There is no question that race relations in America have improved since the times of slavery and the Jim Crow era; however, our country is far from a place of complete comradery. Events such as the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, the shootings of black men such as Philando Castille by police officers or even derogatory imagery drawn in residential halls here at Binghamton University are all examples of the existing problems in race relations across the country and on our campus. How can we ever get closer to fixing this issue? Through hip-hop.
Earlier this year, according to Forbes, hip-hop/rhythm and blues has become the No. 1 genre in the country, responsible for 25.1 percent of all music consumption in the United States. This means that hip-hop is officially the music that most people in the country are listening to. From the high-energy beats and the catchy lyrics that hip-hop provides, it’s understandable why hip-hop is in the position it is in now.
But these things are not the only reason for hip-hop’s rise to prominence. Since its creation, hip-hop has provided sociopolitical commentary on the United States, and has been an outlet in describing the struggle of the black experience. Talking about topics such as living conditions in their community, drug addiction, relationships with the police and being incarcerated, hip-hop has given the United States a glimpse into what it means to be black.
These glimpses hip-hop provides into black life, combined with hip-hop’s mainstream success, will not completely mend race relations in the United States. But what hip-hop will do is make people of non-marginalized groups think about the issues that impact the black community, and how they can help.
Before hip-hop’s mainstream success, many people would give the genre the wrong type of attention, making it responsible for things such as violence and hypermasculinity. But with this newfound attention for hip-hop, more and more perspectives will be displayed through the genre. Like all music, hip-hop has its bad sides, but the foundation that the genre was built on is that of the black experience and how hard it really is to be black.
Hip-hop’s presence will not be leaving anytime soon. As more and more issues come to light through it, it will continue to make people ask themselves, “What am I really doing to help those who are struggling?”
Tykeem Banini is an undeclared freshman.