In Beyond the Beats and Rhymes (2006), Byron Hurt presents rap and hip hop culture of the 1990’s and early 2000’s through the eyes of the rappers, producers, and fans alike. In one particularly profound segment of the documentary, Hurt met with aspiring rappers outside of a record label and had them “freestyle” for him. After three or four male artists preformed for Hurt, he noted that they all rapped about “getting money, getting bitches, and killing niggas.” Hurt inquired about why they did this? The consensus among the would-be rappers was effectively, ‘That’s what they [record labels and producers] want to hear. They want to hear that hood shit!’ One of the aspiring rappers, “spit” a verse or two (following his inquiry) about growing up and being afraid of the police because he’s black and said, “nobody wants to hear about that…”
In the United States, rather ironically the white corporate-owned America record labels create the African American rap culture played on the radio that older white Americans frown upon. In reality, this is an example of black oppression at the hands of White America. The record labels produce and promote the “thug life” of murder and physical violence, money and objectifying women with a catchy beat from a dominant male rapper, which further projects negative stereotypes about African American culture, particularly Black males. In a lot of ways this is a throwback to the days when slave owners used their slaves as entertainment, almost indistinguishably, from that of an animal in the zoo. By abusing their power, record labels establish a self-sustaining community of ignorance and objectification.
Unfortunately, this is still true today in the rap/hip hop industries. However, over the course of time, some rap/hip hop artists and groups (male and female alike) have fought for their right to express themselves and real problems through their art. Rappers, such as Kendrick Lamar, have taken great strides to end this “sideshow” and have provided the music industry with hope. With the release of To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar has created an album that demonstrates the hardship and oppression that a young African American face on an daily basis. Lamar has established himself as an model and voice for change within the Black community.