The Despicable Content in Hip-Hop Music – Making Plato Turn in his Grave Essay

Submitted By joshbroadman
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The Despicable Content in Hip-Hop Music – Making Plato Turn in his Grave

In a city where each individual is able to do as he pleases is a city that will be filled with murder, theft, gluttony, deviance and prejudice. Hip-Hop artists, in their music, constantly incorporate these aspects of life within the content of their lyrics. This content is not only described throughout their songs, but the lifestyle of being able to do such things is constantly being advocated. “F*ck the Police” and “Beat a police out of shape and when I'm finished, bring the yellow tape to tape off the scene of the slaughter” (Rap Genius) are lyrics from the song “F*ck the Police” by the world renown hip hop group, NWA. This is one of many Hip-Hop groups that promote violence through music. Other songs such as “She swallowed It” and “Dopeman” both promote greediness, “lawless desires”, sexism and being promiscuous. If Plato were alive today to bear witness to Hip Hop music he would have despised the content of these songs, as the aforementioned contents of this type of music are all aspects of society in what he calls the “Luxurious City” and the “Purged City” and go against his idea of a just society.

Hip-Hop’s first major concept that is addressed time and time again throughout its lyrics is the concept of Greed. Greed is defined as an “intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” (Oxford) Many Hip-Hop songs address accumulation of wealth (among other things). In terms of the “Healthy City”, Plato deems that being greedy by collecting wealth and property for the sake of doing so (and having more than is necessary) turns a healthy city into a luxurious one. Once a luxurious city, many problems arise, thus eliminating the justice from society.

Plato discusses that our natural desires such are those that we need to survive and nothing more. These are basic needs such as having enough food to live. The needs are limited and there is no need to surpass them. However, unnatural desires, such as the accumulation of wealth, are unlimited, thus giving people a reason to continue their pursuit of their appetites. (Republic 373d)

Plato calls people with the inability to control their desires “drones” and is the “man who teems with such pleasures and appetites, and who is governed by his unnecessary desires” (Republic 559c) This selfish desire to have unlimited accumulation is often promoted in Hip-Hop music. The lyrics “Yo it's my time to shine, so I'm checking my Rollie. A bet with the Lakers, I bought a necklace off Kobe” (Rap Genius) rapped by “2 Chainz” in his song “Money Machine” refers to how much money he has and how he spends it on unnecessary desires.

Unnecessary desires can be related to the accumulation of wealth. Plato says that by trying to acquire an unlimited amount of wealth one would have to start taking from other people, who can also take from you, thus creating tension. He says that one would have to “cut out a cantle of our neighbor's land if we are to have enough for pasture and ploughing, and they in turn of ours if they too abandon themselves to the unlimited acquisition of wealth, disregarding the limit set by our necessary wants.” (Republic 373d-373e) A way of taking another person’s wealth is by theft.

Stealing others property is a way in which one could acquire more wealth and this is often heard in Hip Hop music. The lyrics “I've been robbing motherf*ckers since the slave ships with the same clip and the same four-five.” (Rap Genius) Written by the Notorious B.I.G in his song “Gimme the Loot” ultimately represents this greed. The inability to control one’s appetite leads to theft and an uncontrollable desire to accumulate wealth. This usually leads to conflict. Plato remarks that ones “unnecessary desires are the ultimate causes of wars.”(Republic 373e) Conflict is undesirable in Plato’s healthy city, however it is constantly being promoted not only through one’s greediness