Rap and Moral Character
Various critics have railed against the alleged harms of rap music. It is misogynistic and promotes violence (especially toward women), crass materialism, and street crime. Virtually all of the arguments about rap focus on its alleged effects—harmful or, occasionally, beneficial. Yet such arguments are difficult to prove. While not suggesting we abandon approaches like this, the focus on effects ignores another important moral argument—rap music is both a sign of and contributes to a form of corruption of moral character.
Morality is not simply about actions, consequences, and effects on others. It is also about oneself and the development of one’s own character. Being self-centred, cowardly, or weak-willed may not harm others, but we do judge such things in terms of morality. Who we are and the motives for our actions are important. Two people may do the same thing but for different reasons. We, justifiably, judge them differently. Two nephews may be attentive to their elderly aunt, taking her places, buying groceries, seeing to her welfare. If we judged them solely in terms of the consequences of their actions, there would be no difference between them. But maybe one nephew has no love for his aunt and helps her solely out of hope that he will benefit in her will. The other maybe helps her because he loves her and is concerned about her well-being. We judge their actions differently because of intent. Even the legal system considers motive and character. A person who pushes a man in front of a moving bus with the intent of killing him is judged differently than one who stumbles and pushes the man accidentally. Character is important in morally assessing ourselves and others.
Rap both indicates and contributes to a corrupt personal character. Rap lyrics (and accompanying videos) are full of images of “hos” and pimps, guns, violence, the killing of cops, dissing and
being dissed, dominance, and drug dealing. It is rife with...
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