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Violence, Corruption, And Wealth In American Popular Culture

1278 words - 5 pages

Today's society is no stranger to violence and corruption. We see it in our streets, on our television and movie screens, and we hear it in music. However, a clearer connection is being made between this corruption and wealth. Our culture is beginning to associate dishonesty and criminal acts with money and material goods. Images of wealth and fame through murder and mayhem are pounded into Americans' heads through a the story-lines of Mafia movies and the lyrics of popular music idols. Producers are thriving on our two biggest cravings: money and violence. In the novel The Great Gatsby, corruption is a main theme and is used as a gateway to wealth and fame. As the plot unfolds, the main characters get caught in a tangled web of adulterous affairs coupled with underhanded schemes and mischief which as they become richer and further their personal social status.
     Music reflects the times. In the 60's and 70's, musicians preached peace and empathy towards the human race. In the 80's music was a form of rebellion. Today, music has manifested itself into many different forms, one being "hip hop" more commonly known as "rap". In the early 80's, rap was about break-dancing and graffiti. Now, as we approach the year 2000, hip hop has become the most listened-to form of music nation-wide and many rap artists have adopted the new title of "pop-artists", pop. meaning "popular culture". A hip hop single recently took the number 1 spot on the Billboard charts for most sales recorded. The problem here is the message many rappers are telling the world. From the beginning, rappers have flaunted their money with the expensive cars seen in their videos and the thick gold chains they wear in public, not to mention the numerous references made to wealth in their lyrics. However, many rappers are telling tales of violence and wealth as one. In fact, there are more than 10 hip hop songs actually entitled "Crime Pays". In the chart topping single, "Money, Power, Respect", Yonkers based rapper DMX raps "hit him up/ split him up/ shut him up/ then watch him come/ get him up…CLICK, step back like I did work", portraying a beating, then murder, the "CLICK" being the sound made by the trigger of a gun. The chorus then goes on to proclaim "Money, Power, Respect, that's what you need in life".
Violence is not the only thing depicted as "beneficial" in hip hop. Many rappers including the late "Notorious B.I.G" and "2Pac", two very well known rappers, made innumerable references to the use and sale of drugs, along with the profit to be made, in their lyrics. In the song "Sky's the Limit", the Notorious B.I.G raps about his school days, being a young drug dealer, rapping "Buy a dime [of marijuana], smoke five, sell the rest for 20/ a young nigga making far too much money/ I was the only 8th grader with...

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