Convicted Rappers Speaking at Schools

What have we become?

That was my question when I first learned that rapper T.I. was speaking at middle schools as part of his community service. Apparently I’m not alone in my disapproval. Yahoo News gives us a glimpse:

T.I.’s March 5 visit to Woodland Middle School in Stockbridge, Georgia has outraged parents..

Tom Myers, the father of four girls in the Henry County School System, said that if he knew the rapper and convicted felon was going to appear at his daughters’ school, he would have kept them home that day..

Myers shared with WSBTV a complaint letter he emailed to Oatts. “In the future, if T.I. or any other convicted felon needs to perform community service, ask for parental permission to allow our children to be exposed to these questionable individuals,” he wrote..

I touched on this in my blog last March when T.I.’s sentence (he was facing up to 20 years) was reduced to just one year and a day if he did community service hours by speaking to young people about gangs and violence. (Side note: he was out by Christmas. That’s a pretty quick year.)

Have Adults Given Up?
When are our school systems going to wake up and realize that we’re not helping our kids by allowing this kind of influence?

Let me be very clear. We– adults— are the gatekeepers. We have control who speaks to our kids. We have control who our kids listen to and purchase. We have control what music is played at our schools.

Last Friday night my 12-year-old, Ashley, had a track meet that took place at the local high school. Music was blaring in the ears of all the parents in the bleachers. When we were taking our seat, I Gotta Feeling was playing. Then, no joke, the next song was from Eminem, then the next song from Lil Wayne. You can’t imagine how relieved I was when a Bon Jovi song came on (I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to hear Bon Jovi before. But, heck, I’d take anything at the moment!). Was an adult in charge of this track meet? Why were we all be subjected to foul-mouthed perverts when all we wanted to do was see our kids run track?

Have we just given up? Are we– adults— supposed to just give up and, not only tell our kids that this music is okay, but play it for them! Are we–adults— supposed to keep giving these individuals awards and elevating them to “hero” status?

Are we so bankrupt on positive role models that we need to book morally bankrupt rappers to come and speak at our schools?

Did T.I. have a major life-style change that qualified him to come and speak to our young people? Or does our federal court system think anyone who gets busted is qualified to be a role model to our young people today? (“And our next speaker, Charles Manson! He got busted too. Let him speak!”)

I can’t help but wonder if some of these adult decision makers don’t know all the information. Have they ever looked at T.I.’s content?

A quick search of T.I.’s albums will give you a glimpse of his true message to young people, the one they’re putting into their ears at the rate of 2 hours and 19 minutes per day, anyway. I encourage you to Google some of his lyrics. Songs like, “I’m Chillin’ With My B*tch.”

I ain’t hangin’with my niggaz, pullin’ no triggaz
I’ll be back to the trap, but for now
i’m chillin’ with my b*tch today
i’m chillin’ with my b*tch today

I ain’t hangin’ with my partners, I’m out eatin’ lobster
I’m on some grown man sh*t, ya dig
i’m chillin’ with my b*tch today
i’m chillin’ with my b*tch today

Well. Isn’t that special.

Or how about a song off the same album as his recent hit, “Whatever You Like” that I talked about in my March blog. This song is called “Porn Star,” about a girl he meets and solicits sex from. Take a peek at the lyrics:

Hey would you..stay
Could you..play with it, with your tongue just a..little
You such a sexy individual physical and mental
And if it’s sentimental shouldn’t rules bend a little
Hey let me start at the top stop in the middle use a popsicle
Make you shiver giggle when it tickle
I could talk to you dirty if you’d like that (bad girl)
I finish once, hit a blunt, start right back
I know you told me you a good girl
But shawty you’s grown woman not a little girl
You could blame it on the patron or the champagne
But sometimes being bad could be a good thing

[Chorus]
Oh yeah sitting here (I’m looking at you like, “Damn”)
We sippin’ on patron, something’s on my mind (you wanna leave with me tonight)
It’s been killing me all night long, and I wonder(listen shawty let me tell you what I’m thinking ‘bout)
Oh girl I wonder (for real shawty let me tell you what im thinking ‘bout)
It’s the end of the night, and I’m thinking you might
Wanna leave the bar, park the car, turn into a porn star

By the way. If you’re offended by the above lyrics. Good! You should be. That’s why I posted them for you. Because apparently we adults have no idea who our kids are listening to. When T.I.’s song Whatever You Like hit the charts in 2008, this album sold like hotcakes in 08 and 09, and this content is what kids across the nation were listening to.

And now they’re listening to him at their school assemblies.

Hmmmmmm.

(ht to David R. Smith for the Yahoo article)

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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5 Responses to Convicted Rappers Speaking at Schools

  1. Patrick says:

    I just read your article and yes, many parents have given up.

    I am a Correctional Officer for a County Sheriff’s Office. I am a Youth Minister, Coach, Peer Assistance Coordinator, etc.. Before all of this, I am a PARENT.

    I actually volunteer for a program where we take people who are in Drug/Alchol Rehabilitation Programs and have them talk to communities around the county regarding Drugs and Gangs. This is a very beneficial program because as you well know youth don’t listen to too many parents.

    I personally don’t have a problem with people who have experienced an issue come an talk to youth. BUT, it needs to be moderated by a person with some common sense and could work with the presentor to get the correct message out. I do this on a regular basis.

    My last presentation was with two young men who were both involved in Gangs and Drugs. They spoke to over 750 sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Some of the youth listen and some didn’t, OH WELL, we gave them the tools and the chance. It is up to them.

    Regarding parents giving up. I’ve held 3 meeting/presentations on Drugs and Gangs at this one school, inviting numerous schools in the district. We’ve averaged 45 parents per meeting. Some of them came to the other two meetings and this is the third time they were coming. As I say in my presentation, “Your children will probably be OK, because you are taking an active part in their lives. It is the other 700 family’s children that I am worried about. Where are they?”

    I could go on for hours but in closing, YES parents have given up, they are overworked, underpaid, their children are running all over them and worst of all, they (parent) don’t have a lot of control.

    Lastly, remember this it is the minority of youth that get in trouble. There are still many, many, many more that are great, wonderful, fantastic kids.

    Thanks

  2. Patrick… thanks for sharing.

    Just to be clear. I’m all for bringing in speakers to talk with kids- I’ve done a ton of school assemblies myself and have worked with organizations that have brought in EX-gang members, etc to talk with kids. That can be very powerful. But those speakers always were people who saw those past decisions as mistakes.

    T.I. can speak all he wants about “regretting his mistakes carrying a gun,” but he’s still currupting our kids with his foul lyrics, objectifying women, etc. I would never bring in a speaker who is continuing with these behaviors.

    As for your comment about the minority of youth that get into trouble… I guess that depends what you mean by “getting into trouble.” In 1967 one in 32 teenagers had a STD. In 1983 one in 16 did. In 2008 those numbers rose to one in four! But I guess you’re right… 25% is a minority.

  3. Big Al says:

    You are so right. You have your priorities in order. When our youth are connected to some form of screen time for 72 hours a week, it is no doubt who is influencing their behavior. Thank you for continuing to let us know what they are connected to. I applaud and encourage you to continue doing what you are doing, exactly as you are doing it.
    I love your ministry.

  4. Joslin says:

    While I understand your issues with T.I and his lyrics I think your tone is a little condemning. We need to be careful in remembering that our role as Christians is to ultimately be seeking to save.

    In my opinion, what better opportunity is there than these assemblies for Christian parents to have an impact on the rapper, rather than just being on the receiving end of misogynistic lyrics and glorified violence.

    I obviously have no idea how these presentations are run but assuming there is a chance for kids and parents to speak, what an opportune time to call out T.I on his past and his lyrics? Perhaps some sixteen year old girl can quote the above lyrics and ask “Do you think this is empowering and uplifting for fans like me? Would you want your own daughter to be treated in this way?”

    The key in my mind though is that the intent is to actually have an impact on the young man (T.I) rather than berate him for behavior and language that frankly, a lot of other young men who might be coming to our youth groups are involved in. We don’t condemn them but rather, given the chance and the power of the Holy Spirit, try to help them see the light.

    I also realize that your comment about Manson was meant to be facetious but two of the most moving and convicting testimonies I’ve ever heard about the destructive evil of pornography were delivered by serial killers David Berkowitz and Ted Bundy, behind bars.

    Parents are lucky to have your ministry as a resource. We just need to remember that ministry doesn’t end with youth.

  5. I agree that we need to be compassionate and loving, Joslin. And I think your questions that you proposed to ask him are excellent.

    As parents we need to be able to say, “Sorry, this doesn’t belong in our house.” And at the same time we need to show love to all sinners. (After all, we’re one of them!)

    That’s a tough balance sometimes. I guess we should all pray that we can keep reigns on our frustration with “gatekeepers” like MTV and other adults that are peddling smut to our kids. (The same Jesus that ate with tax collectors and showed compassion to adulterers also said, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:1,2).

    Good input. Thanks Joslin.