Dancehall music, which has its roots in the reggae of the 1970s, has now become entrenched in American culture. Dancehall has brought social borders down, in a way, bringing those who inhabit an uptown world together with the downtown scene. But not always in a positive way.
Dancehall, like most music, is a form of self expression. It is an art form through which the entertainers explore and relate the events and issues of their lives. In dancehallâ€™s infancy, the message was predominantly light-hearted and even humorous, and it was always kept more or less clean. That is not the case anymore.
Probably as a way to shake things up and get themselves noticed with fresh eyes and ears, some dancehall artists chose to start using dirty lyrics in their songs. The songs started to glorify the underworld, where crime is pastime and women are something to be objectified. Before long, dancehall music was the kind of thing you didnâ€™t want your children to listen to, and it was the kind of thing you hid from your parents.
In the spirit of staying in pace with the â€œinâ€ crowd shocking numbers of young people jumped on this grittier dancehall bandwagon. The lyrics of this new revolution supported, and even praised, violence and the demeaning of women â€“ and, in turn, infiltrated the social conscience of American youth. The message in the music altered the way its fans thought, spoke, and behaved.
The result: A generation of young people who think that gangbanging, violence, the degradation of women and a life of crime is what the cool crowd does. The music is no longer about the music, the story, and the enjoyment of a good beat. Being a fan of dancehall music is now about a reverence for the life it portrays. And unfortunately, itâ€™s not a life to which most of us would want our children to aspire.
The dangerous effects of the dancehall culture arenâ€™t just on boys, either.