The Roses That Grew from Concrete: Hip-Hop in a Positive Light


 Rose Grew from Concrete themed graffiti photographed in Bronx, NY on the corner of White Plains Road and Allerton Avenue in May of 2016. (Photo Credit: Lauren Benzo)

When hip-hop was created in the 1970’s, emcees used the music to speak their truth. It is what some people would call the good, the bad, and the ugly. Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five took the world by storm with their single “The Message”, which spoke on poverty and how society was not paying attention to low-income communities. The group also released a single called White Lines”which is an anti-cocaine song. But now, times have changed- and so as hip-hop.

The message in the music today portrays drug use, violence, and other things that may make people turn their noses up. The message in the music is not the only things that may raise eyebrows; the emcees’ actions can also be concerning to some people. For example, there has been a 2-year long investigation into the GS9 crew, who are affiliates of Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda. Some would say that the lyrics and the visual of Bobby’s single “Hot N***a” was the reason he and the crew were indicted. Bobby is not the first person in hip-hop to be arrested.

Hip-Hop Music Consultant Seph Jordan photographed in Bronx, NY (Photo Credit: Lauren Benzo)

Hip-Hop music consultant Seph Jordan spoke on the bad rap that the culture is receiving after the arrest of Bobby Shumurda and the recent news of fatal gun violence allegedly caused by rapper Troy Ave at Irving Plaza during a T.I. concert.

He stated, “Some people do not realize how powerful hip-hop is and we have stupid artists that disrespect the culture by doing things like this."

Seph went on to say, "It seems that they do not realize that people are doing so many things in their power to eliminate hip-hop and actions similar to what happened at Irving Plaza is making it easy that to happen.”

Many may have gone down the same road as Bobby and Troy, yet they took the negative and turned it into something positive.

Snoop Dogg released his first album “Doggystyle” in 1993. Around that time, many people were against “gangster rap” music and what it stood for. Snoop also got a little heat from C. DeLores Tucker of the National Political Congress of Black Women, because she felt the lyrics, videos, and the artwork of the album were demeaning to women. This was the beginning of Snoop being in the pubic eye on a negative level, and this would not be the last. Years later, Snoop found himself on trial of his life. Snoop and his “then-bodyguard”, McKinley Lee, were charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter, and conspiracy to commit assault. Snoop was also charged as an accessory to murder after the fact, but Snoop and McKinley were found not guilty on all charges on February 21, 1996.

Snoop then took the negative feedback from the media and started living his life in a more positive light. In the fall of 2005, Snoop started  “The Snoop Youth Football League,” which is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for inner city children to participate in youth football and cheer-leading. This organization is said to be very dear to Snoop’s heart because it gives children opportunities that Snoop did not have when he was a child.

Seph says while speaking on the culture of hip hop, “Not everything nor everyone in hip-hop is bad. We have artists like Snoop, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay-Z that are giving back to the community and wanting to make a change in this world. Yes, they are from the slums of the earth, but they are the roses that grew from the concrete. How can a person not appreciate something that is so beautiful in that sense?”

Many people in the culture of hip-hop are giving back to the youth and the community. The Hip-Hop Public Health Education Center was established in response to the need to create innovative and culturally-tailored health literacy programs in the city of New York.

HHPHEC board member Carmen Crespo stated, “Everyone remembers his or her favorite song growing up. Even if you are 5,6,7 years old, you always remember the words, the melody, how it made you feel when played it. This is what our program is about. We take health messages and attaches them to good feelings and memories. This makes the children incorporate the messages into their life. “

So, yes there are some pros and cons when it comes to hip-hop. There may be a message to make people aware of what is right. There may also be a message to make people aware of what is wrong.

Overall, through the goal of HHPHEC is to make a positive impact in the local community. Board member Crespo looks at the program’s impact like this: “These small changes are meaningful, and on a population level, these small levels could have a very significant impact. When you take a negative and turn it into a positive it will not only make the community, but also the world, a better place.”