Hip-Hop Happenings: Violence and hip-hop, who's to blame?


Over time, hip-hop has become a popular scapegoat when incidents involving gun violence get national attention. The issue of gun violence in hip-hop involves broader understanding of the culture in which the genre originated.

Violent lyrics are a reflection of the communities that raised these artists.

When taken out of context, lyrics and images produced by hip-hop are used as misappropriated evidence to say rap is harming America’s youth. Instead of finding out why guns are so prevalent in urban communities, blame is placed immediately on rappers. Violence in hip-hop is painted from the experiences of rappers living among economic inequalities that stem from racial division.

Take 17-year-old rapper from Chicago, Chief Keef. The “I Don’t Like” rapper was sentenced to home confinement after pointing a gun then running from police in December 2011. On Jan. 15, 2013, Chief Keef was taken into custody after a judge ruled that an interview held at a gun range was a violation of his probation.

Chicago is considered the murder capital of the world with 42 murders in January 2013 already. Chicago politicians’ segregation efforts, like the building of the Robert Taylor Homes and Ida B. Wells Homes housing projects, gave birth to a gang culture that remains prominent in the Windy City today.

Chief Keef did not birth the gun violence in Chicago. He is a product of it. His lifestyle was the only lifestyle. He had no choice. Or did he?

Compton, Calif., rapper, Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, “good kid, m.A.A.D. city,” was a narration of just that: a good kid living in a violent world.

Although Lamar and Chief Keef both make mention of gun violence numerous times in their music, they do so in completely different manners.

Lamar uses hip-hop as an outcry for the reality of gun culture he witnessed growing up in Compton. He is from the home of rap group Niggaz Wit Attitudes and the Bloods and Crips; he has witnessed a friend he considered a brother get shot and killed in front of his own eyes.

Without rap, Chief Keef could have easily been the type of person who was on the other side of the gun that killed Lamar’s friend. Lamar and Chief Keef’s lives were so similar, yet so far apart.

Lamar uses understanding to demonstrate gun violence in hip-hop. He knows social, political and economic oppressions are the reasons for the gun culture in urban communities. He knows what those oppressions can produce. They produce Chief Keefs; Chief Keefs without major record label deals.

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