Hip-hop is one of the most popular forms of music in the United States and its message and influence is felt worldwide. Some people argue that hip-hop has a positive impact on African American culture and has given African Americans a revolutionary political voice, but the author John H. McWhorter is not one of them. McWhorter wrote an article called “How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back” and argued that hip-hop has not been a positive vehicle for African American mobility and progress.
In his article, McWhorter argued that hip-hop music hinders African Americans and encourages them to reject society’s norms and values and embrace angry, violent, misogynist norms. McWhorter asserted that hip-hop music encourages African American males to rebel against authority, which is negatively impacting the African American community. He also argued that the negative norms of hip-hop music help reinforce stereotypes and racist views that mainstream society has historically held about African Americans.
McWhorter also disagreed with advocates and supporters of hip-hop who maintain that hip-hop is a positive medium for African Americans because it let’s them express their frustrations against oppression and gives them a political voice. McWhorter made a convincing argument about the negative impacts of hip-hop on the African American community. He used both personal experiences and incidents from the hip-hop community to argue his case. For example, to illustrate the negative influence of hip-hop, McWhorter used the lyrical content of rap songs as his primary evidence.
By using hip-hop lyrics, McWhorter effectively demonstrated how hip-hop promotes, irresponsibility, violence, misogynist views, disrespect for authority and many other negative attitudes. McWhorter also used personal experiences, which showed hip-hop’s negative influence on African American males. He recalled an incident where a few African American males, who were obviously influenced by hip-hop, were behaving rowdily and disorderly in a restaurant and when asked to leave, they blatantly disrespected the authority figure.
This type of attitude to disrespect authority can be directly attributed to exposure to hip-hop music which McWhorter effectively illustrated. McWhorter also made convincing argument to debunk the claims of hip-hop advocates who argue that hip-hop is actually revolutionary because it gives African Americans a political voice, despite its bleak and negative content. McWhorter debunks this by stating that hip-hop does the exact opposite.
McWhorter showed that hip-hop actually alienates African Americans from political power because many African Americans are pressured to conform to the negative norms of hip-hop, which hinders progress. McWhorter argued that there is nothing revolutionary about misogynistic, violent, angry music because it only pushes African Americans further into the margins of society, which is an accurate and effective argument.
McWhorter’s argument against hip-hop was effective because he accurately illustrated everything that is wrong with hip-hop and why it actually holds African Americans down. Currently the African American community’s progress is stunted because many African Americans are pressured to live up to the negative images of hip-hop, rather than their true potential and McWhorter accurately depicted this gloomy reality in his article.
McWhorter, J. H. (Summer 2003). How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back. The City Journal