A day after the May 24, 2022, mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. Representative Ronnie Jackson immediately blamed the violence on rap music and video games.
“Kids nowadays are exposed to all kinds of horrible things,” the Texas Republican told Fox News on May 25, 2022. “I think of the horrible stuff they hear when they listen to rap music, the video games they watch… with all this horrible violence.”
For Jackson and other critics, rap interprets criminal behavior and signals moral degradation. In the eyes of Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis, the wrap could be something more than anything else — evidence.
Atlanta rappers Young Thug and Gunna are among 28 defendants charged with conspiracy and street gang activity in May 2022 under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
He is now in jail in Atlanta awaiting trial.
In the indictment, prosecutors cited the lyrics of Young Thug’s songs as an “obvious act in furthering the plot”.
Several tracks are cited, including “Slaty”, on which Young Thug raps: “I killed his man in front of his mama/Like f—k lil bro, his sister and cousin.”
Free speech has its limits.
“The First Amendment,” Willis explained, “does not protect people from prosecutors [lyrics] As a proof, if so. ,
Rap has long been used to reinforce specific stereotypes, caricatures, and mythologies about black people. As a rapper and scholar, I wrote about this scapegoat in a chapbook, “Rap and Storytellingly Invention,” which I published with the peer-reviewed album released in 2020.
Since the rise of hip-hop in the early 1980s, critics of rap have tried to link the music to violent crime.
One of the first targets was Run-DMC, rappers from Queens, New York credited with bringing hip-hop into mainstream music and culture.
During the group’s 1986 “Rising Hell” tour, police and journalists blamed its music for the violence in the cities it toured. Rap was also blamed for mass violence in the crowd at his show in Long Beach, California.
In the 1990s, politician and civil rights activist C. Delores Tucker became one of the most vocal anti-rap voices, focusing his anger on Tupac Shakur and the “gangsta rap” subgenre.
The finger-pointing against rap – or some variant of it – continues to this day.
The latest target is drill rap, a hip-hop sub-genre that originated in Chicago and has since spread around the world.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams condemned drill rap on February 11, 2022, following the murders of two Brooklyn rap artists, Jaquan McKinley and Tehajay Dobson.
Adams said the violence depicted in the Drill rap music video was “dangerous” and that he would sit down with social media companies to try to remove the content, citing them as “civil and corporate responsibility.”
“We took Trump off Twitter for whatever he was spouting,” Adams said, “still we’re allowing music, gun displays, violence. We’re going to allow it to be on these sites.” are.”
Similar tactics have been used in the past to turn off drill music.
London drill rappers have been targeted since 2015 by the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Domain, a joint effort with YouTube to monitor “videos that incite violence”.
It is as if politicians and police do not understand that the music emanating from these places is a reflection of the crisis, not its source.
sad myths and facts
Despite the immense popularity of hip-hop, culture and music continue to be portrayed as a cultural wasteland in both subtle and obvious ways.
Worse, in my view, these harmful beliefs affect ordinary people who experience tragedies.
The term “rapper” is used to conjure up negative imagery. It leaves empty hopes in its place, filled with the spectacle of death and violence. The person described by it becomes a boogeyman in the public imagination.
In the most unjust circumstances, “rapper” has become a social shorthand for the notion of guilt, expectations of violence, and sometimes the merit of death.
It was the same with Willie McCoy. In 2019, the 20-year-old was killed by six policemen while he was sleeping in his car at Taco Bell’s Vallejo. The officers claimed that they saw a gun and tried to wake it up. When McCoy left, the officers fired 55 shots in 3.5 seconds.
While rap music had nothing to do with the tragic events of his death, McCoy’s description as a rapper was more prominently and consistently compared to the 55 shots he was shot by police while he was sleeping. .
Even playing rap music can lead to death. In 2012, a 17-year-old man named Jordan Davis was shot and killed after he complained about the “loud” music Davis was playing in his car at a Florida gas station.
During the proceedings, dubbed the “Loud Music Trial”, Michael Dunn testified that the music Davis and his friends were playing in Davis’ car was “thug music” or “rap bullshit”.
Dunn’s defense relied on his victims being seen as thugs in conjunction with Rapp.
In prison, Dunn was recorded on the phone speculating whether Davis and his friends were “gangster rappers”. He claimed to have watched YouTube videos.
In describing these tragedies, the words “rappers” and “rap music” are codes for “black” and “other”, meant to allay fear and justify violence. There is no question in my mind that if the words “poet” or “poetry” were used instead they would have been treated differently.
made in America
In fact, violence perpetrated by rapists is as real as other American violence.
Young Thug, Gunna, or any other rapper accused of crimes is not exempt from liability. But, in my view, to assume that people are criminals simply because they rap – even if they rap about violence – is wrong.
Of course, throughout hip-hop history, rappers have produced individuals as antagonists. Masculinity, violence, intimidation, gun ownership, and displays of misogyny are meant to indicate a kind of authenticity.
In his 1994 book “Outlaw Culture”, Bell Hook included a chapter on “gangsta rap”. Hook explained that the hateful practices that have been scrutinized and highlighted among rappers are the American values that people who live and survive are embodied here.
In his December 1986 story on Run-DMC, Rolling Stone writer Ed Kirsch spoke out loud about what many people were thinking.
“For a mostly white America,” Kirsch wrote, “rap means mayhem and bloodshed.”
But those who still want to discredit rap may do well to blame the music instead of focusing on the sources of the crisis of violence in America that it depicts.