Is Censorship Fair?

March 9, 2011
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As Mrs. Kenebrew backs out of the parking lot, she absentmindedly turns on the radio. A flood of bass washes over the car and out of the speakers booms Lil Wayne rapping to Steady Mobbin’, a song by Young Money,

“Man suck my clip, swallow my bullets and don’t you spit, ughhhh”

Mrs. Kenebrew’s the daughters age sixteen and eleven excitedly recite every word of the song, never missing a beat; not giving a second thought to the vulgarity of the words tumbling from the young lips. As she realizes what her children are saying the alarmed mother fumbles hurriedly to change the station. Relieved she settles on what seems to be a safe station, ignoring the whines of dissatisfaction coming from behind her. Soon another song is introduced on the radio and the lyrics of Travis Porter’s new single, Make it Rain, begin to play,
“You wanna see some a**, I wanna see some cash,
keep them dollars comin’ and that’s gone make me dance (repeats 3 times),
make it rain Trent, make it, make it rain Trent ”
Defeated Mrs. Kenebrew turns off the radio with a sigh. “Where did all the good music go? Why is all the music I ever hear disrespectful to women or about drugs and sex?”

Kia, the eldest sibling, rolls her eyes “Mom this IS good music, didn’t you hear the beat, that’s all I listen to the song for, nothing else.”

“Yea” Kaylie the 11 year old chimes in “it’s a good song ‘Make it rain Trent, make it, make it rain Trent’ ”

“Kaylie do you even know what that means?” asks Mrs. Kenebrew

“Nope but it sounds cool!”

This has become the typical dialogue in the American SUV. The explicit content in music has increased over the years causing many parents to become alarmed. Children mimic what they hear in complete innocence but how can their guardians be sure that the sexual and violent themes which children are exposed to are not being implanted deep inside their subconscious minds. According to the Journal of Genetic Psychology, at preschool age children have the ability to infer about the knowledge they perceive (Pillow). Children create connections between the music they hear and their society. Through the songs they hear, children make discoveries about the world and their own findings mold them as people. So if the goal of parents remains to cultivate successful, self-reliant and intelligent adults for the future, this upcoming generation needs to be listening to songs that inflate their self-esteem and drive instead of pointless melodies that decrease their sense of self-worth with every word. The Federal Trade Commission has taken matters into its own hands and begun to exercise controls on music. Government censorship decreases the negative effects of explicit content in music upon children. Thus stricter music censoring would promote more positive lifestyles and mindsets within the upcoming generation.

The practice of censoring reaches far back into American history; as far back as the Civil war when southerners were forbidden from reciting pro-confederate lyrics. In the 1940’s radio stations began banning songs. In 1940 NBC banned one-hundred and forty-seven records for their obscene lyrics. This started the trend for other radio stations to follow their footsteps and a primitive form a censorship was born. In the 1950’s formal legislation began being passed on the explicit content within music, however it was not until the 1980’s that the controversy over the censorships of artist’s creations truly emerged (Nuzum, 211-243).

Many people believe that stricter censorship of music is an ineffective administration. This is mainly because artists have the right to freedom of speech through the first amendment. The following excerpt inserted into the constitution in 1791 states “Congress must not interfere with freedom of religion, speech or press, assembly, and petition”, it shows that the U.S. government does not have the right to stifle the creativity of a the artists by controlling what can and cannot be said in their music (The American Pageant, A44). Any attempt of the government through the Federal Trade Commission to control the musical content that an artist produces would present itself as a direct violation of the unalienable rights of the American people. Any such violation tarnishes The United State’s carefully constructed image as the epitome of liberty. This loophole stumps the U.S. Congress in their efforts to improve the effects of censorship upon society.

Censorship results in lasting positive effects. It leads to less violence among teens. Many songs played on the radio suggest extremely violent scenarios. The rhymes of artists describe suicide, shootings, stabbings and rape each represent gruesome and illegal practices made to seem completely harmless when put with a fun beat and a few catchy stanzas. Author, Eric Nuzum states “In 1962, the Radio Trade Practices Committee recommended the screening of all lyrics for references of violence. The committee recommended that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) empower its Code Committee to establish a screening system . . .” in his book Parental Advisory Music Censorship in America (Nuzum, 211-243). If this recommendation by the National Association of Broadcasters was heeded by anyone, the results are barely discernible. It does not seem as though much has change, perhaps the screening of lyrics would prove itself more effective if the National Association of Broadcasters mandated it instead of nonchalantly suggesting. Radio stations ignore the urges of the committee and continue to play songs like Steady Mobbin’ by Young Money, the very title of the song links to gang violence. Furthermore the lyrics discuss how lives should not be spared and how if a person acts up in any way they should be shot or as stated in the chorus of song “we don’t want no problems [. . .] f*** around and leave a n****’s brains in the street”. In Tupac’s Hail Mary he states “ I ain’t a killer, but don’t push me” through the lyrics of this rap, the artist acknowledges the errors of the thuggish way he lives yet expresses to his audience that he does not care. Listeners are left with the impression that vengeance is key, mercy is weakness and forgiveness is completely unacceptable. It seems that killing is perfectly acceptable if a person’s actions are too bold or challenging towards another.

The violence in music promotes gang participation. Many famed rap artists claim rags to riches stories. In their music they explain how they come from a hard life in “the hood” and that they had to fight to survive. Adolescents look up to this hard-core image that is created and they feel the need to imitate the life of these rappers. As seen in the chart in Figure 1
(Fig. 1 Highlights of 2008 National Gang Youth Survey)
The areas where gang activities prevail the most tends to be urban cities. The majority of well-known rappers such as Snoop Dogg, Lil’ Wayne, 50 cent, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, etc. were reared in urban locales. This proves that the adolescents within these areas strive to take on the tough personas of their rapper icons. Unfortunately these icons do not always show themselves the as the best role models. Multiple rappers have gang affiliations, for example the rapper Lil’ Wayne classifies himself as member of the Bloods gang and Snoop Dogg claims the Crip gang. Each is aggressive groups who commit severe acts of violence, often toward innocent civilians who have angered them. In addition rappers tend to induce feuds between regions, the disagreements between Tupac from the West Coast and Biggie Smalls from the East Coast epitomizes this. Tupac felt that California, his home state, was superior to New York, the home state of Biggie Smalls. Rapper Biggie Smalls saw this claim in the opposite light, his home state was better than the home state of Tupac’s. This hatred trickled down to the rapper’s fans and has left lasting tension between the two coasts.

Stricter censors also cause a decrease in demeaning attitudes towards women. Today’s music often focuses on the curves of a women’s body rather than the contours of a women’s mind. A fact apparent in the music videos displayed on tv and in the degrading content within the music. Women are depicted as “bitches” and “hoes” they are often shown wearing close to nothing and acting subservient to males, serving them and allowing themselves to be groped in inappropriate places. As seen below in Figure 2

(Fig. 2 Scantily dressed vixens showing off there goods for the camera)
Such messages rub off the both the male and female youth of society. Young girls wish to look, dress, and act like the women they see in music videos. Meanwhile young boys feel superior to their female counterparts and do not hesitate to disrespect young women. According to John F. Borowski, an environmental and marine science teacher at North Salem High School in Oregon, the explicitness of the contents in today’s music is beginning to infiltrate the schools. He states “I will encounter the glorification of “50 Cent” in my school and maybe, even be treated to a favorite verse by teenagers parodying their hero. ‘Ho make a pimp rich, I ain’t payin’ b****”(Borowski). The youth do not comprehend the fact that their actions are wrong because music artist make such blatant degradation seem absolutely normal. Rappers constantly brag about the one night stands and the number of “baby mommas” they have. However male artists are not the only ones to blame, female take part in the glorification of their seductive curves as well. For example the female artist’s Rihanna’s recent singles: S&M, What’s My Name?, and Rude Boy each focus on sex. Through these recent releases it appears as though the artist only cares about pleasing her man with her body. Rihanna and many other female artists make it seem as though a curvaceous body is all women have to offer. A second example of this would be Nicki Minaj whom in the majority of her songs refers to herself as a “bad b****”. It is not necessary to use such a derogatory term to describe one’s self being a woman does make someone a “b****”. In many of their own videos women in the music business wear as close to the bare minimum of clothing as possible. This constant display of boobs and booty makes the female listener feel as though she cannot be beautiful unless she shows of her goodies. While male listeners are trained to be shallow and never look past a women’s sex appeal; an adverse affect which can be avoided through stricter censorship.

With the help of stronger enforced censors, children will be less likely to mimic the negative mannerisms of the music “role models” who are in reality setting horrible examples. They will think independently, without the illusion of fast money, cars and clothes crowding their minds. Music censors do not completely eliminate obscenities within the music of America; however they surely do lessen the impact. Where some people believe an increase in censorship would destroy the music business, it is clear stricter censorship proves itself a greater service to American society.

Works Cited
Amendments To The Constitution." The American Pageant. Ed. Houghton Mifflin, Print.
Borowski, John F. “Lyrics with Violence Should Not Be Protected by the First Amendment.” (16 Oct. 2004). Rpt. In Should Music Lyrics Be Censored for Violence and Exploitation? Ed. Roman Espejo. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. At Issue. Gale Opposing Viewpionts in Context. Web. 21. Jan 2011
Nuzum, Eric. Parental Advisory: Music Censorship. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001. 211-243. Print.
Pillow, Bradford H. "Development of children's understanding of cognitive activities." Journal of Genetic Psychology 169.4 (2008): 297+. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 23 Feb. 2011.
Rosen, Hillary B. "The Problem of Violent Themes in Popular Music Is Exaggerated." Is Media Violence a Problem? Ed. James D. Torr. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002. At Issue. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.
Slowikowki, Jeff. United States. Highlights of the 2008 National Youth Gang Survey. Wachington, DC: , 2010. Web. 25 Feb 2011. <>.
Vicky Von J & Elisha Jade." The Vixen Connoisseur. Web. 25 Feb 2011. <>.

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