Stereotypes and music culture

By Rose Hammack, Copy Editor

Music reflects the culture that creates it, either positively or negatively. EWU’s Dr. Okera Nsombi is presenting “Bigger Than hip-hop: Influence of Hip Hop Culture on Society” Feb. 20 from 12-1 Monroe Hall 205.

Nsombi encourages students to listen critically to the messages promoted. 

“Our music is not just entertainment; it has never just been entertainment,” said Nsombi. “There’s politics behind our music, it’s a reflection of who we are as a people, so why in the world do you hate stereotypes about blacks, but you will listen to stereotypes in music that has an attractive beat? That makes no sense to me at all.”

Nsombi enjoys listening to rap and hip-hop but wants the message to reflect the culture. 

“A part of that expression really comes from our DNA, our bowels, our genetics,” said Nsombi. “Rapping itself is something that originates from Africa. I’m happy about that part, that we’re still continuing that expression. Content, that’s the problem that I have with hip-hop because it’s a reflection of a group of people and our culture, what happens when everything turns into reinforcing stereotypes-selling drugs, misogyny, the way that they talk about women in these songs, it’s just disgusting to me, promoting violence.”

This issue impacts students, especially when they enter their professional lives after college and confront stereotypes.

“Music is a reflection of your culture and who you are as a people; it’s not just entertainment,” said Nsombi. “I mean, that’s the problem, they’re looking at it so simplistically, but when we get approached by the police and when we go into banks, people are expecting us to behave in this way.”

“Music is a reflection of your culture and who you are as a people; it’s not just entertainment,” -Dr. Okera Nsombi, EWU Professor

When stereotypes are reinforced continually as a representation of a culture, biases are formed. 

“When you go out into the real world, you’re going to find people that are unconsciously influenced by those types of stereotypes, and they’re going to expect you to behave in those ways,” said Nsombi. “So, I try not to promote those things in the music that I listen to. People even doubt my Ph.D., because I’m a black person with a Ph.D. I have people that think that mine may be different.”

Rap and hip-hop are more widespread and commercialized than ever, played at every sporting event, even in shopping malls. 

“They never played rap music at any sporting events when I was a kid and I was playing sports,” Nsombi said. “A change occurred from 1979 to 1999; in those 20 years, the sale of rap increased by 31% while the sale for the whole music industry only increased 9%. One of the worst things that happened in rap is when people start to make money from it, the commercialization of it. That’s when things change because the rappers now will tell you that image is more important than substance. They tell them not to smile, tell them to pretend like they’re gangsters and sell dope and all kinds of stuff. And that’s what they do. You have people that come from communities that don’t even do that stuff, but that’s what they’re being told to present because that is what sells. So, you’re selling stereotypes of black people.”

 Commercialization has also led to a decline in the variety offered. 

“They tell them not to smile, tell them to pretend like they’re gangsters and sell dope and all kinds of stuff…So, you’re selling stereotypes of black people.” -Dr. Okera Nsombi, EWU Professor

“There were more topics covered in the 80s and 90s,” said Nsombi. “Now, pretty much everything sounds the same, as far as promoting negative stereotypes. You had people talking about just having fun and dancing, people teaching lessons in songs about friendship and all different types of stuff, now it’s just basically monolithic man, pretty much the same stuff over and over again.”

For positive reflections of African American culture, Nsombi recommends Talib Kweli, KRS-One and Nas. 

“What’s crazy is it’s normal for black men to talk about women as bitches and hoes and running through them, that’s normal, but to hear them talk about how they love their families, their wives, you don’t hear that, said Nsombi. “A lot of young people call them ‘old school,’ why not call them ‘true school?'” 

Nsombi, or Dr. O to his students, hopes that little by little change can be made. 

“I am dedicated to try and save it, but I know my little voice in comparison to the music industry, it’s like yelling in the wilderness, man,” said Nsombi. “But I’m not gonna stop.” 



Remaining Black History Month Events: 


Black Student Union Panel- Feb. 25 at noon in Monroe Hall 204

King’s Panel Discussion is a 50-minute panel about Black Kings in the community will be presented. All four men on the panel will be African or African American. 3 idols, two of which are alive, and one that is passed away, will be presented. Also, there will be an open discussion for anyone with questions.


Africana Studies Annual Silent Auction -Feb. 27 from 11a.m.-4 p.m. in Monroe 205 

Annual Silent Auction to raise funds to support Student Scholarships, the Richard Williams Graduation Celebration, Lead to Succeed Mentorship Program and others.