It isn't very often that you find two college students willing to take a stand against a multi-billion industry with such influence as the Hip Hop business. So when my brother told me that he and his fellow Howard University student, Milan Edgerton, were doing just that by forming their group Renaissance Thoughts, I had to give them the credit they deserved.
Hip Hop has strong influences, especially when it comes to African Americans and other minorities. And why wouldn't it? Many rap artists have escaped the tough life hand they were dealt, often emerging from impoverished neighborhoods plagued with pathologies such as drugs and gangs. However, instead of helping others learn from their mistakes and providing positive role models for youth in their neighborhoods to look up to, too many of these artists glorify violence, gangs and the degradation of women.
Back in 2013, Rick Ross loss a major endorsement for his controversial rape lyrics. In his song, U.O.E.N.O, Ross rapped "Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it," referring to a real life ordeal that many women have had to deal with.
Then you have rapper/producers like Diddy whose work often materializes women. Take a look at his lyrics for his song Big Homie: "I'm winnin' for the new bitch, she was stunting That [vagina] got a paper tag and it's a hundred." His lyrics suggest that women have paper tags similar to clothing tags that list how much it cost to sleep with/wear them.
This is the type of person that Howard University is inviting to speak at the 2014 Commencement.
Just look at the music Diddy has made throughout his career. He glamorizes stereotypes that hold us back. Diddy has sold out his people so much that he should not have even been considered to be given the honor of speaking at the commencement. Yes, has prospered as a businessman. But whom did he step on to get where he is?
Diddy used our people, our situations and our stories to further his career. I don't believe in spitting on your own people and then pretending it never happened.
Every day, I hear these rap songs on the radio, and I ask myself how we can put an end to this. This is why I am so glad that Edgerton and my brother, Georges-Philippe Hetherington, decided to attack the problem. For the more positive rap groups that are created and lucky enough to reach the masses, the more people will be made aware of the ridiculousness some of these modern rap songs preach.
Both motivated by past rap icons such as Kendrick Lamar and J-Cole, Hetherington and Edgerton have come together to form a positive rap group aimed at spreading black empowerment, hope and wisdom. Their education at Howard University presented both with a true understanding of what it is to be African American. The HU experience increased their desire to raise awareness among African American youth and dispense to them some of the knowledge gained matriculating at Howard.
"I don't like the fact that people say that they're doing their music for the culture when they glorify negative things," says Edgerton, a sports medicine major who will be attending medical school after earning his undergraduate degree. "If they want to do this for the culture then they must understand the culture and know the history and that's word to Afrika Bambaataa."
Hetherington says that hip-hop originated as a means for "the movement of knowledge and wisdomfrom one mind to another and also to get people to move into action with this knowledge and power.""Hip-hop is historical and I feel as though we started Renaissance Thoughts to be just that and to bring back the true purpose of what hip -hop started out to be and we mean to take it back to it's roots for the people's sake," says Hetherington, a psychology major who plans to attend law school.
Sounds about right to me. These two are amazing and empowering, which is a huge change from the typical rap music I hear on the radio. If more people stood up for what was right, I believe that all our lives would be way better than they are now. Just think about it?