“But still my story ain’t over ’cause I got one more to tell / And the people of Colorado, they know it well” — DJ Quik in “Jus Lyke Compton”
During a recent debate on a Chicago radio station, community activist Kwabena Rasuli got into a heated argument with hip-hop artist Krazy Keith blaming his new song, “Murda 4 Fun”, for the rising murder rate in his the city this summer. Just like a game of chess, for every point Kwabena raised about rap music and violence, Keith hit him with a counter point defending his music as only entertainment. After an hour of arguing, Kwabena made his power move and pulled out a long list of murder statistics. But Keith countered with, “At least we don’t dress up like comic book villains and murder people in movie theaters.”
According to hip-hop apologists, rap music gets unfairly blamed for every social ill in America, whether it be drug abuse, teenage pregnancy or violence. And you can bet 20 years from now they are going to use the recent, tragic murder of moviegoers at the Dark Knight Rises showing in Aurora, Colorado by some kook dressed up like The Joker as part of their defense of the violent lyrics that plague much of commercial hip-hop.
For years, we have heard the excuse from rappers, “Ya’ll don’t say nuthin’ when The Terminator and Rambo kill a 100 people in their movies…” Yeah, but I don’t recall Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone shooti’ at each other across a strip club parking lot, either. But I get the point.
Truth is, in some ways they are are right. But in other ways, they are dead wrong.
Since the Sugar Hill Gang dropped “Rappers Delight” 30 years ago, America has had a love/hate relationship with rap music. They love the songs, they just hate the singers. Even when a hip-hop artist amasses a fortune and moves from Harlem to the Hamptons, some still feel “You can take the boy out the ghetto, but you can’t take the ghetto out the boy.”
Even before the first gangsta rap CD was made, the threat of potential violence hampered many of the first hip-hop tours. In many cities, the media acted like one of the Fat Boys was gonna jump off stage and beat some kid unmercifully for his hot dog. Sometimes the violence did happen. Most of the time it didn’t.
Some may also remember a time when the threat of violence prevented the first rap movies from being seen at any theaters outside of “urban” areas. As if Shelia E’s wack performance of “Hollyrock” in Krush Groove was gonna make outraged hip-hop fans start a riot at the concession stand. Despite the hype of the era, I was able to watch “The Dis-orderlies” and enjoy my popcorn just fine.
It wasn’t until the 90’s when hood flicks became cross-over blockbusters and movies like Boys N The Hood started peekin’ middle America’s fascination with gang violence in Compton that the films started playing in Peoria.
Despite the contradictions between the public perception of violence in movies and “murda music” that some hip-hop fans attempt to expose, there is a difference.
First, there aren’t thousands of people across the country walkin’ the streets dressed like Dr. Doom, but you can go to any hood in the USA and see kids lookin’ like clones of their favorite rappers with artists Cash Out braggin’ about “ridin’ around with that nina (nine millimeter)” blastin’ through their Beats by Dre headphones.
Secondly, we still live in a world where the young black male is the usual suspect. Just ask the brotha sitting on death row, because of a case of “they-all-look-a-like mistaken identity.” Or, the high school honor roll student who gets trailed by a gang of rent-a-cops as soon as he enters the food court at the mall. In many cases, the hip-hop image has made it easier for young black men to be guilty until proven innocent.
Also, many people in this country follow the classic line from The Godfather: “They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.” So, while shootings at Columbine or Virginia Tech are forever mourned as tragedies, 7-year-old girls getting shot on the streets of Chi-Town are written off as “That’s just the way those people get down.” There is a big difference between random acts of violence and children gettin’ caught up in drive by’s being viewed as a normal everyday thing.
Back in ’92, DJ Quik asked, on “Just Lyke Compton,” “How could a bunch of suckas in a town like this have such a big influence on brothas so far away?” In retrospect, the song seems like a spooky premonition of how gangsta rap was going to impact the world. But, since 99% of the violence in rap music is black on black, few folks outside the hood seem to care. Out of site, out of mind.
If there is any common denominator between rap music and the murders in Aurora, it would be that the movie’s makers, Warner Brothers, also makes hip-hop music. While the company cannot control the actions of every sicko with a gun, who decides to shoot up a theatre showing one of their films, they can control the music they choose to release. If Warner Brothers can cancel Dark Knight movie premieres in countries around the world because of the Colorado tragedy, then they can put a moratorium on the music that promotes the black on black violence happening in Chicago and every hood in America.
Years back, Wyclef Jean said, on “The Industry,” “Black on Black crime needs to stop / ya’ll can’t blame it on hip-hop.”
Sometimes we can’t Clef. Sometimes we can…
This editorial piece is part of TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s “This Ain’t Hip Hop” series, a weekly column for intelligent hip-hop heads. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author, and not BallerStatus.com and/or its staff.