Rap, Country, and Domestic Violence

I love music.

I love listening to all types of music.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, our whole family loves listening to music. To the shock and surprise of many people, I may even dabble in music that is not entirely wholesome.  I do not submerse myself in this music, but I do like to keep on top of what is out there influencing the youth (and adults) of our society.

As I drove to Village Creek Bible Camp to pick up my kiddos a few weeks ago, I flipped through the radio stations.  I started off listening to the live broadcast of the “up north” disaster due to the flooding. I have to admit that I am a bit of a disaster-freak.  I like knowing what is happening when there is a disaster.  This was one of those times. 

Side note: I am completely devastated by the fact that the suspension bridge over the St Louis River in Jay Cooke State Park is gone.  This is not an easy reality for me to accept.

Back to music

After an hour and half of disaster coverage and then thirty minutes of a documentary about CCC camps during the New Deal era (quite fascinating – click here for the whole story), I started finding music stations more than news stations.  I like to drive to country music, but for some reason I did not stay on the country station long.  I always pause for a station giving the weather report, so I did that.  I heard a few songs on the 80s station, but then I moved on to a genre which I rarely enjoy but often find intriguing.

Rap.

A song ended in all of its hip-hoppy glory.  After a few moments of between-song silence, a haunting minor melody sung by a female filled my car.

You’re gonna stand there and watch me burn

Well that’s alright because I like the way it hurts

I turned up the volume.

Just gonna stand there and hear me cry

Well, that’s alright because I love the way you lie

I love the way you lie

And then – out of nowhere – a male voice in full rap rhythm took over.  He was angry, driven – taunting the girl. (You can read the full lyrics on directlyrics.com or watch the video on YouTube).  Be warned – there is explicit language in this song).

She replied with the same haunting melody and words.

And they went back and forth like this for about four minutes.  Both of them convinced and certain about how they felt as well as being resigned to the fact that they could not live without each other.  They are a tornado and a volcano – bound to blow up at each other but so happy when they are calm.

Until she crosses the line and decides to leave.  His response?

To tie her to a bed and set the house on fire.

The song ended, and I drove the rest of the way to camp where I was distracted by good things.  It was not until the kids and I were on the return drive home that I remembered how impacted by the song I had been.  I told the kids about it.  They both thought the song was a bit twisted.

When we arrived home, I did what we all do in the twenty-first century: I looked the song up on the internet.  My heart sunk when I saw the artist’s name: Eminem – someone of whom I am not entirely a fan because of the number of swear words he notoriously uses in his songs.  Unlike the radio version, the YouTube version is ripe with the f-bomb.

I have now listened to the song several times.  It is powerful as is the video (again, not exactly G-rated), and I want to say that we need to recognize this as a warning about where some relationships go very wrong.  I say that I want to say this because I hesitate to say so.

The problem that I have right now with most media forms is how accessible it is for everyone – young and old.  Music, movies, music videos, and all forms of written expression from news to blogs (like this one) are available at a mouse-click.  And it is the young minds for which I am concerned when it comes to this song.

As a parent, teacher, pastor’s wife, and thinker, this song touches me in so many ways.  I hear the beauty in the female’s minor melody; I sense the frustration with the relationship in the male’s rapping story-telling; and I feel the conflict between them.  More than any of that, though, I react strongly to the violence in this relationship and the awful ending to this story.

I recognize this as a warning about struggling relationships and their need for someone – or many someones – to intercede and help them to end the physical conflicts as well as the conflicts that push them toward the violence.

As a parent, teacher, pastor’s wife, and thinker, this song pushes me away in so many ways.  I hear the song of the siren as it pulls in young people to see this as the way that relationships just happen to go; I sense the frustration of young people as they see these types of relationships in their own homes and in the media; and I feel the conflict in young people who sense that this is not how it should be but do not necessarily have role models that confirm that sense.

I recognize that, in the wrong hands, this song only promotes the misunderstanding that many young people already have about the hopeless state of the relationships around them.

It is this conflict that pushes my hesitation.  It is the recognition that media, when unchecked by healthy and caring adults, promotes and misleads rather than educates the young people around us.  It is the realization that we see few clear and positive messages in the hands of our young people. And it is the realization that students do not think critically all of the time but rather soak things in and make those messages truth.

To be clear: I am not putting down this song nor am I putting down rap.  In fact, the same conflict occurs in me when I hear the country song “Independence Day” (by the way – Happy 4th of July!) which speaks to domestic violence having a brutal (fiery) end as well.  Martina McBride sings of a woman whose husband beats her and thinks that “the only way” out is to burn up the house with him and her inside.

rap country

This post has taken two weeks to compose.  I have struggled and struggled with it.  While these songs raise awareness of the domestic violence that occurs, I fear that – in the wrong hands without the proper guidance – the message is lost.

Should I be able to come down on these songs and say that they have no place?  Or should I be able to say that they are providing a public service?

What do readers think?