Gangsta rap, the hard-core form of hip-hop noted for its often misogynist lyrics, came under fire Wednesday at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, as Topeka-based activist Sonny Scroggins told a group of about 30 young people to tune out rap's negative messages.
"It tears people down, rather than bringing them up," said Scroggins, 57. He listed artists such as Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne, who he said perpetuated negative stereotypes about blacks, while denigrating African-American culture.
"They're making a lot of money, but it's at the expense of all of us," he told a gathering of seventh- through ninth-graders. When asked whether they understood some of the sexually explicit messages in songs like Soulja Boy's "Superman," the majority raised their hands.
Many of the children said they didn't approve of the messages they heard in gangsta rap, but liked to dance to it.
Erin Lindsay, 22, came to the event from Dallas, where her Erin Lindsay Ministries is based. She works with girls to help them understand the importance of being positive role models in their communities.
She said she hoped the young people who gathered on Wednesday would realize that gangsta rap's messages promoted a lifestyle that is demeaning to women and denies them respect.
"It's taking something that's a key part of culture and saying that's something that doesn't need to happen," she said.
Scroggins' speech resonated with two girls, Kelsey Johnson, 13, and Akira Cowden, 14, who petitioned last year to ban gangsta rap at school dances and in public places, such as grocery stores.
"We just don't want it played in public places, where everyone has to listen to it," said Akira, who said some of the lyrics she heard in rap songs were embarrassing and offensive. "It should be an optional thing."
Scroggins, a rapper himself, has tried to get the Kansas House of Representatives to recognize a bill, HB 6013, he wrote last year with State Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia. The bill, condemning the lyrics of gangsta rap songs, went nowhere.
He called the lack of recognition by House leaders "irresponsible."
"It's killing society," Scroggins said.