Tuned In or Turned Off: Desi Parents’ Views on Hip Hop

Hip Hop music has a love/hate relationship among Desi parents. To get a better insight, we investigated their opinions on the matter.

Tuned In or Turned Off: Desi Parents' Views on Hip Hop

"Even a few AP Dhillon songs are banned in the house"

Hip Hop music has become the most popular genre of music, gaining mass attention since the 80s and 90s.

This has not been without controversy, especially in relation to Desi parents.

Despite the mixes and blends of South Asian music and Hip Hop, such as Bhangra, it has remained a hard sell.

All things considered, there is also a lot of positivity around Hip Hop.

This is a given since many acts cover social issues, shedding light on the experience of poverty and being working class.

There are also many artists that take on the aesthetic and story of being an underdog. With an aspirational ‘rags to riches’ journey, there are musicians who serve as role models.

But regardless, there is a stereotype among younger Desis in how Desi parents see the genre. This has managed to remain prevalent for decades.

Some Desi parents have a few common complaints about Hip Hop music, which have become stereotypical views. These, for instance, relate to the loudness of the music, as well as the content of the lyrics.

For example, this TikTok parody emphasises the general narrative associated with Desi parents:


This article will dive into the opinions of Desi parents on Hip Hop, focusing on the main points gathered from discussions online.

Concern about Lyrics

Tuned In or Turned Off: Desi Parents' Views on Hip Hop

One common thread in discussions was concern from Desi parents about the lyrics of Hip Hop.

One person spoke to was the artist Haroon (haroon) from London, who speaks of how he likes Hip Hop personally.

But, as a parent, he finds that there is “too much stuff that isn’t child friendly”. This is something particularly relevant to mainstream Hip Hop.

haroon also states how there is “not enough of the thoughtful stuff” being promoted, as socially conscious acts don’t tend to be as mainstream.

He later quotes stand-up comedian Chris Rock who said:

“I love Hip Hop. Tired of defending it!”

Ayesha, who is from Italy, says her own mother would see Hip Hop as “noise…in a very bad way”.

Whilst she says her mum “tolerates it whenever we put it on”, Ayesha reveals:

“Even a few AP Dhillon songs are banned in the house.”

This is due to some of the lyrical content. So, even Hip Hop songs from South Asian artists are banned due to lyrics.

Lyrical concerns typically are focused on the use of swearing, and often depictions of violence in Hip Hop music.

Ateeq from the Black Country, stated how his parents don’t like Hip Hop because of the “influence around it”.

When asked for clarification, he stated that they think this negativity comes from how “a lot of rappers are involved in the wrong things”.

Faith & Old Hip Hop

Tuned In or Turned Off: Desi Parents' Views on Hip Hop

Speaking to some from Muslim backgrounds, there is a commonality that music is forbidden in their faith. This is a view shared by many, though it is not a universal one.

Sumaiyya from Leeds said her dad would – as a conservative Muslim – likely take the view that Hip Hop music is ‘haraam’.

This was also gathered from discussions with other family members as well, with one uncle stating “music is the work of the devil”.

Another common thread in discussions with Desi parents over Hip Hop was a preference for the older music they grew up with.

In contrast to her Dad, Sumaiyya expresses her mum is more nostalgic about 80s Hip Hop music as she grew up listening to it.

Acts such as Run DMC, Vanilla Ice, and Salt-N-Pepa spring to mind when we asked her for more detail. Though, Sumayya does reveal:

“Modern Hip Hop is very alien for my mum.”

Usman Khan* from the Black Country also shared this view, that modern Hip Hop is bad and “old school is better”.

Again, this may be due to nostalgia, as well as musical differences between some older and newer subgenres of rap.

Typically it’s stuff like the “boom bap” of the 90s that gets contrasted to modern “trap” or “drill”.

Though there are many other subgenres of Hip Hop that may go beyond our typical understandings of old and new Hip Hop.

This is important to mention, as often the genre blends, such as “Crunk” of the early 2000s, have many aspects that directly influenced the sound of modern Hip Hop.

Also, rap genres like trap are older than typically thought of. Trap first appeared in the early 2000s, with acts such as Lil Wayne, T.I., and Gucci Mane.

They were among a wide amount of pioneers of this subgenre.

Hip Hop Music Being ‘Alien’ to Desi Parents

Tuned In or Turned Off: Desi Parents' Views on Hip Hop

As previously mentioned Hip Hop can be ‘alien’ or not understandable to Desi parents. In a few discussions with different people, this perspective appeared.

This was seen in discussions with Simran, whose parents never really listened to Hip Hop at all, including in their childhoods.

They also complain whenever she or her siblings play it that “they don’t really understand”.

Syed from Lahore spoke about how Hip Hop music is “culturally alien” to his parents.

Though they may listen to “the occasional Drake song” if he played it in the car, it’s not something they’d have in their “personal playlists”.

He also spoke of how his parents likely did not have the same experience as him.

He was – as a “Gen Z born and raised Pakistani” – able to experience a wide amount of “western music, media & art”.

Though, he stated that his mum does listen to a lot of western music, and watches “American” Netflix.

Regardless, both of his parents have not listened to much Hip Hop.

This gap in experience is likely to affect parents’ understanding of it.

A relevant note is from cultural theorist Stuart Hall.

In his ‘Reception theory’, Hall mentioned how different audience members all read media differently, depending on their ‘conceptual maps’.

To put it simply, a ‘conceptual map’ can be anything and everything in the person’s background that may affect how they perceive media.

This is certainly relevant, as there are many Desi parents who did grow up in environments and contexts that are different from their children, who may more easily relate to the themes of Hip Hop music.

A few Desi people highlighted that their parents don’t really have a view on Hip Hop music. This is primarily out of the fact that they don’t really or haven’t ever listened to it.

This is an area that directly contradicts the stereotype of Desi parents always having a negative view of Hip Hop music.

The stereotype leaves no room for those who don’t share a strong view on the matter.

Many of the parents we spoke to listened mostly to South Asian music.

One such example was Abdul from Birmingham, who said that his parents did not ever listen to “any music like Hip Hop”. But, when they were younger, they “used to listen to Pakistani music” from the 90s.

His parents generally don’t listen to music anymore.

Saadat from London also mentioned how, though his parents take a negative view of Hip Hop, they mostly play “Desi music in the car”.

So, it can be argued that the stereotype of “Desi parents hate Hip Hop music” is untrue, as some just have preferences towards other genres.

Some Positive Views

Tuned In or Turned Off: Desi Parents' Views on Hip Hop

There are some other positive views of Hip Hop that exist within Desi parents, that were found during conversations.

Ayesha (from Italy) shared how her mum has a positive view of Sidhu Moose Wala.

Sidhu Moose Wala was an Indo-Canadian Hip Hop artist who was killed in 2022. His reputation was quite positive, as he made protest music.

His legacy has often been compared to that of the American rap artist Tupac Shakur. This being that he was someone who stood for a ‘rightful cause’.

Similarly, Moose Wala’s music very often dealt with violent themes, something that was also the cause for controversy during his life.

Ayesha’s mother takes a warm view of him “as a person” and “not [so much] for the music”.

This clings back to this understanding of Hip Hop artists who stand in for social and political issues.

Many artists stood in for the major political events of recent times, such as Black Lives Matter, about police brutality.

Ateeq also echoed how his parents have a positive view of a few modern rappers, one example being Stormzy.

Another positive experience that should be mentioned is that of Kaustubh from India.

He spoke about how though “they aren’t super familiar with it”, they have quite positive experiences with Hip Hop.

His parents don’t mind it, due to exposure via Kaustubh’s brother. His brother does dance, so “[Hip Hop] has been a pretty big part of most of his life.”

In fact, they have familiarity with “Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Snoop, and Kayne”.

Additionally, due to the Fast and Furious movies, they are also familiar with Ludacris.

Natasha from London, also recounts her parents’ positive experiences with Hip Hop music.

Her mum “enjoys listening to Hip Hop music”, usually listening to it “in the car when it’s on the radio”.

Another time she listens to it is “at the gym as it’s motivating when she’s working out”.

The positivity that Natasha’s mum finds in Hip Hop is due to it being “enjoyable” to listen to. Her favourite artists are Drake and Chris Brown; having gone to a Chris Brown show in 2023.

It appears that whilst many Desi parents do see Hip Hop music as negative, there are also many positive or indifferent parents.

Out of the more negative views, it seems that it comes from a generational and cultural gap between Desi parents and children.

There are many misunderstandings about modern Hip Hop music especially, but there are also valid concerns.

The lyrical content is a key area, as many parents seem to view swearing and not-suitable subject matter as a problem.

There are rebuttals by artists in some respects because describing crime to glorifying it are two separate things. But for some parents, this might not seem like enough.

Overall, Desi parents do have a very well-rounded understanding of Hip Hop.

Though much negativity persists, it’s too simplistic to say that Desi parents solely think of Hip Hop as negative.

Murthaza is a Media and Communications graduate and aspiring journalist. His include politics, photography and reading. His life motto is "Stay curious and seek knowledge wherever it leads."

Images courtesy of Instagram.

Videos courtesy of TikTok.

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

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