Ok so this is no surprise to anyone I know, I LOVE RAP and the HIP-HOP CULTURE! I get upset with the actions of certain individuals and do not condone the hyper-sexuality and need to constantly talk about illicit behavior, but I am an advocate for the genre as a credible and necessary art form. But this blog is a direct response to a clip I saw on a rap blog website, which featured Nasir Jones aka Nas, talking about the beating death of the Chicago teen two weeks ago on CNN.
So I am going to assume you watched it and proceed...
First of all, I found it very odd that CNN choose Nas of all people to harp on about negative lyrics. When I think of Nas, I think of songs such as "I Can," "If I Ruled the World," and "One Mic," not something so violent. So it puzzles me to why CNN thought that he was the rapper to point the finger at. I am also slightly annoyed that they went through his musical catalog to find one of the worst songs he has written to feature during the clip. But with that, I also know that "Shoot 'Em Up" is not the urban "Kumbaya," but I think a lot of people forget the fact that rap, as a musical genre, tells the story of so many teens and young adults in urban settings in America. And that's the unfortunate thing. You can listen to a song like "Shoot 'Em Up," and get upset with Nas b/c you feel that he is perpetuating the stereotype of violence in the urban community or you can listen and acknowledge that this is the plight of too many young men of color. I think I'll do the latter. On another note, I just read the open letter that Nas wrote to youth that Don Lemmon referenced in the clip, and Nas is absolutely telling the truth.
Link to the open letter: http://globalgrind.com/content/1020340/Open-Letter-To-Young-Warriors-In-Chicago/
But here is the problem: What is Nas truly supposed to do? I don't want to appear to hypocritical b/c in another blog I posted about celebrities not wanting to do anything to influence social changce, but he DID something. He put his opinion and positive message out there. I appreciate it. But back to my original question, what is Nas truly supposed to do to stop the violence in cities all across this country? Yes, he could organize marches, write more open letters, appear on CNN daily, make music only about how we need to come together rather than destroy each other, and become an outspoken advocate for peace, but that will not correct the systemic changes that need to occur. Now I am a believer in using music for change, and I would like hip-hop to take a more positive turn, but these artists are not responsible for the well-being of all of Black America. So yes, it's a bit unfair to put that much pressure on them, but when artists do not acknowledge their ability to enact change, well I am not pleased with that either. The true problem is that we lack leaders that truly connect to these kids, because they don't want to be lectured, they need someone to reach them. That's why when Nas, Jay-Z, T.I., Ludacris, etc speak prolificly about something such as this, it's listened too. And it may just be me, but I feel like these artists have an obligation to the communities that they came from and I appreciate their charitable works and community outreach. More should follow suit...
So what do WE do? Do we make a huge fuss over of Nas' songs or do WE as Americans realize that there are like two different worlds in this country? The impoverished conditions that breed the violence that took the life of Derrion Albert are so widespread and accepted as the norm, so people just ignore it. We can live comfortably in our safe neighborhoods with the police ACTUALLY looking out for us and think that the experiences of people on the Southside of Chicago are over-exaggerated or their problem, OR we can demand more as a society. Once again, I choose to do the latter. We can demand the education that children in inner-cities receive be equivalent to their suburban counterparts. Education is key in this process, but we also the values that are prevalent in urban settings need to be changed. A hard work ethic needs to be instilled in people from a young age, and the importance of family needs to be stressed more. These kids need positive role models, who can be their parents/other family members, musical/athletic idols or not, but I said it once, no child should ever aspire to grow up and become a drug dealer b/c they saw that it is the only viable career path. I am not trying to get my Bill Cosby or Social Conservative talking points lecture on, but I do not want these kids to have to live a life where they think they can not be productive members of society or that they do not matter. They matter much more than they think they do, and it hurts to see the stories of the violence in urban America. Every child in America should have the opportunity to create a positive future, regardless of where they live or what color their skin is. When are we going to realize this? It's so frustrating, but I can not give up on America... We have to get it together!!!!!