Two recent stories provide interesting spring boards to a discussion of hip-hop and age. Bob Marley's eldest son, Ziggy Marley, released a kid-centric reggae album entitled Family Time. The album is a departure from his more traditional reggae products which have addressed issues as diverse as relationships, violence and parties. Not many artists are willing to depart from their bread and butter to branch out into new and unexplored territory. Common, of course, gave us the critically praised, but commercially unsuccessful highly experimental album Electric Circus. The Rugrats Movie CD did not exactly fly off the shelf, even though it features songs that included Mase, B Real, Busta Rhymes, and Loon. Ziggy Marley has a bit more ethos, being a father of five, but it's difficult to imagine a platinum-selling kids album.
What role does hip-hop have in raising children? If playing classical music into the womb is supposed to create smarter children, what affect might hip-hop have? Is Ziggy's decision to do a kid-centric project admirable?
I applaud Ziggy's choice and have always been a fan of his music. I hope that he'll inspire other artists to address children in their music. Hip-hop and reggae can and often have positively affected the lives of many. Hip-hop is a pedagogical tool. Why not begin to teach children through hip-hop, not just about it?
Also in the news, Akon recently spoke to a small gathering of teenagers in Poughkeepsie, New York. Akon's no stranger to trouble, and in this talk he helped educate teens about making the right decisions and the dangers of gun violence. The appearance was not part of the community service he was ordered to complete as a result of his KFest fan-launching incident in 2007. Unfortunately, we do not see enough hip-hop artists talking to youth. It happens here and there, but relatively few young people can claim to have listened to hip-hop artists other than on a CD.
As a powerful social movement, hip-hop must take a more forward-looking stance on its relationship with children of all ages.
(Photo by Ann Johansson/LA Times)