Hip Hop has been under fire for its lack of substance, authenticity, and contribution to destructive behavior in the Black community for quite some time. It’s a genre that has a very short bridge between reality and what is televised by record labels. With the lavish life, glorified crimes, and advertised drug usage, is it a life we wish we had or a life we accept?
Fingers point and heads shake as those who do not care for or like the genre claim it does anything BUT uplift the Black community. Listeners and rappers alike express their disdain for the direction hip hop has taken as they compare it then and now, claiming it’s now full of buffoons, dummies, wannabe drug dealers, and murderers.
An open letter from an unknown author has been circulating the internet, claiming record labels had a secret meeting to discuss investments in artists that negatively influence the Black youth and to help ensure that prisons stay full of Black inmates. The letter stated that rappers’ lyrics have gone from uplifting, enlightening, and relative to thoughtless, explicit, catchy, clichés that only promote violence, sex, drugs, and liquor consumption. How real the letter is no one knows, but people believe that Hip Hop is used to help program the Black youth and maintain the stigmas that are often displayed on our behalf.
In Chicago, the news has been having its watchful eye on the city’s level of crime. Hitting local and national headlines, the murder and violence rate has spiked, making visitors hesitant to visit the Windy City. The Chicago Red Eye even keeps a “homicide tracker,” indicating the areas within the city, sex, ethnicity, and age range of the victims where crimes happen.
Although the city’s hip hop scene has been getting more shine in the spotlight, the media has no problem with branding Chicago hip hop and violence as synonymous. Rapper Chief Keef, who the media has made the poster child for Chicago violence, has said his next album will “raise the murder rate” in his city. Not sure if it’s a publicity stunt or a play with words but being suspected in the murder of the late Lil Jojo, I don’t think it was a wise move.
As an artist I’m often on the fence about how much Hip Hop is responsible for its influence on the youth. I believe that as artists, we have the freedom of expression, to create whatever we feel however we feel and not be punished or loathed for doing so. Blacks dominate Hip Hop. We have been able to influence the world with genre and become staples in music as a whole.
Yet, at the same time the media and record labels constantly push for a one dimensional artist, focusing on what sells based on what people typically depict Black people as. Do I think they’re right? From a business standpoint it could safe guard their investments, but it’s a scary investment and it often shows that the quality of the product is outweighed by its profit.
There should be a balance, an artist on the other side of the spectrum. There aren’t enough artists unlike Chief Keef that record labels care to invest in or people care to explore, but they are the gold underground we must dig for.
I think artists like Chief Keef are needed in the music industry. Some may disagree, but he is creating the music of today, as one of the voices of the youth and one of the reflections of the Black community. What makes this artist so fascinating IS his lack of censorship and a reminder that art may imitate life. It may not be your life or mine, but it’s what he wants to express and as an artist he has that right.
I have seen violence within the communities I stayed in. It shouldn’t be something you accept, raise picket signs, or blame Hip Hop for. It should be something you actually want to and WORK to change within your community. The corruption of the justice system, lack of resources, and the ripple effect of these elements and many others, rise from the root up to produce such products of our society.
Expressing your dislike for Chief Keef or any artist like him won’t change the big picture. The one you see when you step outside your door. The one you see when you witness a killing, assault, or injustice. Our battles are bigger than Chief Keef, much bigger than Hip Hop. It’s outside of our playlists and social media. It’s in our streets, our homes, and our minds. We’re so quick to discard or incarcerate our youth, but we never take the time to understand and rehabilitate them.
I recently read a comment on Instagram in response to a picture of the rapper pointing a hand gun to the camera. “He said he wouldn’t make it pass 21. I may be evil for this, but I’m ok with that.” Feelings like this towards Black youth remind me of what they were regarded as in the late 1800s and early 1900s: alligator bait. Black children were used as bait, tied down near swamps to lure alligators out and were killed in the process. Is this how we feel about the Black youth of today? That there is nothing in their future but death? Should we continue to throw them into the world with no means for survival?
Artists before Chief Keef have been scolded for creating such a bold, moving, dark style of music. Growing up, nothing has changed within our government to improve the lives of Blacks which means our communities have an even harder chance of changing. Truly I believe if it did, it would be reflected in the music we listen to.
But if nothing changes, expect another artist of the next generation to be like Chief Keef.
Now hailed as a Hip Hop classic, take a listen to SNOOP DOGG & DR. DRE – 187. Have the times really changed? (WARNING: NSFW)
Also, please check out this video about “Alligator Bait.” ALLIGATOR BAIT