What do we do to pass time while studying alone? The answer is almost always music. Music is more accessible and portable now than ever before, a fact made clear by the widespread use of headphones and speakers in restaurants. I can’t help but notice others walking around flaunting their AirPods or other earpieces. We have access to free music platforms through apps such as Spotify, Apple Music or Google Play Music. We have millions of choices of what we listen to regarding musicians, genre or playlists. The artists we listen to have a huge impact on our fashion, slang and decisions.

 

As a teen immersed in pop culture, I can admit that I am heavily influenced by the artists I follow daily. Not long ago you could find me spending hundreds on GOLF le FLEUR* by Tyler, the Creator. I tune in to this artist’s music so frequently, it’s hard not to support him and try to replicate his style. Yet, he didn’t solely influence my fashion sense. I discovered over time that Tyler is the reason I’m not settling for anything less than what I deserve concerning my future. He preaches individuality and loving what you do regardless of what others think. Even if I’m interested in things others deem “lame,” I still do it with pride because I find comfort in it, such as writing as a form of therapy.

 

Tyler’s line in the track “FIND YOUR WINGS”, one of his most concise yet melodic songs, “Supposed to fly and take control cause you’re the pilot / You can’t swim, you’re gonna drown, the sharks are comin’” helped make me realize that I shouldn’t put myself in a place I don’t belong. This is especially relevant to my social life and academics, as I choose friends wisely and haven’t rushed myself in choosing a major. Since I discovered Tyler in high school, I promised to be who I really am, even if it strays from the status quo. For example, I don’t act “cool” to fit in contradicting my former self. Instead, I found a group that makes me feel at home and comfortable with being my eccentric self. Tyler preaches this through not only his music, but his lifestyle. His art had an impact on my life greater than just material goods. This is not the case for all people impacted by artists, however.

 

Specific types of music, mainly due to the lyrics, can expose impressionable youth to toxic cultures. Lyrics like those of rap artists XXXTENTACION or recently deceased Juice WRLD can popularize the abuse of drugs and alcohol. These artists can have an influence on listeners’ lives to the same, or greater, degree as parents. Song lyrics can lead an impressionable audience to believe it’s “cool” to live the way the artists live. Youth are still developing and still capable of being manipulated and molded into what they say “inspires” them.

 

It’s no surprise to hear lyrics containing drug references in the rap scene. For example, artists Juice WRLD and Lil Peep regularly reference drugs . like XanaxPercocet and marijuana. As consumers listen and become obsessed with these lyrics, they are more likely to experiment with drugs. Rap music is not only rising in popularity, but it is also extremely prevalent in teen culture. This means drug culture is also present and popular among the youth. The last thing we need is the youth asking themselves “If I want to be cool, then I have to smoke weed and drink liquor, right?” As rap continues to grow and the newest hits promote toxicity like substance abuse, teens will face the decision to succumb or abstain.

 

Nowadays, the influence of musicians such as X and Juice WRLD play a pivotal role in shaping the moral character of the youth, whether it is through the power of lyrics or the overall message encapsulated in their art. Each has their own culture. Today’s teens and future generations, therefore, need to find respectable role models who can help them become who they’d like to be.

 

Ryan Beginin can be reached at rbeginin@umich.edu.

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