MACON, Ga. — The topic of music and its power to influence has been debated for decades in homes and mental health forums alike.
Can certain songs incite certain behaviors?
As part of our Peacing Together series about seeking solutions to youth violence, Amyre Makupson with Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism spoke to both a therapist and hip-hop artist to find out if lyrics really do have the power to push a teen to violence.
Be Better. It’s a simple concept being pushed by a rising Macon hip-hop artist to promote being a better person.
He’s pushing his message through his lyrics and one mental health professional thinks that ‘the better man’ just might be on to something.
“A lot of people are being raised by music,” said Vinson Muhammad, a Macon hip-hop artist.
Vinson Muhammad, also known as ALäZ, believes there’s a lot of power in music.
“Music is something that goes directly into the soul, into the mind,” said Muhammad, a native of Macon’s Fort Hill neighborhood. “I come from the hood. There was a lot of drug usage, there was a lot of abuse, there were a lot of different things going on in the community, as well as gang activity.”
He says he recognized the connection between what he saw on the streets and what he heard in mainstream hip-hop.
“You have a soundtrack for crime. You have a soundtrack for how to do drugs, how to sell drugs, how to prostitute, how to kill, how to rob. Like, it’s literally a tutorial of how to do that,” said Muhammad.
For the young mind in particular, connecting those dots can create a false sense of reality.
“If someone is connecting with some kind of violence that recreates their own experience, it’s like it feels good because it connects to them,” said Bruce Conn, a therapist with Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health.
Feeling connected, leads to feeling included, which is a major part of development in the youth mind as they try to identify where they fit in.
“And if it’s being created in more of a destructive environment, in a culture that’s more about just abuse and violence then sure, that’s what your identity forms around,” said Conn.
Under the guidance of his family and his faith, Muhammad decided he didn’t want his lyrics on that kind of playlist.
“It means a lot to be able to have a child be able to repeat my lyrics and I don’t have to worry about if they’re going to misinterpret it,” he said.
You can hear more of Muhammad’s music and find out more about him on his website, https://alaz4life.com/home
Muhammad also works with the Otis Redding Foundation, coaching teens in a group called “The Rap Room," featuring rap songs with positive lyrics.
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