Effects of gangster rap versus hip-hop

Black History Month came to an end at Santa Monica College, as the Black Collegian students hosted Benjamin Bowser, who gave a lecture entitled, "Gangsta Rap vs. Hip-Hop: The Immense and Lasting Impact on American Society," last Monday.

Bowser spoke to a room full of students about his latest book, "Gangster Rap And Its Social Costs: Exploiting Hip-Hop and Using Racial Stereotypes to Entertain America," which is about the differences between hip-hop and gangster rap.

He used seven years of critical research in order to explain the impact of people who adopt a particular lifestyle and listen to a particular kind of music.

According to Bowser, the message of hip-hop started out as an anti-gang movement by former gang members who wanted to establish peace among various gangs in the Bronx.

"It wasn't about bling bling, sneakers, guns, or you being better than me, or vice versa," Bowser said during the lecture. "It said, you're family. It was about equity, and when you encountered each other. There was a mutual respect."

However, Bowser explained that the messages for gangster rap are quite the opposite, with its chronic use of the N-word in lyrics, glorification of guns, and going to prison being regarded "almost as a badge of honor."

Gangster rap's messages of gangs, drug use, and the use of the word "bitch" are recurring themes in the genre, as is the physical and sexual domination of women by males, according to Bowser.

"African American girls 7 to 12 years old, who are at the beginning of their sexual maturation, see this image of themselves as women wrapped up in a gangster diva thing, and it's damaging," Bower said. "Years of conditioning by listening to and seeing these images, they internalize it, and it plays out in various ways."

According to Bowser, the hip-hop movement is "strangled" by gangster rap because of corporate sponsors who pour millions of dollars into its promotion, making gangster rap, "music that has to have a certain formula."

Those sponsors see hip-hop as competition and "starve the rest of the system so that nothing else can come out and compete with them," Bowser said.

"I've noticed [some] radio stations are playing more of the gangster rap instead of a more smooth kind of hip-hop, so there is a definite push," said Martin Mikitas, a cinematography student at SMC.

Bowser said his research shows that the corporate formula is essentially a "minstrel show" that has existed for 200 years.

"These corporations are using the big names in the music industry as puppets to perpetuate this institutionalized racism," he said.

Bowser cited MC Hammer as the artist who started dancing in the rap and hip-hop genre, which was sometimes considered uncontrolled and "uncivilized."

Dr. Chui L. Tsang, superintendent and president of SMC, spoke to students in attendance about the importance of having Bowser speak at the college.

"It helps to enrich our campus when we can hear from speakers of stature like Dr. Bowser [who have] prominence in the field," Tsang said.

By the end of his lecture, Bowser concluded that gangster rap ultimately diminishes the quality of life, leading to inferiority among black people, and racism among whites.

"What happens when you internalize the minstrel show is a sagging pants fashion with your rear end hanging out," Bowser said, regarding the cost of gangster rap being consumed by the general public.

He also said that hip-hop has tremendous potential.

"It has revitalized music and theater; it has inspired architecture in Spain and France," Bowser said.