Influence: How hardcore, rap and punk are impacting youth

Listen to the lyrics. Have you noticed how they’ve impacted your life? How they motivate, discourage or relax you? Music is a powerful influence in the lives of youth, and often comes with a culture students are eager to delve into and become a part of. Sometimes that culture can be a force of positive influences, and other times, those lyrics may drive youngsters towards detrimental lifestyles and habits. The Signal tackled three musical genres in order to understand the culture associated with each kind of music, and how it can impact easily-influenced ears.

Hardcore and Punk: A Vehicle for Change

Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

For such an aggressive style of music, hardcore and punk music are usually not associated with violence. The roots of punk music is from a sense of rebellion from the norm, and with rebellion comes a community with like-minded individuals. In Schism Fanzine #1, a popular hardcore and punk fanzine based out of New York in the 80s, New York hardcore band Warzone says this about the hardcore scene: “In unity there’s power, in power there’s chance, to make a positive change”.

Warzone had this belief in the 1980s, and from their mindset and similar mindsets, it became a staple in the hardcore guidelines. The goal? Helping people understand that being rebellious isn’t always about violence and hatred. Justin Little, member of the Atlanta hardcore scene, said the music is all about reflecting the positive ideals of the people.

“Ideals vary from person to person, and they are reflected by the music, and it aims to create change in the outside world,” he said.

The music can be fast and angry-sounding, and that may be because that person is frustrated about the way the world works, or how they see the world. Just because the music is intimidating does not mean the ideas are negative.

Tanner Rowan, another member of the Atlanta hardcore scene, says the first thing he thinks of is not hardcore itself but all the movements that it has harbored over the years.

“I think of the many sub-movements that kind of emerged out of it like straight edge, veganism, etc. To say hardcore is a movement is cliché, but it really is in the way it embodies so many smaller movements,” he said.

Hardcore’s sense of community has given it the power to grow and spread different movements that can make a positive change on an individual like veganism as well as straight edge, which could better someone’s life by discouraging them from using drugs and drinking alcohol.

In an interview with Pitchfork, Martin Sorrondeguy, singer of seminal Latino punk band Los Crudos, talked about using his band in the 1980s to raise awareness of immigration and deportation issues within his community.

“It was the first time for a lot of these communities—like feminists in punk, queers in punk, Latinos in punk—where there was finally space and time for these issues. We didn’t talk about vegetarianism. …We talked about immigration, something that was very real to us.”

Hardcore’s community is a force for change.

Rap: Not about the streets anymore

Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

The music scene was shaken up in the mid 1980s when gangster rap was born. Putting gangs, violence, sex, and drugs center stage, rap was a genre unlike any other. Back then, the struggles of the streets were a reality, but today many artists rap about these issues because it’s a money-maker.

“What hip hop started off as was people actually telling their story, or reflecting on what they were actually going through. Now it’s transformed into people who’s not even going through this shit. Rapping about things they’ve never done, probably will never do, and influencing kids to do things that they’ll never do,” R&B singer and songwriter Michael Stokes told The Signal.

Artists in the studio today have no idea about those struggles that rappers in the 1980s and 1990s had to overcome. “Most of the kids that are rapping nowadays came up in two-parent homes in the suburbs,” he said. But two-parents households is a luxury that a lot of youth in black communities don’t have today.

“I grew up in the projects, and when we went to do certain things, we listened to a certain kind of music,” he said. Stokes lost his mother at the age of 2, and saw his father go to prison by the time he reached fifth grade. “If they don’t have the parents, [the kids] are always going to be influenced by the music or the streets. And I think nowadays it’s worse to be influenced by the music than the streets.”

But the artists shouldn’t always be held accountable for their words, according to M-80 who has worked with Waka Flocka, Gucci Mane, Future and Lil Wayne among others.

“They do what they do to get their money and feed their family, but at the same time, it’s like, at what cost?” said music producer M-80 who has worked with Waka Flocka, Gucci Mane, Future and Lil Wayne among others.

He said there’s an obvious influence coming from rap music, but the responsibility lies on individual strength, and from parental guidance.

“You can blame the music. But if you’ve got parents, then I feel like it’s up to the parents or the adults in your life to kind of put a foot down on what it is that they’re letting you be exposed to,” he said.

According to Georgia State student and rapper Kashii Dopeass, negative influences can come from all types of music, but rap hears the most about it.

“Rap gets the negative stigma,” she said. “Because of the system of supremacy and the already existing stereotypes about the black community. And when youngsters get exposed to a reality of family members in jail and gangs become their new families, they look around for new sources to learn from.”

Country Music: Alcoholism and sexism normalized

Photo Illustration by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

In the urban hustle of Atlanta, country music tends to sit modestly below other genres in popularity. While several country songs speak of the red Georgia clay and the sweet smell of apple pie, there is a growing downfall of the once folk-inspired music.

In modern songs, the trend of alcohol consumption, sexism, and trucks rules the country community. While songs about jacked-up automobiles are not much of a detrimental factor to society, alcohol abuse and humiliating women is a steady problem.

The ignorance of the severity of alcohol abuse is not just to blame on country music. It’s consistent within lyrics of rap and pop songs alike. However, country has predominantly showcased alcohol as a “normal” and “effective” way to deal with problems. In Eric Church’s song “Drink in my Hand,” he says, “I got a 40-hour week of trouble to drown… all you gotta do is put a drink in my hand.” Lyrics like this can convince listeners that the typical life of an American can be draining, so daily problems will simply fade away with alcohol.

Similarly, sexism is a recurring theme in modern country songs. For example, Luke Bryan’s chart-topping song “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” off of his (not surprising) album called “Tailgates and Tanlines” is about exactly what you think it is. Yes, none other than the notorious naïve small-town girl with an attractive body dancing in front of men. This topic occurs regularly in male-sung songs for the same reason alcoholism does—in the country music culture, having an enjoyable time starts with sexually enticing women and hard liquor. As degrading as it may be to women, sexism remains a norm in the country music world to keep the money coming.

However, despite its recent uprising of promoting adverse behaviors, some artists continue to make country music the way early artists intended. For instance, country icon Carrie Underwood speaks about genuine topics regarding the unsettling life of divorced parents, cheating, and finding peace through spirituality. In this light, relatable topics Underwood covers can be influential to help listeners deal with or to find peace in oneself.

Country music has a lot of catching up to do within the modern world. Women’s rights are on the rise, alcohol addiction is leaving families in shambles, and people are turning to eco-friendly cars. Artists and producers can pretend abusive behaviors are “pleasurable” and continue living in the fairytale world where America is flawless, but statistically speaking, with country music declining, those unrelatable ideologies will not last long.