Tag Archives: self destruction

Hip-Hop Is Headed for Self Destruction

self destruction

“Self destruction, you’re headed for self destruction”

For those who can remember, these lyrics are from the iconic call to consciousness Hip-Hop song by KRS-1 along with host of other iconic Hip-Hop artists released in 1989. The song addressed the very serious issue of violence that began to plague Hip-Hop at the time and threatened to kill the culture. It was a smart move that changed the course of Hip-Hop for several years. Hip-Hop culture is killing itself once again but are today’s artists conscious enough to save Hip-Hop like the old school did?

It’s now been over 40 years since the first Rap songs gained airplay on top 40 radio stations in America. Over that time, Hip-Hop has grown to dominate the airwaves and produce countless Black millionaires and Billionaires. It is the number one music genre in the world, a voice for the youth, and a vehicle for oppressed people of all races to escape poverty in circumstances where all hope seems to be lost. Unfortunately, Hip-Hop has become plagued with violence and gangsterism.

To say that Hip-Hop was never associated with gangsterism would be wrong because Hip-Hop actually helped to cool the gang violence that existed in New York, the birthplace of Hip-Hop, during the beginning stages of its development in the 1970s. Instead of physically fighting, gangs would settle their beefs through Break Dancing competitions, Graffiti writing, Rapping, and Disc-jockeying. Competitions were set up in all the Hip-Hop genres so gangs from all over New York could settle their differences in non violent ways.

The friendly rivalries soon changed however and by the mid 80s gang bangers were robbing Hip-Hop artists for their enormous Gold chains and other valuables. Artists were forced to associate themselves with Gangs from their own neighborhoods for protection. At the same time, artists also began to adopt the Black Consciousness movement of the time. This brought about a change in the lyrical content of Hip-Hop music. By 1989, conscious minded artistes such as BDP, Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, Heavy D, and many others came together on “Self Destruction” to deliver a warning to the Hip-Hop industry. 

In the early 90s another crisis hit the Hip-Hop industry when the glorifying of gangsterism made its way into the content of the music. Before that point, artists mostly made songs about their lyrical skills, their sex appeal, and their fashion. Now they were Rapping about shooting the Police and their gang related rivals. The Police took notice and formed Hip-Hop surveillance units that monitored artists and their lyrics. They also targeted, harassed, and arrested artists for no reason other than intimidation.

The Police petitioned politicians, record companies, and radio stations to stop playing Rap music because it “incited violence”, they claimed. By the mid nineties even Black owned radio stations had stopped playing most Rap. Then after the Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur got killed over senseless regional rivalries artists got the message and a lighter style of Rap music began to get airplay and gain popularity. Gangsters were now firmly entrenched in the Hip-Hop industry forming record companies to wash drug money. 

Over the next 10 years, gang affiliated record company owners, managers, and producers gained control of most of the artists. They also gained influence on radio, promotions and performance venues in numerous reasons of America. By 2010 however, the whole music industry began to change. New technology as well as the emergence of Social Media enabled artistes to make and distribute music without record company backing.

They say gangsters always want to be rappers and rappers always want to be gangsters, well 2010 and beyond became the perfect time for the two groups to merge and make money. Gang members began to make music and money flowed faster and easier than dealing drugs on the corner. Unfortunately, becoming an Hip-Hop artist isn’t a pass in gang culture. Chains still get snatched and people still get robbed, extorted and beaten up when artists get caught slacking. This has been the culture of the new generation of Hip-Hoppers for the past 10 years.  

Gang affiliated artists from rival neighborhoods and cities are attacking each other without fear of consequence based on the eye for an eye prerogative of gang culture. They taunt each other while promoting their gang affiliations in their songs. Many of them have made their songs a celebration of their gangster lifestyle marring the two cultures so closely that many of them are willing to murder rival artists over silly things such as gang affiliation, disrespectful lyrics or simple jealousy.          

2020 has become the deadliest year so far in the new independent HipHop era. Dozens of upcoming artists have been murdered by rival artistes and their gangs. The police don’t seem to care as they once did as long as the violence remains gang related. Politicians aren’t implementing policies to address the violence because nobody is petitioning them about it. The only people left who can encourage Hip-Hop artists to save the culture from the violence that is killing it are the industry insiders.

At this point however, there doesn’t seem to be anyone interested in making a move to stop the violence. I think the general consensus among the movers and shakers in the industry might be that Hip-Hop is too big of a cultural force to stop. They better think again because there is nothing too big to stop. There will come a time when enough people will get fed up with the shootings and killings and begin to vilify the whole culture again.

The general public will move to get Hip-Hop banned off social media, streaming services, and out of performance venues. Perhaps only then will the violent-prone wannabe gangsters in Hip-Hop wise up and stop trying to destroy it.