Artists intend messages in artworks to reach different audiences. As well, music could contain coded messages, which only the target audience have the ability to comprehend. The present study probes the contents of the song ‘The Hood Took Me under’ by Compton’s Most Wanted. The music contains several sets of street codes that mirror the culture of the musicians. It tells the story of a young gang member who is convicted of murder. According to Anderson’s Code of the Streets, people who grow up in the ‘streets’ adapt to inner city values and, therefore, have a very different perception of things compared to people who grow up in ‘decent’ neighborhoods. In his sentiments, Anderson asserts that this occurred in circumstances such as domestic violence, which later led to family break-ups. Similarly Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ illustrates Anderson’s code of the streets in various ways. Anderson argues that life in the streets could influence crime and other wasteful indulgences as is seen in the rap video alright (Anderson 36). Both “The Hood Took Me Under” and “Alright” illustrates Anderson’s Codes discussed in his article.
The video depicts the violence in inner city Compton, which has a worldwide reputation for harboring the most notorious gangs and drug dealers. According to the artists in the rap video, the odds are that majority of young men who are born in the ‘ghetto’ or rather the street will be recruited into a gang. “And right then and there it’s no hope. Cause a nigga cannot escape the gangs and the dope”. Anderson’s Code of the Streets emphasizes that children who originate from inner city families have no choice but to tend to their needs (Anderson 33). This is because nobody cares for the other. Therefore, everybody has to take care of himself or herself.
From the lyrics in the rap video, members of the gangs in Compton are mainly young black men. The artists claim that the violence and shootings seem worse because they involve people of the same race. In this case, Anderson describes decent families as people who have reservations about violence and instead prefer solving their differences through dialogue and understanding. In the streets, differences are quickly solved by eliminating the adversary. The situation is always tense because someone (Mostly a young male) can be shot for just crossing into another gang’s territory.
According to Anderson’s Code of the Streets, speculations on how people embrace street values has led to an elevated dislike for authority (Anderson 32). For this reason, they prefer joining gangs where they can earn money by running errands instead of going to school and seeking conventional jobs. The artists use their lyrics to show their contempt for values that are so warmly embraced by people who come from what Anderson describes as decent neighborhoods.
Although people from decent neighborhoods look down at their counterparts who hail from the inner city, Anderson observes that some gang members are intelligent. However, this intelligence is not channeled to school work (Anderson 32). Instead, they use it to trick the authorities while a gang member continues to grow rich from distributing drugs and running other crime-related errands. The artists in the rap video claim that there is no point in educating black youths the White man’s way. They point out that most young males indulge in such behavior while at school. Because of their adventures, it becomes difficult for the street youths to concentrate on studying. Therefore, the majority will drop out after missing several classes.
In the rap video, the violence is depicted as a type of competition where every young gang member wants to earn a reputation for being the most ruthless in their neighborhood. Because of this, gang members are eager to shoot down their next culprit. Executing a member of another gang is artistically put as ‘peeling a cap’ It is an indication that a gangster will be aiming for the head when they execute a shot. When members of two different gangs confront each other, the easiest way of getting out of the situation is killing the adversary quickly because they too have the same agenda on their mind. Gang members must learn how to intimidate others using eye contact. The incapability to face such confrontations sternly invite mocking laughter from on looking spectators.
In the introduction of “Alright” video, Kendrick can be heard screaming from what he describes as a deep depression. He says that depression is caused by the lack of a family foundation and the stress that has been inflicted upon him by the situation in the streets. The rap video shows a young man resisting arrest and risking death in the process. It confers with Anderson’s argument that people in the streets are an alienated social group that dislikes police and other authority figures as a result. As is seen in the video, the young man who is resisting arrest would rather get shot while trying to run away instead of co-operating with the police.
In the rap videos chorus, the artist affirms that they are going to be alright regardless of the treatment imposed on them by the police. Kendrick Lamar, being a representative of so many other young men who hail from street life openly says that he dislikes the police because they are eager to shoot at his like.
In the scene, there is a sizeable crowd behind Kendrick that seems to be supporting his view of the situation. It seems like the crowd represents his audience in general. From the rap video’s lyrics, he asserts that the situation in inner city neighborhoods is dire but him and the other black young men are going to be ‘Alright’ if they keep the faith and believe that God is with them. Kendrick Lamar describes the difficulties a gang goes through while trying to reconcile with his or her conscience. Most crusaders of the street life know that violence is not a good virtue but they continue living a controversial life because they lack options.
Anderson observes that the street-oriented social group is bereft of hope and as a result, majority of its constituents have no vision. They are depressed, which explains why they take up drugs and the violent behavior. In the video’s lyrics Kendrick poetically states that ‘Tell my Mama that I love her but this what I like.’ He would like to make his mother proud by upholding good virtue but he cannot afford it because street life has grown into him. From the way he states it, it would be very difficult for him and several other in his situation to live differently.
Towards the end of the video, Kendrick says that the depression, which made him scream in a hotel room was bad to the extent that he wanted to ‘self-destruct.’ Self-destruct, in this context is used to artistically describe suicide. The artist wants to live on but his situation is so dire, he desires to die. He says that his depression is caused by the vices he has committed in his life.
The rap video confers with Anderson’s observation that families who dwell in inner cities go through extreme financial difficulties, which is one of the major causes why ‘ghetto youths’ pick up drugs and what is popularly known as ‘thug living.’ In his lyrics, Kendrick says that ‘what you want, you a house, you a car.’ In this line, he is describing the battle that ensues in his conscious when he thinks about the life he is currently leading (Anderson n.d). There is easy money on the streets but to get it, he has to put his life on the line. The desire to own his own property and overcome the huddles of street living beckons him to embrace the way of life in the streets. Anderson argues that were it not for financial struggles, people who are born on the streets would probably embrace the same values as people who hail from ‘decent families’ (Anderson 32). However, because everyone who is part of inner city living wants to overcome the dire financial situation, they are less concerned about the lives of other people. Therefore, people hailing from the streets will do anything to guard their position and keep safe from their adversaries who are mainly members of other gangs and the police.
In summary, the two music “Alright and” and ‘The Hood Took Me under’ depicts coded information that is often comprehended by the intended music audience. The idea that these music contain these codes fulfils Anderson’s argument that that particular musicians communicate through codes that they learn during their upbringing (Anderson 34). Through his music video, Kendrick is a representative of so many other young men who hail from street life openly says that he dislikes the police because they are eager to shoot at his like. Similarly, “The Hood Took Me under “exhibits coded messages that seem to address the social issues confronting the society.
Anderson, Elijah. “Code of the Street Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 1999. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
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