From living in New York City for the past three and a half years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bronx is quite possibly the last unexplored borough. That is, of course, taking into account that no one considers Staten Island a “real” borough. It’s kind of sad, really. The Bronx has had a hand in making history throughout the years. Within a ten minute walk I can visit the home of Edgar Allen Poe, the former “Champs Élysée” of New York that is the Grand Concourse as well as house where hip hop and rap was born.
I was introducing my boyfriend to the rap group Jurassic Five the other day when he noted how the intellectual and social commentary that permeated the lyrics gave the group a rather dated sound, in the same way that hearing a grunge band is associated with the early 1990s. Today I stumbled upon a rap artist named Mr. J. Medeiros who continues to use rap as a platform for awareness. His bio is pretty interesting:
Mr. J has always had a passion to help people, and has devoted years of his life serving in AmeriCorps (the Presidentially honored service organization), volunteering for Habitat For Humanity, and caring for people with mental disabilities. “In working with people with developmental disabilities, I really started to understand the shallow ways that we as society communicate and interact, begins the MC, “So many people live their lives in corners because they either cant or won’t subscribe to the ideals of materialism and superficial beauty, and it truly hurts. These experiences helped Medeiros find his calling to share this reality to others.
Medeiros has made himself an ally to many causes through his music. He reveals his passion for women’s issues, with songs like “Constance, which tells the story of a girl trapped in the taboo world of child pornography and human trafficking. The song’s lyrics are aggressive and bold, “It’s not illegal to use raping as a cash crop / As long as it says she’s 18 on your laptop. Medeiros knows he’s going against the grain. “A large part of hip-hop’s identity has been formed through a consistent disregard to a women’s civil rights.” declares J. This altruistic attitude in Medeiros’ music touches on many other concerns from alcoholism to autism to self-esteem issues. “There aren’t a lot of traditional themes that I talk about. I try to make music in a form to where people can take it as their own, instead of just talking about my experiences, says the thoughtful artist. “As soon as it leaves my mouth, it’s no longer my music.”
His message and video for the song “Constance” is linked here, but please note that it is dealing with a very serious subject matter that could be upsetting to some. I really like his honesty in his lyrics– sexual exploitation is inherently ugly and ghastly, and there is no way to sugar-coat it without devaluing the suffering of victims and survivors. The internet has opened up new channels for sexual exploitation to flourish by easy access. Medeiros makes an excellent point that people who buy into the child pornography industry are just as responsible for the sexual trafficking of young boys and girls as the people who take them from their homes in the first place. Supply and demand, in that sense is the untamed beast that justifies such inhumane actions.
You can find more songs and videos for Mr. J. Medeiros on his website here.