By Candice Cruz
Over the past 10 years, I have worked with sex trafficking victims, domestic abuse survivors, and homeless teens and young women. All of them have different heartbreaking stories and extreme struggles. Their stories are imprinted on my soul and I will never to forget them. I remember meeting fourteen-year-old, Tasha. Tasha met her suitor on her walk to school one brisk morning. He offered her a ride and promised to make her famous like her favorite music artist. Tasha was convinced by his promises. This was the beginning of her being sexually, physically, and mentally abused. He would tell her, “I love you that’s why I lay my hands you” and then he would reference a particular song that portrayed love as being abusive. She found validation in her abuse because of the music. It was a fashionable and trendy song. After this experience, I made a commitment to do something about how children are being exposed to explicit music and content.
Over the past few years, I have given lots of thought to how explicit music is having a negative impact on youth, especially those of color. While I respect free speech, there is much science emerging about how music negatively effects children in their formative years. That’s why I teamed up with Carvin Haggins, Grammy Award Winning Song Writer/Producer, to form What Are Rhymes (WAR). Carvin is a pioneer and a revolutionary of his time in writing and producing Grammy Award winning songs. Carvin’s deep rooted passion to help young people achieve their highest potential takes him to schools across the country encouraging as many young people as possible. The opportunity to combine passion and vision collectively was the ingredient needed to start the (7-9RULE) petition.
The 7-9 RULE will prohibit radio stations from playing content marked “PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT CONTENT” along with their corresponding “clean” radio versions that involve drug distribution and/or paraphernalia, degradation of women, depict explicit sex, violence, or promote violence towards law enforcement from being aired on public radio stations between 7:00AM- 9:00PM.
There is little debate; youth today are becoming desensitized by explicit music causing a lost moral compass. Many of the rappers they idolize often have no concern of how their music directly impacts their listeners. Music is big business and money is the bottom line, not human life. This problem goes beyond just a bottom line. Music plays a crucial role in the socialization and the development of children. The mind altering explicit rhythmic patterns and the effect that popular music and rap lyrics have on children and teenagers is detrimental to their growth and socialization.
The growing trend in music toward the aggrandizement of violence, drugs, and sex, coupled with the degradation of women, is damaging an entire generation of young people. Youth continually exposed to such music develop unhealthy habits and behavior, as stated by Phil Thao of TeenInk.Com. Phil Thao recently performed an experiment in which 700 fifteen-year-olds were exposed to explicit rap music. The study shows, “violent lyrics in rap and hip-hop music make youth four times more aggressive.” Another study reveals that ever since these genres of music became popular, young people who listened to them were more likely to get involved with drugs (Thandi 21).
Music can have a positive effect on our mood in positive ways, promoting relaxation, stress relief, meditation and spiritual worship. But the dark side of music suggests tones of rape, violence, poverty, hate towards law enforcement, and disrespect for peers and authority figures can be far reaching. Public radio stations that play this type of musical content force the general population and young listeners to be subject to its’ damaging effects. Such music should not be made available during hours in which young people are more prone to listen. It is our goal to give youth a voice and the opportunity for better-listening options. All youth deserve the chance to appreciate music as an art. Music can empower children to make uplifting social impacts. But, explicit music and content are too dangerous for minors.
Please visit our website http://www.whatarerhymes.com/to learn more about our work and sign the petition for Policy change and join our movement.
Candice Cruz is the founder of Hands-off, Inc., a non-profit based in Orlando, Florida which works with young women who have been sexually, physically, and mentally abused. She is also the founder of WhatAreRhymes a project designed to limit the access of explicit music and content to children on public radio. You can follow her on Twitter-@1Hands-Off and on Facebook.