Non ducor duco…

The death of DMX wasn’t caused by an inability to deliver his words, his message. He was, fortunately, able to have the opportunity to do that and the world is better for it. But, too many young rappers never get that opportunity in the music industry.

Tendencies to fall prey to the toxic masculinity of proving how tough they are catches them in a spider’s web of guns, drugs, violence and sometimes crime and murder. Sometimes, it’s their own murder.

The world of Hip Hop and Rap has given us a plethora of artistic wonders but what we actually get to hear and what actually is pushed by the industry is only a fraction, a tiny fraction of a world of truly gifted poets and auteurs, who aren’t seen as marketable by an industry only concerned with scraping dollar-sized slices of their flesh into their coffers but if you’re an artist that has climbed that mountain and achieved success, you have my respect and I congratulate you for that.

However…

The list of Hip Hop artists slain because they were caught up in the bullshit of fame, fortune and machismo is miles long. Since 1987, that we know of, only 17 were aged 30 or above. From Tupac to Pop Smoke to Nipsey Hussle, the murder game amongst Hip Hop and Rap stars is a young person’s mouse trap. In fact, in 2015, the website The Conversation did a study that showed 51.5% of American Hip Hop musicians’ deaths are from homicide. [1]

NameDate of deathAge at deathCause of death
Scott La RockAugust 27, 198725Shot and killed
Paul CJuly 17, 198924Shot and killed
D-Boy RodriguezOctober 6, 199022Shot and killed
CharizmaDecember 16, 199320Shot and killed
StretchNovember 30, 199527Shot and killed
SeagramJuly 31, 199626Shot and killed
Tupac ShakurSeptember 13, 199625Shot and killed
Yaki KadafiNovember 10, 199619Shot and killed
The Notorious B.I.G.March 9, 199724Shot and killed
Fat PatFebruary 3, 199827Shot and killed
Big LFebruary 15, 199924Shot and killed
Freaky TahMarch 28, 199927Shot and killed
BugzMay 21, 199921Shot and run over
DJ Uncle AlSeptember 10, 200132Shot and killed
Jam Master JayOctober 30, 200237Shot and killed
SabotageJanuary 24, 200329Shot and killed
CamoflaugeMay 19, 200321Shot and killed
Half a MillOctober 24, 200330Shot and killed
Soulja SlimNovember 26, 200326Shot and killed
Mac DreNovember 1, 200434Shot and killed
Blade IcewoodApril 19, 200528Shot and killed
ProofApril 11, 200632Shot and killed
Big HawkMay 1, 200636Shot and killed
VL MikeApril 20, 200832Shot and killed
DollaMay 18, 200921Shot and killed
LeleJuly 1, 201023Shot and killed
Magnolia ShortyDecember 20, 201028Shot and killed
Bad News BrownFebruary 11, 201133Beaten and shot
Adán ZapataJune 1, 201221Shot and killed
Lil PhatJune 7, 201219Shot and killed
MC DalesteJuly 7, 201320Shot and killed
Pavlos FyssasSeptember 18, 201334Stabbed to death
DepzmanSeptember 21, 201318Stabbed to death
Doe BDecember 28, 201322Shot and killed
The JackaFebruary 2, 201537Shot and killed
FlabbaMarch 9, 201537Stabbed to death
Chinx DrugzMay 17, 201531Shot and killed
Bankroll FreshMarch 4, 201628Shot and killed
3-2November 10, 201644Shot and killed
XXXTentacionJune 18, 201820Shot and killed
Jimmy WopoJune 18, 201821Shot and killed
Smoke DawgJune 30, 201821Shot and killed
Young GreatnessOctober 29, 201834Shot and killed
FeisJanuary 1, 201932Shot and killed
Kevin FretJanuary 10, 201925Shot and killed
Nipsey HussleMarch 31, 201933Shot and killed
Pop SmokeFebruary 19, 202020Shot and killed
HueyJune 25, 202031Shot and killed
King VonNovember 6, 202026Shot and killed
Credit: Wikipedia

Now, I’m perfectly aware that gang violence, diss tracks, beef and murders aren’t going to just vanish but all of these artists are all equally talented and this list is just a very small sample size of lyricists that have been cut down in what, at its core, is the pursuit of expression, getting their message out to others and connecting with others who have experienced what they have experienced or to enlighten and educate the ones who have not.

Of course, there are individuals who just rhyme words and desire to make bank and garner millions of views and followers but fuck them, I’m not talking about them.

In and of itself, sex, drugs and violence in lyrical, spoken word or prose are fine. They’re forms of expression but when you introduce direction to those words, such as so-and-so is a bitch or I’m gonna put so-and-so in a coffin, that expression becomes a threat. This is targeting and targeting is okay too but it’s how you cultivate it. Saying “I hate Trump!” or “Fuck Trump!” is much, much different than attaching a violent act to it.

And…

Directional expression is also fine…again, when done in a vague, general way that still allows the writer to express their emotions but does not target an individual or group of individuals. Creative Writing is tricky sometimes but the majority of these artists put a deep amount of thought and effort and critical thinking into their works and sadly, one of the best ways, aside from social media, to fire those verbal bullets is through song and a song on YouTube or Spotify is going to go viral much faster and blow up much larger than a tweet or an Instagram diss.

But, what if there were an outlet, a way for these young writers to express themselves and have that message delivered to an audience, albeit a smaller audience than the music industry provides, not with censorship but with guidance, advice and a choice. A choice to take the lazy route, targeting someone with violent threats, or, the more intellectual route, finding a way to deliver those negative feelings in a manner that maintains their intensity but doesn’t lead to incitement and retaliation or…murder.

It can be done…and I want to do it. I want to at least try.

I want to start a business.

A publishing company.

I only used the music industry and Hip Hop as an example and stepping stone to a much larger idea. I want to sign as many young, aspiring artists, and, I’ll be honest up front, I want to sign young people who are in situations and environments that you hear about all too often these days. Poverty, hunger, a lack of employment access, substandard educational opportunities, an absence of mental healthcare, police harassment, violence, drugs, sex, teenage pregnancy and yes, crime.

The youth of our nation…the disenfranchised, the abandoned, the ignored, the used and abused. And it doesn’t matter what race, gender or genre either. I’m not interested in offering opportunities to young people with access to money or privilege either because, and, I’m not singling out any section of society but you know who you are and if you’re remotely wealthy and are a shade on the color spectrum that is treated far better than others, you have access. You have the ability. You already have opportunities.

I’m looking for young men and women that have none of those things. That have a voice that needs to be heard, that no one will listen to. That have no way to express themselves emotionally without fear. That have no direction or guidance, life skills or how to construct and further develop, to hone their creative and artistic abilities. I want to take their art, whether it be poetry, photography, painting, graffiti, I want to show them that there are multiple roads of expression and I want to put books of their words, their thoughts and their images in the hands of others.

I want to give them an opportunity to speak their minds, share their ups, down and experiences but most of all, I want to amplify their voices and existence. I want to, even if on a small scale, help change what is a bleak and hopeless outlook into possibility.

And with the right funding, the rewards are endless. From scholarships, an appropriate amount of money for their work, healthcare, educational, employment, childcare, help for their loved ones and other benefits and opportunities.

Opportunities for expression are a core concept but providing pathways to hope, self-sufficiency and a better way of life for these kids is the ultimate goal. To show them that an industry that makes a fortune off of their art, while they continue to suffer and die for it is not the only route from Point A to Point B. That dollar signs and designer clothes are just an interstate where velocity and youth are a deadly combination.

And for every artist out there that the “scene” deems irrelevant or a has-been. No. I want and need them too. To be mentors, role models, guides. To take these young people’s minds on the scenic pathways and avenues, so they can see life as it develops. To appreciate the moment, the details and to see the unseen. Not a blur of chemicals and excess.

It’s also about tangibility and reflection. Being able to physically hold a book full of your artwork and knowing that others out their are being inspired by it, that it is being appreciated and revered shows a person worth.

And that’s the penultimate goal; to show the disenfranchised youth of a repressive and oppressive society that they are worth it.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s