My Mexican Parents’ Perception of American Hip Hop
Growing up in the southwest side of Chicago, IL, being the first born of Mexican immigrant parents, I was torn between Mexican and American culture. My parents’ sheltering influences, however, were more prevalent in my childhood, and I wasn’t really exposed to popular culture.
Hip Hop music, more specifically rap in the early to mid 2000’s, was something that attracted me for its head bobbing beats and its strong lyrical expressions, but I was never really allowed to enjoy it. I would listen to popular songs on the radio by Snoop Dog, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, T.I., Lil Jon, Chamillionaire, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Three 6 Mafia, Kanye West, Jay Z, Eminem, and others. Overall, missing some of the best like The Notorios B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube, N.W.A, etc.
The only time I would be able to listen to hip hop would be when I was allowed to change the radio station in the car. Even then, my parents would claim, “Eso es musica para gangeros, cambiale.” “That’s music for gang members, change it.” I would hate it when they would do this because, even though I knew many of the songs I liked said controversial things, I knew right from wrong. But, I also understood their perspective.
They were just two parents who were concerned about possible negative influence that might result from listening to these types of songs. Their negative view of hip hop culture/music came from media portrayal and from associating hip hop’s gangsta lifestyle with my older cousins’ involvement with gangs.
They based their perceptions of hip hop from what they saw on television, and from what they heard from friends and relatives. They believed that hip hop was a horrible thing because it was something very extreme and out of their appreciation.
The only time my dad would allow me to listen to a song for longer would be when he liked the beat. But, every time there was too much rapping he would gesture and say that they ruined it.
As I grew up though, hip hop became part of me because I enjoyed the beats and was amazed by the way in which artists were able to use their voices to create an auditory piece of art.
Based on the observations from my parents, friends and relatives, I wanted to see what the perception of Hip Hop culture/music was in Mexican parents. I decided to look up hip hop culture in Mexico because this wasn’t just the view of my parents in the United States, but those of their friends and I wondered if this view of Hip Hop translated to family and friends back in Mexico: since most of the people we know are immigrants or first generation in the U.S.
Doble-H wrote an article on the arrival of Hip Hop in Mexico and how that created a negative image. They called it the “terrifying arrival of Rap in Mexico.” They explain how it was a combination of presentation of hip hop by media and the people’s uninterested motive to look up what hip hop really was. Essentially they just took the image that was presented to them and generalized it based off of that and took it as is The development and history of Hip Hop wasn’t explained and people created certain images of it.
Moda en El Diseno talks about how what was attractive for youth was the freestyle and expressive aspect of hip hop, and that is what remained with people. Hip Hop has gained more respect in Mexico over the years, but people still have a negative connotation in the majority of the population.
Overall, my parents ended up tolerating much of the rap music I listened to because it was one of my favorite genres.
(This article was written by Luis F. Villafuerte for the Global Hip Hop Cultures class at Trinity College Fall 2016 semester.)