For those music lovers who are old enough to remember the early years of the rap genre, you’ll recall that it was inspirational, non-violent music for the whole family. There was no violence in it, and many artists today routinely make music without inciting crime. So the recently passed California law, the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, was not necessary.
During the ‘80s, rap artists chose to change the themes of this genre to violence and crime, and soon it became required by certain record executives. Nobody seems to have considered the collateral damage this has caused. As a youth counselor to criminal offenders, I continue to hear stories of rap music’s influence in young people’s choice to commit crimes.
The California law appears to be no more than a shield for artists wishing to be complicit in criminal activity. The legislation eliminates accountability of record labels and artists for producing and distributing lyrical messages, words and images that contain violent themes. It neutralizes discovery techniques used during the examination of a criminal’s history, as well as certain charges (RICO and conspiracy, to name just two).
Its supporters claim that other genres, such as country music, also promote killing. But the differences are stark: One genre mentions about the act of killing, whereas the other encourages, rewards and celebrates killing. What’s more, country music doesn’t target preteens and teenagers.
This legislation misses the point that to reduce violence perpetrated by our youth, we need to protect them from influences that encourage crime. This just the latest sign of another industry refusing accountability.