The music kids are listening to today

September 15, 2010
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Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Taylor Swift headlined the coverage of the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. Monday was also the 14th anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death.

Between these events I was forced to contemplate the state of hip hop and the recording industry as a whole.

The Fall season supplies a soundtrack for the winter with new album releases, and I am not looking forward to most of them.

I don’t want to hear Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV,” TI’s “The King Uncaged”, Ne-Yo ‘s “Libra Scale” or Ice Cube’s “I am The West”.

Some people may mistake this as a column bashing the youth’s choice in expression through music, but it’s not. I get my “swag on” with some Souljah Boy. I “Do it” with Waka Flocka Flame, and I even quote Drake on my Facebook status updates.

Music nowadays has become a vehicle for absolute escapism, shirking of personal responsibility and glamorizing a fictional lifestyle. It’s about the fliest cars, freshest outfits, smoking cush and drinking whatever the entertainers are promoting at that time.

But you know what? In all honesty, I can’t blame the kids for taking the bait.

It seems as if kids today have more enemies than friends. The news coverage paints bleak pictures for the economic outlook, a college education is growing more expensive, and jobs are few. The prison population, crime statistics and the lack of intergenerational communication makes ripe for an industry to exploit the fears, concerns, frustrations and indifferent attitudes of today’s urban youth.

There are no concrete art programs that share the gifts of musical instruments. In Austin, very few kids know the joy of talking through a guitar or laying a beat with the bass drum. They don’t know the groove of the bass guitar, yet it anchors the music they dance to. These kids do not have a practical way to let off the steam from the day’s stress.

For me, Tupac symbolized the point where articulation meshes with the frustration of the powers that be. He eloquently communicated with clairvoyance his dissatisfaction with the affairs of schools, law enforcement and the makeup of ghettos across America.

In 1995, he released “Me Against The World,” my favorite album of all time. It seemed as if Tupac had reached the pinnacle of being an angry black man, where he was convicted on charges of sexual assault. The entire album composed of tracks that became slogans for the youth back then. Personally, I went out and got an airbrushed black T-shirt with a picture of the earth with the words “F—k the World” in orbit.

In the same way Tupac was well read, our youth are much smarter than are given credit, but with all that they face in today’s growing complex informative environment, they may very well be on overload not choosing the lesser of two evils. But the evil in which that has been the condition to live with.

austintalks.org@gmail.com

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