Academic essay: Detrimental Influences in “The Rocking-Horse Winner” and modern Trap music

How does our social environment have a detrimental influence on us? In the “Rocking-Horse Winner,” by D.H Lawrence, a cold-hearted and delusional mother in tandem with a greedy uncle shapes the world of Paul. The environment fosters a strong value of greed in Paul, and he pursues this by betting on horse races to win his mother’s, nonexistent love. A real-world example of this is how Trap-rappers are instilling values of hedonism and defiance in up and coming musicians today. In the multitude of creations by young rappers, influences and inspirations are blatantly obvious. Unethical themes of drugs, violence, and lasciviousness in the music by young rappers like Brayden Barlow, Lil Pump, Fiji water 24K point to only one influence: Trap music, a sub-genre of Rap. Hit-album Culture by Migos epitomizes these hedonistic and extremely materialistic themes of Trap music. As the trio themselves proclaimed in their album “mockingbirds mock,” this project glorifies a sound and lifestyle attractive to aspiring rappers. Young MCs are emulating this culture homogenizing the sound of modern rap. Lyrically shallow and profane songs like “ESSKEETIT” by Lil Pump and “Honda Civic” by Brayden Barlow prove precisely that. Acclaimed fiction like the Rocking-Horse Winner and alluring rap ethos elucidate how our environment can be critically detrimental to us.

In the “Rocking-Horse Winner,” an extremely greedy environment swallows Paul and sends him on a destructive path. This environment is built upon Paul’s mother’s indifferent and cold-hearted nature. She believes her “very unlucky,” husband has cursed the family with unluckiness and that her children have been “thrust upon her”(D.H Lawrence, 385). This impacts Paul so heavily that he becomes paranoid with these chants in the house of “There must be more money” (D.H Lawrence, 385). Paul tries to remedy his mother’s curse to win her love by determinedly riding his wooden rocking-horse to foretell the winner of the next horse race. He has the strange ability to successfully predict horse races, and he becomes addicted to this gambling. Uncle Oscar encourages and reinforces this greedy environment for his own benefit and lust for “Filthy lucre” (D.H. Lawrence, 386). He takes Paul to a race, discusses the topic in depth, and sneakily finds out how much Bassett, the organizer of the gambling, had bet on a horse. Paul’s craze leads to the climax of the story: a midnight bout of psychotic surging on the wooden rocking-horse to foretell the next winner of the horse race. This critical episode sees Paul in an unconscious state and eventually his deathbed. Right before dying, he asks his mother if he had achieved his life’s most important purpose: “Mother, did I ever tell you? I am lucky!” (398, D.H Lawrence). His mother replies “No, you never did”(398, D.H Lawrence). This reveals how trapped Paul was in his environment. It controlled his life and his desires. His yearning for his mother’s love was the most critical pursuit. His death demonstrates how his influences destroyed him. Paul’s life helps us understand the magnitude of influence our environment has on us and how it is dictated by those we are surrounded by. It can subjugate us, and if we are not vigilant, it can unknowingly destroy us.

According to the editors of Apple Music, Migos are the “most influential voices in rap,” and their hit-album, Culture, epitomizes the materialistic and hedonistic ethos of trap music: a subgenre of rap. Migos present these themes with flamboyance and allure. The production is glamorous, and expensive-sounding and Migos’ triplet flows are impressively dexterous and cohesive. Extreme materialism is one of the major themes of the album. Although you almost cannot find a verse without a mention of “ice,” “gold,” or anything expensive, the song “Deadz” is the most focused on this craze. In the hook, Quavo raps “fresh out of the bed, count up the deads (money).” Indulgence in affluence is important for Migos and counting loot is a ritual for them. While many religions such as Sikhism encourage prayer first thing in the morning, Migos repetitively promote counting your cash first, an epitome of materialism. Perhaps the most obviously unhealthy practice glorified in this project is drugs. The song “T-shirt” is about Migos’ drug dealing habits, and defiance of their mothers wish for them to “not sell work (drugs).” The title signifies the stereotypical white T-shirt worn by drug dealers and white cocaine.

Furthermore, “Get right Witcha” contains another example of this: “Taliban, my drugs, wrap ’em up, please,” denoting turbans in Taliban culture as a means to conceal drugs and the Taliban literally owning a monopoly of heroin in Afghanistan. Not only is Migos likening themselves to the extremely radical and barbaric culture of the Taliban, but more importantly they are glorifying drugs. They are even presenting a possible challenge to living this lifestyle with their moms’ drug-aversion and overcoming this with rebellion. The most morally repugnant glorification in this project is the sexual objectification of women. On “All Ass,” a track vaguely describing excursions to strip clubs, Quavo raps, “I put her on dough, she’ll be fucking till the sun comes up.” The music video of the track “Slippery” demonstrates that the sexual objectification of women is meant to be prominent and conspicuous. In the borderline pornographic video, the trio caresses a harem of women. This reveals how Migos, or more importantly Trap-rappers in general, view women only as objects from which pleasure can be obtained. They don’t see women as humans with emotions. This is something we are morally revolted by when we hear it transpiring in ISIS strongholds for example, yet it is promoted and condoned here in western society. Culture persuasively and alluringly glorifies themes of hedonism, materialism, drugs and the sexual objectification of women reinforcing an environment which the next generation of rappers are emulating.

Just as Paul adopts the values of greed and luck from his mother, acclaimed YouTube music critic Anthony Fantano asserts, “Every up and coming artist bites on [Migos] style.” SoundCloud, the most popular gateway for young rappers, is laden with young rappers parroting trap-rappers like Migos. If you search “rap” on SoundCloud, you can find an almost infinite amount of young MCs spitting profane language, and copying and pasting lyrics of drugs, sex, and alcohol. This culture is so pervasive and alluring that a small city like Chilliwack in western Canada is filled with these rappers. Brayden Barlow, an eighth-grader at Rosedale Middle School has a track called “Honda Civic.” In this song, there are random screaming sounds of women, in the beginning, evoking images of torture, rape or just eroticism, in general, akin to the intermittent screams in Migos’ song “Kelly Price.” Brayden also raps, “I fuck your bitch in my Honda Civic.” This is inspired by either him talking from genuine experience, an unlikely case given his age, or simply falling victim to the Trap-music environment and rapping about what those who have philosophically impinged upon him as an MC. Another example in Chilliwack is the rapper Fijiwater24k.

Not only is every song of his about drugs, sex, and other immoral themes, but the lyrics are regurgitated from an artist like Migos. Whether Fiji raps about smoking some kind of substance or engaging in some illicit activity or blurting, “Touching my lean and I’ll put you in the grave, wrapping my thighs, ya get paid,” this is a direct product of the influential trap music environment which he is trying to match. An exponentially more popular example is Lil Pump, a 17-year-old rap sensation. His most recent self-titled studio album, while having a very different vocal performance than that of the Culture album, has the same hedonistic motif. The extremely catchy track off that project is “ESSKEETIT,” which portrays the exact same values that a typical Migos song portrays. Once again lines such as “Smashin’ on your bitch, esskeetit, Runnin’ up a check with no limit,” prove the similarity. While artistic inspiration is one thing, this is an apparent lack of ingenuity and creativity. Artists are just rinsing and repeating the Trap-music culture that has drugged them. Similar to brainwashed Paul in the Rocking-Horse Winner, these young artists have been trapped by Trap-music culture. So much so, that if you were to compare their music and lyrics to that of virtually any other Trap-rapper, it would be incredibly difficult to tell the difference.

We can become victims of our environment. The greedy culture that killed Paul and the hedonistic lifestyle that is radicalizing up and coming artists proves how our environment can be detrimental to us. In Paul’s case, the greedy environment rooted from a mother who doesn’t love him sends him on a treasure hunt to find something virtually impossible: his mother’s approval of him. A greedy and self-serving uncle encourages and takes advantage of this, paving a destructive path for Paul. Similarly, the materialistic and sybaritic ethos of Trap-music epitomized in Culture by Migos is harming young rappers’ music. It is directly causing the stifling of creativity in their art. Across the endless examples in the SoundCloud landscape, young MCs are epidemically regurgitating lyrics about materialism, drugs, and the sexual objectification of women. They are being swallowed by this music culture and inadvertently trying to win the approval of Migos. Both Paul and a typical juvenile MC, exemplify how our environment detrimentally shapes us. It can lead to the destruction of oneself or more elusively, one’s artistry.

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