My Block

TV review by
Regina Rainwater, Common Sense Media
My Block TV Poster Image
Rappers' neighborhood travelogue; mature teens OK.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The role models presented are family, friends, neighbors, and shop owners, as well as the artists themselves. The emphasis is on how people in the community can provide kids with guidance or a creative outlet. The positive role of learning, music, and sports is featured.

Violence

Acts of violence aren't featured, but they're discussed.

Sex

Sexualized dancing (jukin', footworkin') is featured, as are some scantily clad women.

Language

Expletives are bleeped out; occasionally a word like "ass" is mentioned. All in all, remarkably few instances of bad language, considering the subject matter.

Consumerism

Since the show films in various locations in a given real-life neighborhood, many products are seen in the background: Budweiser, Enyce clothing, sport team logo wear, etc. Lots of very long commercial breaks that feature everything from violent video games to anti-drug public service announcements.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol, drugs, and smoking are discussed and frequently featured in the background, but they're not used by main cast (at least, not on screen).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while this rap-centric reality show highlights strong role models, creativity, and positive ambition, it also includes discussions of gang membership, drug dealing, and crime. Gang signing, while fuzzed out, is briefly but prominently displayed. Scenes of homelessness and alcoholism are seen in the background of some segments.

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What's the story?

The folks at MTV offer a positive rap-centric reality show with MY BLOCK. In each episode, host Sway accompanies famous musicians like Ludacris and DJ Qualls to their home neighborhoods in cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Puerto Rico. The artists introduce Sway (and the audience) to the positive community role models and childhood haunts -- from skateboard parks to local record shops -- that in some way inspired them or kept them from negative influences. Most episodes include a subtle emphasis on the role of family and community in shaping a person's outlook against sometimes staggeringly negative odds.

Is it any good?

If you judged this series solely on its title and focus, you could easily assume that it's yet another Pimp My Ride. But as My Blocks's cameras follow the featured artists around their 'hood, it becomes clear that the show has at least somewhat nobler goals. Particularly interesting is how -- as in the movie Rize -- the show portrays hip-hop and rap music as positive influences on neighborhood kids and teens, giving them an alternative to a life on the streets. The show's humanizing and grounding effect on each artist's image is something that parents will particularly appreciate -- and it might also help bring teens' image of their heroes closer to their own reality.

Seeing how these artists grew up and the choices they made to seek out positive community role models -- as well as how many of them have come back to their neighborhoods -- gives both teens and parents an alternative view of these musicians. Ultimately, My Block is a surprisingly enjoyable and enlightening "travelogue" that provides insight as well as opportunity to discuss potentially difficult subject matter.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether the show's positive portrayals of rap and hip-hop artists help counter the often-negative media focus on some musicians' illegal activities and misogynistic attitudes. Why do the media tend to emphasize these negative characteristics in the first place? How do the artists contribute to these depictions? How does the show counter that perception?

TV details

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