Sociology professor destigmatizes hip-hop, rap stereotypes

By Steven Adamo

“Not all hip-hop or rap music is vulgar or violent,” said Professor Godfrey Ramos during his Thursday presentation titled “hip-hop culture, art, influence and advocacy.” 

During the presentation, hosted virtually by the East Los Angeles College Sociology Department for Sociology Week, Ramos shared examples of how hip-hop and rap music receive criticism from negative stereotypes. 

“Stereotypes like drug use and misogyny are often overshadowed by the things people love about hip-hop, like the message, the beat and the storytelling about lived experiences,” Ramos said.

Ramos said that hip-hop culture and art can be used as a tool to ensure youth voices are heard, as well as advocate for healthy choices like working on projects that encourage a tobacco-free lifestyle. 

He said that corporations use hip-hop culture to promote their products, oftentimes using target marketing to sell cigarettes to Black youth. 

Examples that Ramos shared included cigarette ads featuring street art. 

Though street art is just one element of hip-hop culture, Ramos said other elements are being used to sell products, too. 

Turntablism, emcees, B-boys and B-girls are also being appropriated. 

The B stands for break, referring to the break in a song on a record.The last element of hip-hop Ramos said, is knowledge. 

According to Ramos, these elements combined is what makes Hip Hop a culture. 

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that hip-hop is just rap music,” Ramos said.

He shared a quote from KRS-One as an example: “Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live.”

“Next year is the 50th anniversary of hip-hop,” Ramos said. August 11, 1973, the father of hip-hop culture, DJ Kool Herc, used two turntables and a mixer to create the beat. 

Herc invented a whole new style of musical art that would inspire generations into the future. 

Ramos said that observations in his community influenced his decision to learn about sociology. 

“I didn’t like certain things around education, standardized testing, and how certain people had some resources while other people didn’t have resources,” he said. “These are the tools that I needed to really understand how to change or spark change in people’s minds,” said Ramos.

With break dancing becoming an Olympic sport in 2024 and courses at University of California, Berkeley focusing solely on lyrics by Tupac Shakur, Ramos said that Hip Hop culture has reached the mainstream and will continue to inspire those who listen to the message. 

Ramos’ presentation was based on his research project while working toward his master’s degree in Sociology from San Jose State University. 

He is an adjunct professor of Sociology at Diablo Valley College, San Jose State University, Chabot College and he also works with The Loop from the University of San Francisco, which aims to end commercial tobacco throughout the state by 2035. 

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