The TownhallSocial issues

Rappers can’t cry when their lyrics are used against them in court

By Che

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.

Hip-hop is in an uproar over Fulton County District Attorney Finni Willis’ willingness to use rap lyrics as evidence against rappers Young Thug and Gunna. The rappers, whose real names are Jeffrey Lamar Williams and Sergio Kitchens respectively, have been held without bond for violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Young Thug and Gunna were listed along with 26 other individuals in a 56-count indictment. The charges include murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, and possession of controlled substances and weapons. 

Hip-hop culture believes it is being targeted by law enforcement due to the use of rap lyrics as evidence. They claim their first amendment rights to freedom of speech are being infringed upon. They cite that rappers have the right to use creative expression in their music. However, when those lyrics give clues to unsolved and/or active criminal activity, prosecutors see them as fair game.

The relationship between hip-hop and law enforcement is a long one. The tone had been set when N.W.A. released their now infamous anthem “F**k the Police.” Hip-hop and the law were at odds, or so we are led to believe. 

In the late 90’s, the NYPD created a task force specifically for running surveillance on known rappers who they allege had ties to criminal activity. Big name rappers such as Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent were subjects of some of those investigations. The so-called “hip-hop police” were outed in 2004 in a Miami Herald article. In 2005, a file leak led to a public outcry saying the department used racial profiling in their tactics. 

There has to be some kind of honesty when speaking on this issue. The reason why this topic still exists is because grifters insist on perpetuating dishonesty to line their pockets. They don’t want anyone to tell the truth because the truth exposes them. It’s a difficult truth to hear, but it’s necessary if we are truly serious about ending the cycle of crime, incarceration, and poverty.

The grifter says this is a matter of “profiling,” meaning rappers are targeted because they’re young, successful, “people of color.”  They say their success upsets the system of white supremacy and the power structure created a racial caste that excludes poor people of color. Funny how that’s always the go-to explanation even though rappers like Young Thug and Gunna are multi-millionaires and the executives that helped them get rich are mostly white. The argument falls flat.

The reality is these rappers are targeted because they’re actually involved in illegal activity. They actually rap about illegal activity. They have a history of, and/or surround themselves around people who are actually committing illegal activity. It’s not hard to see why this happens to them. They’re not victims of an elaborate plot to keep them from being rich. Not at all. The truth is they laid down with dogs and got fleas. Why is everyone afraid to say it?

The only thing systemic about this is the actual genre itself. Hip-hop has many positive elements, including raising awareness to the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. However, it also has been used to propagate debauchery and immorality. Drug use, gang violence, misogyny, crime, etc, are not the exception, but the rule. Listen to any rap album and those things are guaranteed to be found. It is not just talked about, it’s glorified, even seen as solidifying one’s “street cred” to have been involved in these acts.

Young Thug and Gunna are not exceptional. They’re typical of what a young rapper aspires to be. Their names alone tell the story. They have the ear of a generation offended at being stereotyped as “thugs,” yet, they label themselves as such. They cry about being “unfairly” charged with murder, yet they label themselves as known for “gunning” people down. To think that the world wouldn’t see them in the same way is absurd. 

The latest phenomenon in hip-hop is something known as “drill rap” where alleged gang members brag about killing their “opps” on records. Originating in Chicago, where gang murders are a way of life, it has become the latest extension of “gangsta rap.” The late King Von was notorious for rapping about his dead enemies. That is, until he became the subject of his opps’ drill raps.

Gangs are the number one problem in urban areas and the biggest perpetrator of violence amongst black and Hispanic communities. It’s not “far right” extremists, white supremacists, or the police wreaking havoc on the communities of South Side Chicago, West Baltimore, or South-Central LA. Ask anyone who grew up in these areas, they’ll say the same thing. 

The real travesty is that activists are more upset about a couple of multi-millionaires being arrested on federal charges than they are for the rappers’ lifestyle. There is no comparable outcry for the victims of these crimes as there is for the alleged criminals. They make millions of dollars rapping about a lifestyle that has been a plague to these communities, then cry injustice as soon as they are held accountable. 

In no other music genre are organizations that commit crime and violence celebrated like they are in hip-hop. Read that last line again before you start with your objections and mentioning heavy metal or country music. Violent lyrics exist in all genres, but hip-hop specifically glorifies the perpetrators and, more importantly, the organizations that commit it. If you don’t see that there are cultural problems that manifest into real life tragedies, you’re either a willing participant or positioned among the executives who benefit from it all.

In the early 2000’s, rapper and known target of the “hip-hop police” 50 Cent rapped about killing people. He then said what has proven to be a prophetic line, “The DA can play this motherf***in’ tape in court” as evidence in a murder. Well, guess what? They are. We all knew they would back then and we see them doing it now.

I’m not a staunch advocate for law enforcement or the state at all for that matter. But I do believe in structure and law and order. I believe we need certain standards by which we should live to ensure everyone has the best chance to succeed at life.

I’m also a firm believer in common sense. You need fair and just law enforcement capable of bringing criminals to justice. This means employing any and all means necessary to hold people accountable for their actions. If you want to engage in criminal activity and then broadcast it to the world, don’t be surprised if that is used against you.

Hip-hop will continue to lead towards a negative lifestyle rather than a positive one as long as we continue telling ourselves these lies. That is the truth. That is reality. Until we have the courage to tell it, we’ll be right back here whining about what’s not fair.

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Che is a writer and host of “The No Spoon Podcast” on Scoon TV.

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