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Sharp lyrics

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 14:42 UK time, Friday, 9 June 2006

David Cameron's remarks about hip-hop lyrics and Radio 1 - which triggered strong rebuttals from the station's executives - also prompted our biggest audience interaction for a while, both on Radio 1 itself and sister station 1Xtra (which specialises in black music genres).

Radio One logoWe were expecting a bit of stick from the papers. A leader in The Sun, and Daily Mail features. "In a sad bid to be trendy, the BBC coarsens countless lives". So after extensive editorial coverage of the row on both Newsbeat and TXU, what did the listeners think? Don't know about you, but I think that's far more interesting than chattering classes response:

On Radio 1 the audience was split more or less 50/50, far less supportive of the station's position than you might think, while on 1Xtra the response was much more supportive of Radio 1 and hostile to the Tory leader.

Many Radio 1 listeners pointed out that loving rap hasn't driven them to carrying blades or packing a Glock. One wrote that he'd analysed this argument for his academic coursework and found the argument that hip hop promotes gun crime to be "absolute bollox". Others argued that not everyone who likes indie music is clinically depressed - so why should love of rap go hand in hand with criminal tendencies?

But others argued that Cameron is right - that the Westwood show sound effects of gunshots and bombs glorifies violence and makes role models for an abusive generation. Some think Radio 1 plays too much black music anyway - some of the songs and lyrical content is "appalling" and the "Big Dog Baby" stuff is just wrong.

On 1Xtra - the listeners were less supportive of Cameron's view: but some reckon if its got people talking about politics that normally wouldn't then that's good. Is it, as some think, about the way the music is presented? Aggressive on Westwood, more chilled on 1Xtra, with more emphasis on UK hip hop whose lyrical content is different?

And what about David Cameron's own choice of music? The Smiths and Radiohead? The Smiths "I Know it's Over" features the lyrics, "the knife wants to slit me / do you think you can help me". Radiohead's Knives Out, "look into my eyes / I'm not coming back / so knives out". And again, from another track by the same band, "I got bombs, I got guns, I got brains".

Last word to one of Radio 1's youngest listeners who texted Newsbeat with a blunt message: "Cameron is stupid. Luv Beth xxxxxx (aged 12)"


  • 1.
  • At 10:35 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Nduoma Chilaka wrote:

The people who are stupid enough to take note and listen to the rap lyrics are inadequate themselves.
Most rappers are recounting back on there lives and life experience and not meaning for people to take it to there head. The language is strong but can be edited and should be because the problem is not what they say but how they say it

  • 2.
  • At 10:42 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Callum Proctor wrote:

Point 1 - Is it me or is this just another politician being small minded? Films are full of violence and crime. You don't hear anything in the news about, for example. 'Lock, Stock and Two Smokeing Barrels' promoting drug-pushing and guns. Many books describe disturbing events, but they aren't thought of as bad influences. It could even be said that 'Band of Brothers,' that was shown on the BBC, promotes war or guns.

Point 2 - Hip-hop lyrics, and British hip-hop artists in paricular, talk about life and what they see. So as a political leader, should he not be more worried about the state of the country than something people use to escape and forget about their problems.

Point 3 - Does this not appear to be old targeting the young. Im sure Johnny Cash made some reference to guns or crime, but he is not accused of influencing people.

Point 4- Free speech is free speech. The government try and force their ideals onto the public, they broadcast their ideas, so why is it that just because some hip-hop artists may be black and young, and because their ideas are broadcasted through music, that they get a bad reputation. Im sure any young black person in England could be a better politician than David Cameron, but I'd like to see him still be respected after appearing on Radio 1.

This is bordering on rascism and 'ageism.' David Cameron should not give his opinion on music untill he realises his words are no more important or valid that a hip- hop artist 'spittin vocals.''


  • 3.
  • At 10:44 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Sarah wrote:

I agree with radio 1: "Hip-hop is a huge international genre with a vibrant UK scene and that music reflects the sometimes harsher realities of people's lives and cultures."
I don't think Hip-hop glorifies violence or gun crime but can stop young people turing to this. Music is great way for people to express themselves and in Hip-hop people express the horrifity of crime, by using gun shots noises.
I think this also goes back to the sterotypes of teenagers and there music. The sterotype that all teenagers carry knifes and listen to hip-hop will attack people. This is not true!! I think this is very important for Cameron to know for the voters of the future.
Also,If Radio one didnt play this music I think it would loss alot of listeners.

  • 4.
  • At 10:49 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Rory Sharratt wrote:

The people who are the ones giving rap music a bad name are immature to take the lyrics seriously. Most rappers are recounting past experiences.Mostof them are from America where gun crime is big. The peoplein England are all taking the same road and want to be like their rapper idols. Most of them will end up dead or in jail. Thats my oppinion any way.

  • 5.
  • At 12:44 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Jade wrote:

This article is ludicrous ! Black peoples music ? how stereotypical ? What is that ment to meen ? if it is totally inocent then slightly misleading isnt it ? espcially as this article is about music influencing violence, guns , knives being carried around. Im sure that not only black people cary knives around ! or listen to 'black people ' music ! so what if it just so happens to be black people rapping , if you took the time to research rap you would find that there are still a number of white people rapping. As for radio one playing to much of this music , isnt radio one still one of the biggest radio stations around , and im sure the radio one listeners dont go out commting acts of violence after listening to the show. If the view is that they play to much , switch it off . There are different aspects of society that have a bigger influence on viloence than music . Often music is a reflection of self , even rap. It often talks about own experiences and the lyrics often stress the fact that it is not a good way of life and not to commit acts of violence. I say well done to radio one for still ahving a wide range of music being played from different cultures.If a small minority of people commit acts of violence after listening to music then im sure there are also a large number of different reasons why they have comitted violence.
Music is reflection of self.Not of violence.

  • 6.
  • At 12:45 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Tiffy-Beth wrote:

This article is ridiculous. to say that people who listen to 'black music' as you put it, are going to turn out violent. not all rap songs promote violence and gun crime and if you listened carefully to a number of rap songs you would find that alot of them are rapping against gun crime. what is the emphasis with th 'black rappers'? they are not the only people to rap. yes mayb they dominate the rap genre but isn't that just proving they are just as talented as white people? take eminem for example.. yes he has made songs in the past about killing people and taking drugs, but having never actaully been caught doing this himself proves that words don't necesarily reflect actions. if you are willing to say that 'black music' is the reason for so many people being violent and anti social is it not fair to say that the people who listen to the songs mentioned in the article will be just as violent and a danger to other people? if parents tell there kids they are not allowed to listen to rap music - as normal teenagers do - they will want to listen to it to spite their parents. if parents bring up their children to be against crime and violence, surely they should not have a problem in the future when listening to 'black music'. i also find that term, discriminating against black people and against the talented work they produce which is so popular, not just amongst teenagers but amongst alot of older people as well. my dad listens to eminem and bought me my first rap album.

  • 7.
  • At 12:48 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Katy wrote:

Being one of the millions of people who listen to radio 1 everyday, I have never had the urge to pick a gun and shoot someone. Even though I'm not a big fan of hip-hop and rap music, I do sometimes listen to Westwoods show on Friday and Saturday nights.
I do think that the gunshot sound effects are played a bit too often, but I cant see people hearing it, and then thinking to themselves "maybe I should go and shoot someone".
And its not just hip-hop and rap music that mentions guns. One band that I listen to regularly is "Dirty Pretty Things". Their lastest song, "Bang Bang You're Dead" is technically promoting gun crime. A lot of people I know listen to DIrty Pretty Things, and not one of them has ever shot anyone.
And Im sure that some of the music Cameron listens to mentions guns and dead people in it somewhere, and its not like he has ever shot anyone, is it?

  • 8.
  • At 12:55 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Noisette wrote:

A vast majority of this generation will try to fit in with different labels.

Apparently, the people who choose to follow the crowds will make sure they do their best to impress their peers.

What I am trying to say is, lyrics mean everything when it comes to these groups of people - for example, lyrics that encourage suicide or depressing actions will draw the group that call themselves 'emo' or 'scene'.

  • 9.
  • At 01:03 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Anna Sharp wrote:

Although Beth's text message may have been put in an immature way, she does have a point. Not all rap music is promoting gun crime, some is against it. Take "Where is the love" by Black Eyed Peas, in this song they are singing about how rediculous it is that people are always fighting for no reason. This song is mainly rap and they are asking "whats wrong with the world?" in one of their lines. I also agree with Rory about past experiences - rappers are often describing how bad their violent experiences were and therefore discouraging it.

I listen to indie music quite regularly and I am far from depressed! Lots of young people today listen to rap music and it doesn't seem to be affecting them. I can see why this whole thing is an issue but I think it may be getting blown out of proportion a little.

  • 10.
  • At 01:04 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Melissa wrote:

I listen to HipHop music and I think some artists do provoke sex, drugs and voilence but people don`t have to act the way in lyrics do. Take Kanye West, he raps about many different subject... with songs about getting high to Jesus. Although some lyrics are abusive, some can be very meaningful. At his concert in birmingham there was a shooting.. so people get the idea that all the people who listen to this music commit crimes like that. This is not true as whatever music you listen to don`t have to follow the way the artists lyrics are. BRAPP!

  • 11.
  • At 01:05 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • kieran wrote:

In my opinion I think David Cameron is just silly. I listen to hip hop music and I am not influenced in any way by anything. Gun crime is going to happen in this society... hip hop does not promote it, I think it's the way parent's bring up their children is what is going to make a difference to this world. David Cameron is a hypocrite... look at the music he listens to. He should keep his opinions to himself! :)

  • 12.
  • At 09:19 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • David Ruan wrote:

I believe that the playing of hip hop music doesn't glorify the use of guns and weapons. I think that if someone is that easily persuaded into doing something, any form of music can affect them into doing just about anything. Surely even David Cameron can see that, even from the music that he chooses to listen to, otherwise he would be slashing his wrists and bombing people quite frequently.

Furthermore, David Cameron's views are highly stereotypical. Not all hip hop music is about guns and crime. Sure, some elements are, but nearly everything in the world could have violent connotations if you think about it. He needs to broaden his views (and ears) on this matter.

  • 13.
  • At 09:22 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Zoe Adams wrote:

For this discussion, I agree with Amy Clifford. The thing that Hip-Hop music is mainly promoting is sex. In nearly every video for this genre there are images of naked women (and males) flaunting themselves across the screen. This is sending messages to younger viewers about things that they may not be fully aware of. This may in turn contribute to teenage pregnancy and STD's.
Furthermore, having these women wearing next to nothing on the screen is also encouraging a certain body image. It is showing young women that they should look like this, and then they will attract members of the opposite sex. This may contribute to the rising numbers of people diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

  • 14.
  • At 09:24 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Sasha Bapuji wrote:

After reading the article about sharp lyrics i think that hip hop to a degree does influence crime and sex because people look up to the singers as role models and they copy what they think their role models are doing and talking about.However we cannot blame the lyrics in music for this issue. This occurs in society already. I have previously listened to hip hop and it has not influenced me to take part in crime in the slightest way possible.

  • 15.
  • At 09:24 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Harpreet wrote:

I don't think hip hop music does influence people to do certain things. Many artists write about issues they have experienced in the past or are still experiencing, it doesn't mean their fans HAVE to follow in their foot steps! Artists make songs to entertain their fans and others, not to help them become pregnant, commit sucicide or anything of the sort.

  • 16.
  • At 09:29 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • MIchael Beattie wrote:

It is easy to categorise genres to place the blame on somthing that is happening everywhere. The fact that "Black music" or hip-hop contains lyrics refering to drugs, sex and violence does not mean that it is the cause of these problems. Also other genres of music refer to the same problems and due to the fact that songwriters often write about things that they have experienced or witnessed should we not be more concerned about what they are witnessing?

  • 17.
  • At 03:05 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Hayley wrote:

music is an artists way to express how they feel and share it with others.It is an art form and a talent. Even though I do not like rap, I am not going to be so arrogant as to ignore the fact that it is a talent.
If listeners take listening to the music to an extreme and it influences them to act in certain ways, let them face the consequences. Why blame the artists lyrics? Doing this is an easy option, blaming peoples actions on music rather then facing up to changes within society and generations.
Another point is why do people have to dress and act a certain way to listen to particular bands and artists, generalisations shouldn't be made when it comes to music preferences.

  • 18.
  • At 04:02 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Kelly wrote:

I am a music lover of all types of music and yes I agree music can influence peoples emotions deffinatly speaking from a personal perspective. Hip Hop rappers particularly I do believe to some extent can be almost reckless and careless considering the postion they are In,there music Is broadcast to a wide audience ranging from children to adults or all different races,ages,sexual orientation and also different values in life. I do not believe I have ever seen a rap video that has not included a semi naked women which even at the age of 16 I find pretty degrading parading around, a man waving a gun around or at least rapping about his guns or the actual rapper and his entorage smoking drugs of some sort.
I do belive perhaps there record companies should become more strict on this issue and enforce stronger censorship.

  • 19.
  • At 04:02 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Anna wrote:

I do agree to some extent that hip hop music is a bad influence on young people. But this cannot just be blamed on hip-hop. All different genres of music refer to sex and violence in thier lyrics and videos. Even pop bands such as Girls Aloud, dress provocatively in thier videos and they are aimed at a younger audience. So surely they should take some of the blame, for the way in which young girls are acting. For instance wearing make-up at a much younger age than previous generations.

  • 20.
  • At 04:04 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • mandeep wrote:

hip hop music is becoming much more controversial within todays society. hip hop music is now often being associated with gun crime and violence. the lyrics that are being used within hip hop music such as "50 cent" are causing concern that the younger generation of today are getting infulenced greatly by these hip hop artists. not only the lyrics are said to be influencing the younger generation but also the artists themselves and the music videos they make alongside their music. yes there is alot of controversey within the hip hop industry but isn't there in every type of music genre and other genres such as politics. the younger generation choose what type of music they listen to and choose whether to do certain things. but this does not mean that hip hop music is influencing them to do certain things and get into gun crime etc the issue of knife crime is increasing as some are pointing the finger at hip hop music again, that the artists and their music are influencing people about these crimes. however they are more so making the younger generation more aware of this issue and the consequences of it, so they can prevent this as many do not actually watch or read the news to know that gun crime and possesion of knives is hip hop music can also be seen in a good light as a way of making the younger generation more aware of the issues of today.

  • 21.
  • At 04:04 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Amy Castle wrote:

Hip Hop is a genre of music that many young people enjoy. Indeed, there are many unnecessary words used that may have an influence on young people. Hearing constant swearing is certainly not a good thing, especially when young people want to listen to the music because their friends say it's cool to listen to. Imagine a 10 year old, listening to 50 Cent for the first time because his older brother and his friends say he's a cool artist. The child will listen to it, and possbily pick up words that are simply not in the vocabulary of such a young person. This will undoubtedly put new words into the child's mouth, and in no time the child will be copying.

On the other hand, being a "young person" myself, all this talk of "influencing young people" is slightly boring, to be honest. Doesn't everything "influence" us nowadays? Every word, every sight of women in inexistent bikinis, every talk of guns and fighting; such things can influence us to do anything. But surely, seeing other people swearing (not just in the media)is just as likely to influence us as seeing it on tv is? I wouldn't want to copy my favourite artist's rude lyrics just because I like the artist! In the same way, a music video with naked women may provoke boys to act like their favourite artists, but in this day and time, anything can influence anyone.

My point is, why is it just abusive language that can affect how us teenagers act? Personally, some of the news stories around nowadays are just as likely to influence young people. Rapes, murders and muggings all add to the list of what is going on today in our world, and surely seeing such occurences will influence the use of guns or influence young people to copy such acts if violence? Not all people want to copy what they hear/see, so surely.. a lyric is just a lyric? If you don't want to listen... don't?...

  • 22.
  • At 04:05 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Sarah Butler wrote:

I agree that people decide there own actions and I know nobody that has ever based their actions on song lyrics. Music is away of reaching out to people and possibly helping those in the same situation. I have listened to songs involving suicide as have a lot of people I know, but we listen to them because of our love of the music.
I personally don't listen to much rap or hip hop but from my general knowledge I know that this provokes the same situation with sex and drugs. Although some people may listen to them to such an extent that they feel entitled to mirror it, a much higher majority enjoy the beat and the passion of the music.
There are many other issues that can be blamed for violence, drugs, sex and suicide, so why do people automaticaly jump to conclusions and blame music.

  • 23.
  • At 04:15 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Mufaro Changamire wrote:

As a person who listens predomonantly to Hip Hop and Rap I have never come close to wanting to resort to gun/ knife crime or violence because of this. If anything Hip Hop does the opposite because despite the constant reference to guns, most artists sing these songs in reference to their lives and then go on to tell people not to take the same road they did.

And I disagree with what Amy Clifford says about Rap being popular because of its reference to sex. The reason Rap is popular because most people who listen to it can relate to what is being said, you may not have been shot or what ever but you can relate to the struggle they went through particularly if you did not come from a well off background.

  • 24.
  • At 11:57 AM on 22 Jun 2006,
  • -*kelisha and bally*- wrote:

we think that swearing in songs is acceptable because the listners choose to listen to that type of music. somebody who doesn't like bad language isn't going to listen to hip-hop any way.

  • 25.
  • At 10:25 AM on 26 Jun 2006,
  • steph wrote:

Hip hop music is stereotypicaly seen as the reason for violence, shootings and bad language or if not the reason for it, perhaps just a factor to increase it. However, if people listen to the lyrics of other types of music then they will realise that it is not only hip hop music that uses 'sharp lyrics'.
At the time when James Blunt was popular and a new comer there wasn't complaints about his lyrics even though his hit 'Beautiful' contained the lyrics, "F***ing high". Many other bands swear and use drugs, violence and sex throughout their music because they have been influenced by their background life to write their music.
So how comes people were not provoked to get high when listening to James Blunt's song, 'Beautiful'?
People always judge others by their image therefore, just because a person might be dressed like a rapper with loose clothing and lots of jewerelly does not mean that they act or talk like the hip hop rappers.
However, I do think that music has a great influence on people's lives, especially teenagers. They like to look up to their role models therefore, swearing and violence in lyrics are not ideal because teenagers can be easily influenced.
On the other hand, many people, including myself have listened to music with 'sharp lyrics' however, we have not been provoked by what we have heard.
There are many reasons for the increasing level of drugs and violence, and music might have slightly provoked it. However,there are many more reaons for the behaviour of people and music is not all to blame for it.

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