Recent development on global political and security scene shows one surprising trend: using Hip Hop music for unprecedented propaganda purposes, and the results are unbelievably strong. This change brings vast opportunities for influencing the public opinion, and serious challenge for the state administrations, to counter possible dangerous applications of this phenomenon.
In the past, hip hop was often controversial, but as was stated in the previous article, “Deception in Media Operations”, it is the controversy which sells music records and achieves publicity, so these measures were used mostly for promotion purposes, and deliberately exaggerated.
But now, we have the year 2014, and the “old” hip hop artists, like 50 Cent, are outdated, and their importance is lowering. The new generation of artists, mostly the Millennials, comes with substantially enhanced approach: the core thought remains the same, hunger for power, money, respect, cars, boldness, but there is an important aspect added: strong personal message, persuasion and influence. And it was only a question of time, when some intensive, questionable political statements will be added.
This switch has serious consequences, because hip hop influences the most perceptive and vulnerable social group: the young people, searching for their place in the world and purpose. There were always wide doubts, whether hip hop is beneficial for them or not, but now, we can expect even changing their basic values, like the purpose of life, opinion of political establishments, and activism for questionable values.
Why is hip hop so efficient for propaganda purposes? Unlike other music, talking just about love and emotions, the artists insert there many strong personal messages and views, which come close to the soul of a listener. In the U.S., the core theme was street business, respect, social exclusion, poverty and wealth, illegal trade, and criminal activities (“gangsta rap”). But that presented lifestyle was very different from common people. On the other hand, in Europe, there is more intensive connection between artists and listeners – sharing values, places, and life style.
In other words, in Europe, the artists are much closer to the people, than in the U.S. And it means, that hip hop can be a very strong propaganda tool, hard to defeat with any prevention, complaints and even criminal investigations. The artists even welcome those legal and law enforcement actions, because they like to show their rarely seen integrity, by keeping their firm stance in any life situation. In other words, these official means only make them strong, de facto confirming their importance in public affairs.
For example, the possibility of a prison sentence is very bad view for any citizen. But a hip hop artist sees it completely differently, as a challenge and even positive for their image, and most certainly he will enter the prison structures with enthusiasm, hungry for getting power.
Hip hop culture was always aimed at the questions of power and boldness. It advised, how to get it, how suitable is to desire for power in life, and why to pursue power intensively, because it was marked as a principal value. Weakness and hesitation are most despised by hip hop artists. In fact, they advise their listeners, how to survive in the rough and complicated present world, how to be strong, and this practically beneficial effort gets them positive points, respect and even wide admiration, public acceptance.
The basic method of propaganda and advertisement is always to get close to the recipient. This is exactly the reason why hip hop provides so strong messages: the lyrics says the exact thoughts of the mind of any youngster, but with high intensity and speed, so we can even consider it as a subliminal messaging.
As we can see, to contain this complex and unusual phenomenon seems the most difficult, but necessary for maintaining public order. The standard measures don’t work, often even with completely opposite results. So, how to solve this situation, and assure that the basic state values will not be endangered with this distinctive propaganda?
The only way to counter possible negative thoughts in hip hop is an alternative music of the same style. Most certainly, democratic states will soon sponsor their own artists, able to provide different approach and an alternative. This change of approach brings vast business opportunities for all music producers.
The principle of countering any propaganda is to limit its visibility, specialty and unique status. The state structures will provide another artists, with similar expressions, but clean of any questionable thoughts, and the listeners will choose. In any case, the strength of propaganda messages will be substantially limited this way.
The most suitable solution is in establishing the “Military Hip Hop”. In those songs, everything will begin on the street too, but then, the Military will be discovered by that young person on a life crossing, and remedies will be found. It would be also a great promotion of the Military, as a proper alternative in life.
There is a close connection: Military and hip hop share many values and stances. Hip hop is often inspired by military strategy and tactics. So this extension of military Public Relations activities seems quite natural, and desirable for the higher interests.
It must be noted, that hip hop culture influences not only men, but women too. The reason is, that respect, boldness and power are the values, praised by both genders. And hip hop is about power and strength, which many women instinctively look for. So more female hip hop artists should be deployed too, to provide a life inspiration and a good example for young women.
The democratic world should look for effective ways to counter possible propaganda in hip hop music. The most appropriate solution is to provide hip hop alternatives to the public, so the effect of possible questionable thoughts in lyrics will be limited, and to activate wider Military Public Relations efforts.