Rap music is the scapegoat for gun violence in America


Hip hop should not been viewed as the source of the growing violence in America. Illustration by Ataallah Grady

Cydnie Grinnage and DeAnna Smith

Rap music has been significant in black culture since the early 1970s as a way for black artists to express their struggles, both socially and emotionally. Rap music first emerged in New York as a way to express what was happening in society and everyday black life from a very honest and unfiltered perspective. It acted as a “go-to” for people to help cope with what was happening around them, as well as express feelings of injustice and advocate for social change. Hip hop is a way for rappers to share their everyday and all too common struggles in a form of art.

In an article published by Standford University titled “The Social Significance of Rap and Hip-Hop Culture”, the writer explains the connection between media and race stating, “violence in rap, and in other forms of self-expression, is the manifestation of a feeling of hopelessness and discontent in America’s working class, especially working-class minority communities. By pointing to rap as the cause of violence, politicians attempt to erase from the consciousness of their constituents the history of oppression that has given birth to hip-hop culture.” The mutual hopelessness and collective frustration in society are the very things that created hip hop and allowed it to gain its popularity. So many listeners can relate to both the rapper’s personal experiences and their feelings about different aspects of society. However, the media does not view rap the same way that black people view it culturally. Instead, they insist that the lyrics are largely responsible for the violence amongst black youth. This narrative excuses all other variables that contribute to black frustration and violence such as racism, discrimination, and poverty.

The issue of gun violence began as rap and hip hop emerged as a cultural force, and the recent of rap music has recently made this a larger issue. Young rappers like XXXTENTACION, Nipsey Hussle, Pop Smoke, King Von, and PnB Rock just to name a few, all died at the hands of gun violence within the last four years while at the peak of their careers. Most recently, a community of family, friends, and fans were left to mourn the loss of beloved American Rapper Takeoff, birthname Kirsnick Khari Ball, when his murder on the 1st of November was publicized by media outlets all over the internet. Takeoff was just 28 years old, and was best known for his work as a part of the hip hop trio “Migos” alongside his family members Quavo and Offset. The trio began to produce music in Lawrenceville, Georgia and made hit singles like Walk it like I Talk it, Fight Night, and Bad and Bougie. The death of the prominent rapper brought up the conversation about whether rap music is glorifying violence which leads to the tragic and untimely deaths of young black teens in our communities.

Khaleil Cox, an aspiring rapper and senior at South Gwinnett, shared his thoughts saying, “being a rapper, let alone being a successful one, this puts a target on your back and so you [rappers] want to protect yourself [themselves] from any drama.” The topic of gun violence as is relates to rap music has been ongoing for a long time for rappers, being something that is often mentioned in their songs. Rappers are often criticized by the media for “promoting” gun violence. When 21 Savage, a rapper based in Atlanta, Georgia was criticized about promoting gun violence in his music, he responded to the claim saying, “I ain’t never promoted violence. I just rap about what I’ve been through, or what I’ve heard about, and what I saw. That ain’t me promoting violence.” Many people feel that rappers are all promoting or glorifying gun violence because the lyrics of their songs often mention the usage of these weapons to commit crimes. However, these lyrics should be alarming for other reasons being that they are real lived experiences for so many people. This can be argued when a deeper understanding of their music and the artists as an individual is revealed. Rappers often use their music to share with the world their lives and their vulnerabilities; rap music does not necessarily promote violence, but instead depicts the violence that already exists in communities that are underprivileged.