an open letter to young warriors
October 6, 2009, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


i did not want to weigh in on the derrion albert sitauation because i honestly did not know what to say. but today i was lucky enough to stumble across a cnn interview of nas conducted by don lemon.

the interview opens with an excerpt from the 1999 track “shoot em’ up,” in which a young nas raps graphically about senseless violence. tens year later, following the horrific slaughter of 16 year old derrion albert, lemon asks nas to weigh in on his lyrics and voice his opinion as to whether or not hip hop has glorified these type of actions. 

lemon’s stance is evident throughout the interview. he clearly believes that such explicit lyrics only serve to further deteriorate the minority community. (i do not want to put words in his mouth, but his feelings are obvious). i will admit that i once leaned towards lemon’s opinion. there is no reason that we should label something that perpetuates stereotypes, incites violence, and continues an endless cycle of self-destruction and self-loathing, as entertainment (no matter how hard the beat is). but i was never one to point a finger a hip hop, relinquishing all of the blame on an industry simply designed to supply the consumer’s demand. this kind of violence, especially when dealing with youth, comes from a far more complex and varied collection of sources, as nas goes on to point out. 

when asked if he thought that his music influenced youth violence, nas made a comment that i have been analyzing (mostly in class as opposed to taking notes) all day. he says,

“no. not at all, because violence was here, it’s the law of the land…if you look at history, violence and war has been the things that built this country…a rap song influencing violence in the 21st century is a joke.”

i personally don’t think that music has no influence what so ever, but i think that nas makes an excellent point. for years, institutions have used hip hop as a scapegoat for murders, discrimination, and illness within the black community (and i say black community because i am black and can only speak for the environment in which i was raised and am a part of). clearly, there has been a blatant disregard of the historical contributors that prompt people to act in violent ways. children play cowboys and indians, not biggie and tupac. a person who has no predispostion towards an action, is unlikey to let a song drive them towards acting against their instincts. similarly to a man who believes that beating women is wrong, will not let a tv show depicting the act drive him to abuse his spouse. if the seed is never planted it will never grow. however, with that being said, i do believe that hip hop is greatly desensitizing our generation to such acts. how many times have we heard songs about finding “another body dead in the gutter?” i don’t know about you, but i was raised in a quiet middle class community in connecticut, where a girl getting pregnant is front page news. but for some reason, i never find myself appalled or grief stricken by these lyrics, simply because i hear them all the time. i rarely find myself deeply moved by graphic news stories and barely pay attention as death tolls continue to rise around the nation. and we are ALL guilty of it. 

at the end of the day, there is likely very little that will change about pop culture in regards to violence. movies will still be gory and music will still be salacious. i do not think that nas should start writing nursery rhymes to make up for years of violent songs. in fact. i am not purposing anything, because there is no way that one person can evaluate a world full of people and provide a definitive answer to their issues. however, i do think that every person, in every walk of life, currently and in years to come, should hold themselves and their peers accountable for their words and their actions. who knows, perhaps if someone had said something to the young men who brutally  murdered derrion albert, or had reached out to the crowd that passively watched on, there would be one less mother burying her child. 



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