The TownhallSocial issues

It’s time we “canceled” hip-hop

By Che

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

It’s time to cancel hip-hop. I don’t mean “cancel” by protesting and picketing and trying to force labels to stop producing the music, I mean “cancel” it from our collective psyche. 

The constant ritual of rappers getting killed, and troves of influencers afterwards flocking to social media for pleas of “doing better,” is nothing more than empty promises for likes and views. Takeoff’s unfortunate death is only the latest example. It’s all meaningless performative theatrics that never address the real issues and set the stage for the next song and dance that is inevitable. 

We have to separate ourselves from what some call the “culture.” We won’t see real change until we remove ourselves from hip-hop and the gang culture that dominates the genre.  

For the past few months, I have been on somewhat of a spiritual journey. I haven’t had a religious conversion, nor have I become a monk of some sort. I have just made small changes that have had big results. Most of these changes weren’t even conscious decisions, they just unfolded naturally, which is what I am advocating here concerning hip-hop and the “culture.” 

Since I was released from prison in 2018, I had an ongoing relationship with marijuana. I love to smoke weed. It was something I felt eased my anxiety, relieved me of the stress that came with reintegrating back into society. However, there was always something, somewhere in the back of my mind or the depths of my soul that made me uneasy about it. I have never been an “addict” in the sense of using “hard drugs,” just weed and occasionally alcohol. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t go through the “addiction process” when it came to marijuana. 

The “addiction process” I’m referring to is the rationalization of my actions, something that takes place in the quiet conversations of your mind. You explain your actions to yourself, rationalizing your position. “Smoking weed calms me down,” “smoking weed helps me write,” “smoking weed puts me to sleep,” etc, etc. All lame excuses for getting high.  

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with my sister where I told her that I wasn’t going to accomplish any of my goals until I learned to quit smoking weed. I don’t know what made me say that, it wasn’t like I had been praying on it or anything, it was just something that I knew to be factual. I say “knew” because when I said it, I said it as if it was as real as this laptop I’m writing this on. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that smoking weed was holding me back. Yet, it still took another two years for me to quit. 

On July 4th of this year, I smoked my last blunt. I haven’t touched it since. 

I was scheduled to start my prisoner re-entry classes on June 25th, but due to covid complications they were not allowed to commence until mid-July. The quitting and the start of these classes weren’t by design. It just happened that way. Looking back, I now see that I couldn’t have stood in front of a group of men with addiction problems and spoken to them about self-empowerment when I myself allowed something to have a hold on me. Only the free can release the captives, and I wasn’t truly free at the time. 

Since then, I have separated from other vices. I can’t stand the taste of alcohol and would only drink if I was high, and since I don’t indulge in that anymore I don’t drink anymore. The other thing that I don’t indulge in anymore is hip-hop. 

This wasn’t a conscious decision. It wasn’t like I said, “I’m not listening to rap anymore,” in the same way someone says, “starting monday, no more fast food.” It didn’t happen like that at all. I just haven’t had the desire to hear it. 

When I go to the gym, I put my earbuds in to listen to something. I open my phone and select either Apple Music or Apple Podcasts. I click on the podcasts app. It’s the same process in the car, music or podcasts. I would rather listen to something I can learn from, something that will inform me. Rap isn’t doing it for me anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older (I’ll be 40 next year), maybe it’s because I haven’t been smoking, but something inside of me is just pulling me away from the “culture.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the genre. I was born in the 80’s and raised in the 90’s. I grew up with rap music. I just don’t relate to the message anymore. There are a few artists that have a more positive message that resonates with me and I will listen to them on occasion, but the majority of mainstream hip-hop just doesn’t do it for me. 

For the record, I don’t believe hip-hop is the problem. I believe it is a symptom of the actual problems we face. The problem is the culture. However, the music validates the culture, it makes it “cool,” it gives it a voice. Hip-hop is the only profession where being a gang member is not only acceptable, but encouraged. It is the only profession that allows gang culture to be expressed out in the open and is profitable. 

We’ve had conversations as of late on the executives who profit from the music. Names like Lyor Cohen, Jimmy Iovine, and Lucian Grainge have been mentioned as being beneficiaries of the violence that permeates the music. It is true that they have made a fortune promoting violent lyrics, but where did that fortune come from? In order for them to have received money, someone had to give it? Who did that? Who took the money out of their wallet and handed it over to Lyor Cohen? The truth is, the violence and glorification of gang culture dominates the genre because it sells. And you’re willing to buy it. 

It’s really simple. We can demand record companies stop releasing this content, but that won’t solve anything when the desire to hear it still exists within us. The fact that the substance of the music resonates with us is the problem. I don’t believe in censorship from an external source such as the government. I do believe in self-censorship, meaning I censor, or filter, what I allow into my mind and spirit, much like I do with my body. I don’t allow drugs, alcohol, or other poisons in my body. Therefore, I don’t allow poisonous content to enter my mind and spirit.  

We can’t hold artists or record companies accountable if we refuse to hold ourselves to the same standards. It’s like people complaining about social media algorithms. They say they are deliberately feeding us degenerate content, something I believe is true to a certain extent, but they are only feeding you content you stop to watch, what you click on, what you like. In essence, you determine the algorithm, just like you determine the algorithm of your life. 

There’s a verse in the Qur’an which states: “And Satan will say ˹to his followers˺ after the judgment has been passed, “Indeed, Allah has made you a true promise. I too made you a promise, but I failed you. I did not have any authority over you. I only called you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; blame yourselves.” (Ibrahim 14:22). It is said that humans who refused to follow God will blame Satan for their misdeeds. But Satan sets the record straight by saying he just suggested, it was YOU who made the decision to heed his suggestions. 

The same is true for us when it comes to hip-hop. We want to blame everyone but the people who are feeding the problem, a problem that wouldn’t exist if we didn’t fuel it with our dollars. This is why I’m saying it’s time to cancel hip-hop until hip-hop makes content that reflects our values.

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

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