started out as an art form to express social awareness and it did gather success in inspiring a certain amount of activism. It did not achieve the attention of the music industry and the music cable television program MTV though until it turned violent and unpredictable.
The music industry became interested on the business possibilities that the music genre’s hype could bring. Today with the upsurge of the billion dollar industry that this music genre has produced; unsettled prevalent consequences are emerging. One is the youth gang culture that is said to have influences from the “gangsta” life portrayed in violent lyrics and in the lives of some artists themselves. Violent lyrics pertain to offensive language, chauvinism, sexual promiscuity, fear and discrimination of homosexuals, parental and domestic abuse and the “gangsta” pride of refusing authority.
As a result, popular culture readily identifies “gangsta” rap, hip-hop and in effect urban music as glorifying violence, rape, murder and drug abuse. The thing is, “gangsta” rap did not happen overnight. The rise of its popularity coincided with the time when crack and drugs broke out on the West Coast of United States. It was inevitable that hip-hop and rap music would embody the violent and drug scene of the ghetto given that this genre gets their inspiration from issues of their communities. As a result, criticisms on the negative connotations of rap music and the black youth were naturally expected.