Like many guys my age, I love gangster movies and crime films, especially the ones that contrast the home lives of said gangsters with their “professional” lives. Organized criminals tend to have a lot of double standards when it comes to their children, whom they almost never want to follow in their footsteps. This is especially true of kids who aren’t “built” for the family business.
The Godfather’s Vito Corleone, surely wanted something better for his son Michael. Tony Soprano felt the same way about his son AJ. Apparently, it’s okay for the head of the household to provide for his family by an illegal means, as well as indulge the spoils of war. Such privileges do not extend to children.
Olders Hip-Hoppers are now facing a similar moral dilemma. Many of us were raised on steady diet of violence, materialism, and misogyny via rap music. Many of us are now parents who now see many of the generations that followed us, including that of our children, indulging the same kind of entertainment that we used to. This puts many of us on the opposite end of the age old debate that places the blame for the Black community’s woes squarely at Hip-Hop’s doorstep.
It has recently been rekindled by the murder of 16 year old Chicago rapper Joseph ‘Lil JoJo’ Coleman, and the possible involvement of rising Chicago rap star Chief Keef. When news of Coleman’s death initially broke, Keef took to Twitter and made light of the tragedy. He later claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked.
Many older Hip-Hoppers, most notably rapper Lupe Fiasco, have cast Keef and his ilk as something to fear. Keef indeed does represent a movement of sorts. That movement is the Chicago Drill scene, which has many similarities to ATL’s Trap music scene. Both sounds are largely despised by old heads, who seem to have forgotten their Hip-Hop history. Keef isn’t the first rapper with a “negative” image and message. If he actually did play a role in Lil JoJo’s death, he won’t be a pioneer in that regard either. Rappers have made ignorant music, and have done dumb shit for years, and the sentiments reflected in drill music harkens back to the classic gangsta music and hardcore rap of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Some old heads acknowledge that lineage and use it to justify the existence of Keef and the message he brings to the masses. You know the time honored clichés: “These kids are just talking about what they see. It’s their reality. They are just expressing themselves.” I heard the same things from my favorite rappers as a teenager. Now I see my peers saying the same things in defense of the current generation. The excuses never fade.
We’re missing the point. We have followed in the footsteps of our parents by demonizing the current generation, acting as if anyone born after 1992 is a genocidal savage, much in the same way our parents’ generation did with us. What’s missing is real analysis.
On one end, some of us have taken a nonchalant attitude to the whole thing. On the other end of the spectrum there is the delusion that no one is affected by the music. It’s reality, after all. It’s also a business. We did the same shit, and we turned out okay, right? Each side does have an argument, but is it an argument that allows a different outscome for our children? Yes, Keef is talking about his reality, but why isn’t that reality a problem? Why is urban dystopia always so prevalent in entertainment?
My formative years are long behind me. By the time I reached adulthood, 2Pac and B.I.G would die very public and very violent deaths that, for a while deaded the gangster era for a while, many in the rap industry took faux stances against gangsterism and beef. Obviously, that change of heart didn’t take, because we are back to the bullets.
That is what so many in my generation seem to have forgotten. We’ll be taking a look at this issue in the next few days. We’re going to examine why this cycle is so prevalent and whether or not we can end it. We’ve all lost someone to violence. It’s no longer just entertainment when you grow and have children who are susceptible to the messages in this music. I want something better for my son and his friends.
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