On Letting My Kids Listen to Explicit Hip-HopSelena Mills
Music runs deep in this family, with careers in the industry spanning throughout generations and a solid belief that music brings joy, heals and soothes. There’s a genre and a style to suit any mood or any activity. Much of what we do as a family together is surrounded by music.
Which is why it’s no surprise that our kids have become little lovers of music too. Children naturally gravitate toward music anyway. Lots of learning can happen through music, energy expelled and emotions tapped into.
Recently, we went to a hip-hop dance party at Wyndham’s school. It was part of an ‘Equality & Diversity Inclusion Series’ that the parent council had organized. The parents went for a seminar in the library with a guest speaker discussing the importance of raising awareness and having respect for diversity in culture and religion, and the kids went to the gym for a big hip-hop dance party! Pretty cool, but it was a little disheartening to see some of the parents’ reactions and facial expressions throughout the talk. Some of them felt like they were being preached to, and you could tell they weren’t taking any lessons home to influence what/how they teach their children.
Which, I think was the hope of the parent council, to create opportunities for families to raise awareness on such an important topic; because we all know that the values and opinions that children develop starts at home. I find myself wondering what school will be like for my kids when they start to hit the tween and teen years. How heavy will their peer pressure be? How much of that will influence their own beliefs about gender equality, racial equality and respect/love for diversity?
When I look at how heavily today’s generation of youth are barraged and influenced by media, specifically social media, I can’t help but get an overwhelming feeling of panic and fear. What does this all have to do with letting my kids listen to hip-hop? Well, it turns out that they rather favour (as in absolutely adore), such explicit albums as those by Macklemore and Plex. A couple of current favourite artists of theirs that they listen to on repeat to get down and boogie to.
So while I obviously don’t want my very impressionable and word-nerd loving toddlers to start cussing up a storm because (Wyndham specifically), listens with intent to all of those lyrics, I’m not really worried about them hearing swear-words. I mean, people swear. It happens. (Gasp!) There are far worse things in this world for young, impressionable minds to tune into than the likes of Macklemore, Plex, and other artists like them. While there may be profanity in the lyrics, their messages are strong and fabulous, celebrating and advocating on behalf of much of what I’ve been discussing here.
I myself was (and still am), a big fan of quality hip-hop. Artists tackling real issues with passion and lyrical brilliance. A fusion of poetry, mo-town, R&B, dub, funk, reggae, soul … you know, the GOOD hip-hop. The likes of a Tribe Called Quest, Diggable Planets, The Roots, The Pharcyde, The Beastie Boys, NAS, Public Enemy, Run DMC, K-OS, … etc. These are just a few of my favourite artists who tackle internal/external conflicts, life lessons, unity, social issues, or activism instead of messages of violence, material wealth, and misogyny in their music.
I definitely want to pass that on to my kids through music/ I am. And it’s not hard! They love to dance, and hip-hop is of the stuff one can get down to. So.
My dilemma is that while I want my kids to experience such a style of music in it’s authenticity, it obviously isn’t ‘appropriate’ for them to run around repeating all the nifty, new swear words their young, impressionable minds would be soaking up. As my lead image will attest to. Wyndham is really into spelling right now, and he listens to his favorite songs on repeat and creates a little game out of spelling out the chorus or a phrase he particularly likes with his letter books and puzzle pieces, or writing them out on construction paper with markers.
Hence my rather slow purchase of some of our favorite hip-hip albums, the censored versions. In doing so I must admit that I did it because it’s the appropriate thing to do as deemed by society. The exact society that one day … eventually, all cusses. We all learn it, we all do it from time to time, some of us more than others. I’ve heard revered academics with a nice car and a nice house swear just as much as the guy who collects the beer bottles from our recycling bin every week. How much one swears doesn’t necessarily define social class to me.
One day my ‘innocent’ little kids are going to grow up into big ones who know swear words, regardless of whether they listened to explicit hip-hop. I’ll take (and share with my kids), the positive messages that some of our favorite hip artists bring, along with the cussing over the likes of fluffed out, mindless pop drivel any day. I just might have to continue to bite it for a while and take the censored route until they reach the age wherein hearing swear words in songs won’t define or influence their own vocabulary. That hopefully I’ve done a well enough job to teach them to use love and other fabulous verbs in the english language to express and define their thoughts.
Am I a bad mom for letting my kids listen to hip-hop? Nope. The real issue to me is that there are enough humans out there who probably think I am.
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