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Monday 16 July 2018
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Under the Influence… of Music

While flipping through the radio stations in my vehicle last week, I was reminded of some very disturbing lyrics that made me cringe. For the life of me, I cannot understand why, in such a violent society, violent lyrics glorifying murder and gangsterism are allowed to be played on our radio stations. After really soaking in what I heard on the radio, it is clear to me that the time has come for us to have a serious debate surrounding the possibility of violent lyrics being banned, regulated and monitored.

This is a difficult position for me to take because I’m a music lover; however, whilst I am certain that these nonsensical lyrics encouraging murder and drug selling and/or usage cannot influence me, there are some fickle minds out there that need to be protected. With crime out of control, we cannot, in good conscience, continue to allow songs that encourage people to kill, to be played in rotation on these local urban radio stations.

And you know the shocking part about the violent music that is allowed on our radio stations is that violent and explicit hip hop music is banned from the airwaves in America, and since February 2009, the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission has banned “any recording, live song or music video that promotes and/or glorifies the use of guns or other offensive weapons; any recording, live song or music video which promotes or glorifies any offence against the person such as murder, rape, and mob violence or other offences such as arson.” And if you’re wondering if this has impacted the crime rate, it has; check the stats yourself.

Banning music does not mean that these lyrics can be bleeped out because word association is so obvious in most cases that even children know what the lyrics mean. In other songs, however, people may not be familiar with the terminology and just sing along because the lyrics sound good over an even better musical beat. For example, the song Cut It by O.T. Genasis may fly over the heads of most people, but I spent most of my adult life living in black communities in Baltimore and London, so the reference to “stepping on” or mixing pure cocaine with other dangerous products to stretch it is quite obvious to me. The same goes for Infrared sung by Vybz Kartel and a man by the name of, get this, Masicka (think massacre) where they speak about their “dawgs having to live,” which implies that these thugs have no other choice but to live a life of gangsterism to survive.

Hip-hop and dancehall artistes are singing music for their followers, whether it’s the boys in the hoods in America, or the gully and gaza thugs in Jamaica, which of course can be heard everywhere, thanks to YouTube, and then in turn influences criminals in many other countries. To speak to the influence of these artistes, it has been reported that a recently released dancehall song by Vybz Kartel has caused oats, Supligen, nuts and even blenders to fly off the shelves in Jamaica. The song Mhm Hm is all about Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Azim Palmer, encouraging his thugs to procreate, of course with no advice on being responsible fathers.

It is impossible to know statistics on how Kartel’s music impacts on crime, but judging from the influence he has on songs that market products like Clarks and “straight jeans and fitted,” one can only assume a similar impact on crime.

There has been a perpetual debate on whether or not video games, media, movies and music create or contribute to violence in a society, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that music has a significant influence and impact on all types of social behaviour, especially violence.

Those who oppose this view however, attribute the greater propensity for people being violent to several other factors, such as their immediate community, socio-economic status, mental illness, ethnicity, age, gender, and in many cases, their upbringing, which can include childhood abuse, neglect, and/or delinquent parenting. Be that as it may, these factors are definitely important contributors to people being violent, but they do not negate music’s every day influence.

The visceral response from those who oppose my view on this issue is “change the station,” but most people hear music while commuting and throughout the day at work, so the real issue here is not about changing the radio station, it is about changing mind-sets, which begins with reducing the amount of violent music society, and by extension, our children, are unwillingly exposed to.



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