Dr. Boyce Watkins, Michael Eric Dyson Debate: Does Toxic Hip Hop on the Radio Harm the Minds of Our Children?

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by Dr. Boyce Watkins

There are few scholars I respect more than Michael Eric Dyson.  He is sharp, powerful and seasoned when it comes to laying down the kind of intellectual flow that would make Jay-Z blush.   Dyson was the first black public intellectual I’d ever seen during my years in graduate school, followed by Julianne Malveaux and Cornel West.  I am honored to call them my friends.

But sometimes, friends have to disagree.  One area where Dr. Dyson and I are not in alignment is on the manner by which commercialized hip-hop music has affected the minds of our kids.  When I hear the rapper 2 Chainz getting millions of black men to recite the words, “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe,” I stop in my tracks and remember all the psychological research which states that the things we repeat in our mind sinks deeply into our subconscious and ultimately affects our behavior.  I cannot disconnnect such a message from the growth in STD infection rates, and other signs of s*xual irresponsibility among black men.

When I hear a rapper like Bobby Shmurda (who was featured on the BET Awards) promoting the use of black-on-black gun violence, I can’t disconnect this message from the fact that black males are the most likely, across the nation, to die from hand guns.  Record labels didn’t cause the violence that plagues our communities, but they are certainly glorifying it, promoting it and profiting from it.

To give you just a small example of the kind of messages being marketed to our children by corporations, consider this lyric from the Lil Wayne song, “We be steady mobbin”:

“I can f*ck your girl and make her nutt for me then slut for me then kill for me, than steal for me and of course it’ll be your cash, then I’ll murda dat b*tch and send her body back to your ass.”

Have you ever noticed that NO OTHER ETHNIC GROUP is consistently sprinkled with marketing messages that implore them to celebrate their own genocide and self-destruction?  What is unique about African Americans that makes us the target of these messages, and what makes us receive these messages so readily?  Is there a damn fool on this planet who believes that our community is better off when black men are consistently being bombarded with imagery that convinces them to want to be gun-totting, weed-smoking thugs?

What in the hell is wrong with us?  When are black men and women going to stand up and say “enough is enough!”

Fortunately, millions of black people are getting a hint. They are seeing children in their communities being gunned down by the cultural zombies who’ve been trained to believe that black people deserve to die.  They’ve grown tired of seeing our boys lined up and dragged to prison like pigs being led to a slaughter house.  The black community’s future husbands and fathers are being made intellectually, emotionally and financially weak due to the consistent psychological hammering of white supremacy, which convinces black Americans to accept our subjugation.   It is time for a new paradigm of thought in the black community, and that time is NOW.

The fact is that as the bible reminds us, life and death are created through the power of the tongue.  So, when our boys are being inundated with one self-destructive message after another, it amounts to nothing less than a form of weaponized genocide being funded by corporate America.  I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of it.

Dr. Dyson and I debated the matter at Brown University earlier this year.  You can watch the debate below.  Feel free to share your thoughts, and join the movement here:




  1. You are so right Dr. Boyce.
    But tell it like it is, like the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan tells it.
    The Nation of Islam Research Dept. put out two books-The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews books 1 and 2. These books will show us who really has the power and money.

  2. Too many blk men are hooked on BS and negativity. And this destructive music only feeds into the blk man’s inferior complex. Unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of blk men, being incarcerated is no longer a deterrent to negative behavior.

  3. Here we go again… Hip Hop is the problem with all that is wrong with the world. Kids can’t think for themselves.. Parents and apparently “scholars” want entertainers to educate the youth… Why isn’t the same energy being put into these movies, and these politicians? Because people are brainwahsed to think rappers “make” kids do things they shouldn’t that are wrong… Where are the parents? I’m sure there are millions of kids who listen or have listened to rap and have turned out fine and wealthy and educated.. We need to stop looking at an excuse for why these kids are out of control.. Look in the house and at the parent/s…

    • I must agree with Allen for about 95% of what hey says is basically true. The other 5% is perhaps influence of peer group and may not have a positive flow in the home. As a public servant worker I’ve seen young boys and girls who look for validation from their so-called friends when they’re doing really ignorant dumb Azz stuff! Once they are in over their heads their friends aren’t even around to help with an explanation. For some, this would be the wake notice that’s needed but they continue down the same path of self destruction becoming a memory and a heartache to Mothers and Fathers as well as a funeral expense! So, yes, hip hop music can be a part of an influence towards negativity.

      • The question is how long will it be before Google starts to market to you through the newsfeed or a similar ad side bar to Fakocoeb. Twitter has already started it and I bet Google is just pushing it off until they feel secure that they will not have a mass exodus.

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    • I agree. Life isn’t that simple, not either/or, with/against, right/wrong. Life is complicated so when something like a lack of self-respect comes up, we just can’t say rap or hip-hop is the problem. They are only a part of the problem and then only some of each.

    • Hi Allen: What is music? It is a form of SOUND. What is SOUND? SOUND is a CREATIVE force (energy/light). The SOUND of God’s voice is what CREATED the UNI-VERSE. The literal translation of uni-verse is ONE SOUND. What are words? When spoken, words become a form of SOUND. The brain is a RECORDER. The violent SOUND of lyrics do not go in one ear and out the other. Out of sight is not out of mind. When the violent song stops playing, and the violent movie, video game, etc. is over, the violent sound of the lyrics and the violent vision of the images have been RECORDED, STORED, and are ever-ready for RECALL.

      The rappers themselves don’t make anything happen. Their product is detrimental. So how does the damage come into play? Your use of brainwashed is a good point of reference. Our children youth and young adult (CYYA) of today are subliminally brainwashed by brainWAVE enTRAINment; a process by which the brain becomes one with whatever it repetitiously HEARS, SEES, RECORDS. The violent piped lyrics together with the violent RHYTHMIC BEATS, insidiously causes the CYYA of today to become subconsciously enTRAINed to react with STIMULUS RESPONSE (to a song, a beat, or the mere sight of thy brother). The murder thy brother, hate thy sister, and vilify thy village CREATIVE SOUNDS are recorded over and over and over and over; causing our CYAA to become one with murdering thy brother, hating thy sister, and vilifying thy village; sad to say, but creating apathy and causing our villagers to become one with the CREATIVE SOUNDS of vilify thy village.

      Allen, CYAA of the Black race are the only ones murdering one another at alarming rates. Why? Because all day long their atmosphere is filled with the CREATIVE SOUNDS of “Ima run up in the nigga’s house and shoot his grandmother up”; but you will not turn on the radio and hear the CREATIVE SOUNDS of “Ima run up in a cracker’s house, or a wetbacks house, and shoot his grandmother up”.

      As for the parents, some of them are at work while their children are being enTRAINed as the CREATIVE SOUNDS resonate the public transit bus stops in the morning, the school bus in the morning, the school yard at lunch, the school bus in the afternoon. A great many of the parents are in their house being enTRAINED by the CREATIVE SOUNDS, and thinking the same as you, the music has nothing to do with it.

      You have a classroom of 25 brains, the teacher’s message is the same to all 25 brains.

  4. No, and I really wish people would stop trying so hard to make this seem this way. Not teaching your kids right from wrong is detrimental. Not having a stable place to live and call home is detrimental, not having food, clothing and support as well as love is detrimental to our kids. We need all of these things and more to better our young generation, if you have these things then you can reach your kids and talk to them about how and why you act a certain way.If you want to start putting the blame on outside things start with TV,sweets, and school because these things are apart of kids lives just as much or more than Rap music.

  5. There is an influence, good or bad. It depends on the lyrics.

  6. Unfortunatly 10-15 years ago I would say it doesnt have a negative effect. Nowdays there is clearly a certain agenda being pushed threw the ears of the youth. Right now if i asked you to recite the alphabet atleast 60 percent of us while sing it or if you get stuck you will go back to the song form. well when i was growing up there was a variety of music being pumped into my ears. Some did have a destructive message(36 mafia). On the other hand they were underground so i had to look for the destruction. The top tier rappers in the “gangsta” rap genre all had messages that were uplifting to who could RELATE. It seemed like a bunch of blood and guns to someone who couldnt mentally see past the obvious. If you mention tupac the first thing said is thug life not what his internal intentions where. Not to actually start a pro-black political party. I say that to say this Nowdays. Talent is for the talentless just like everything else from food,clothing material,media production,books everything has been water down to make more profit off of.
    Tupac had young black males screaming thug life while giving them jewels about finding a way to live. Its real easy now to pay a innocent kid trying to live his dreams to scream fuck life. thats profitable to the prison system, the welfare system only because its less mouths to feed, It wipes out the future, Dr. Boyce Watkins and the Future Michael Eric Dyson. All In all the parents have to be concious of what there kids are exposed to, but theyre to busy being turnt up!!!! or the same thing as they kids face glued to the Iwhatever checking out the latest gossip

  7. Check out the Cleartheairwavesproject on facebook and like if you feel thus inclined. We are in the midst of a campaign to stop these radio stations from mentally raping our children with this garbage slophop. Never would we have thought that our musick would come to such a pass. I mean if there are 18 songs on the playlist of wgci and power 92.3 in chicago, 15 refer to our daughters as bit**es and all of ’em drop n-bombs on us. Just watching Roots this morning on TV and the slave trader refers to our women as N***a Bi**hes – and now that is all of the musick forcefed to our youth. This must cease. Mike e Dyson is what we call a slophop apologist. We must not forget when this intellectual idiot was on the State of the Black World or whatever Tavis’s gatherings were called and he dropped all of those n-bombs on us encouraging Afrikans to refer to each other as that. Boyce is much to nice to this fool!

  8. Rev. George Brooks

    Everyone has the right to give their own opinion. BUT, everyone cannot just appoint themselves as LEADERS in the national black community, and expect all of us to go along with this. And this includes Boyce Watkins and Eric Michael Dyson of this WHITE COLLEGE CROWD who seem to think that just because they have been educated (and brainwashed white, as many of us see it) that they can automatically become a black leader. For a great black leader Watkins is not. And even though Dyson has had some among us blacks that have liked him IN THE PAST he has become a “slave” to the Jews and other whites that also have President Obama “chained” to them, and saying and doing what their white/Jew masters tell them to say and do. So both Watkins and Dyson have flunked the black leadership test. — Rev. George Brooks

  9. Michael Eric Dyson needs to understand that you cannont justify an evil thing with an evil thing. Sure racism existed before Hip Hop and it will exist after it is gone, but racism and stupidity in rap cannot be justified by racism and stupidity in society.
    So, if they did and we do it then it is okay. Or since they have been doing it for such a long time then if we do it is okay.

    Dyson should abandon his position and stand with Boyce Watkins. It is ironic that he speaks against racism but supports racist rappers. It does not make sense to me.

  10. Micheal Eric Dyson is a scholar, who become If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.
    — Alex Noble
    through hard work and dedication. He grew up fast as a “single parent” and put himself through college and grad school. He teaches, writes, does research and does good work in the community, the nation and the world. I will always respect his opinion more than Boyce because of what Dyson has done, his actions and his words speaks truth. He is not doing anything as a “sellout” to Pres. Obama because he supports our first A/A president.

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