SATURDAY LETTERS : The Real Questions for Rap

Regarding the Sept. 17 article, "Texas Death Renews Debate Over Violent Rap Lyrics" (Section A), the alleged rap music-related killing of a Texas state trooper at the hands of a black youth has raised a familiar set of questions:

To what extent should provocative lyrics be protected by the First Amendment? To what degree can the violence committed by people be attributed to the music to which they listen? Should the youth, the recording artist or the record label be held accountable?

Perhaps we have been unable to arrive at a suitable answer because we have been asking the wrong questions. It seems that our inability to define our social problems has resulted in our perpetual arrival at incorrect solutions.

Rap, like other music and any of the arts, is a cultural commodity. Culture is human expression, a representation of the experiences we have in this society. As rappers speak of being trapped in a vicious cycle and of a kill-or-be-killed reality of the street, shouldn't we be asking a different set of questions?

What experiences are people having that drive them to create this music and why do so many identify with it? How do we as individuals contribute to a climate that allows people to have such experiences?

Suing a record company or a recording artist is not only futile but wastes precious time. We must stop focusing on the symptoms and begin dealing with the actual sources of our situation if we are to have any hope of creating change in the future.



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