Posted on December 8, 2022

Rap Industry Leaders Say Hip-Hop Should Not Be the ‘Scapegoat’ for the Growing Violence

Candice Williams, NBC News, November 28, 2022

It’s a cycle on repeat: A beloved rapper is murdered. Family, friends and fans react online. The case is investigated yet typically goes unsolved. The hip-hop community calls for change, but there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the violence.

The recent shooting death of Migos rapper, Takeoff, on Nov. 1, has ignited a new conversation among artists and industry leaders. In order to disrupt this violent cycle and find possible solutions, they say, society must first stop blaming the hip-hop community, acknowledge that systemic issues have helped create the existing violence, and provide better options for Black inner-city youth to advance from broken systems.

“Hip-hop is culture,” said dead prez’s Stic, whose new book “The 5 Principles” touches on hip-hop’s journey toward well-being. “Hip-hop is BBoying breaking, emceeing, graffiti, knowledge of self, peace, love, joy, unity, having fun. That’s what hip-hop actually is. The violence we see in society is a product of the society. So I think hip-hop is the scapegoat for a lot of things.”

Since 2018, there have been at least two or more rappers per year killed as a result of gun violence. Studies looking at the life expectancy of rappers estimate that murder has been the cause of death of over 50% of dead rappers. They also show that their average age at the time of death was between 25 and 30 years old.

Some of those murders are now being explored in a new WE tv’s docuseries “Hip Hop Homicides,” which looks at the shooting deaths of rap artists including Pop Smoke, XXXTentacion and King Von. Van Lathan, the host of the series, told NBC News that even though he feels rap has become “more violent,” it’s also important to note that “violence has become more accessible.”

“You can see more violent stuff,” he said. “If you want to do violence to someone, you know where they’re going to be at — more than ever before. And some of the music, if I’m being honest, reflects that increased accessibility to violence.”

Still, Lathan knows that even with more opportunities to exact violence, the root of these actions have always been systemic.

“It’s very hard to evolve out of dysfunction,” he explained. “If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you’re going to develop some bad habits that carry over. The dysfunction and the sort of societal ills that we see are things that money doesn’t wash away. In some cases, money exacerbates some of these things.”

Although Lathan believes there should be more accountability in hip-hop from those who create the violence, rap artists can’t always be blamed for the violence that surrounds them or happens to them.


West Coast rapper Too $hort agreed, adding that a lot of the issues these young artists face are a result of a broken system that didn’t offer support.

“A lot of these kids lost their parents, their actual parents, to the war on drugs, the war on crime,” he said. “Their parents were taken away from the home, murdered, locked up, addicted, not there. And you have a lot of kids that raised themselves, they were raised by grandparents who couldn’t really do it the right way. Friends of the family, the brothers and sisters, uncles, aunties — like you have a broken community.”


The crack epidemic of the ’80s and early ’90s devastated Black communities, who, due to racial segregation and discriminatory practices, often resided in inner cities or low-income neighborhoods. The use of crack in these communities contributed to a higher murder rate of young Black men, an elevated rate of incarcerations and a lower life expectancy.


For inner city young people with little to no resources, rap became a viable career option to make it out of their neighborhood. In fact, for many young men, like college basketball star turned Grammy-nominated rapper Dave East, there were only two real possibilities: make it to the NBA or become a rap star.


However, as Stic noted, just because they make it out of the hood it doesn’t mean they’ve left the hood mentality behind. “As human beings, there’s skillful and unskillful. We have to manage our mind, our emotions, our resources, no matter what culture that we’re in. And if we don’t, it’s going to show up in destructive ways,” he said.


As those destructive ways have become more visible these days thanks to social media, rap industry leaders like Roc Nation’s senior vice president, Lenny Santiago, are actively working to address the violence and counter it.


But, Lenny said, it’s not easy to break through to a young artist who may feel they don’t need advice when they’ve already achieved material success.

“It’s hard to tell an 18-year-old, who’s making millions of dollars, or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, or a month, to do things differently,” he said. “When you have that money coming in, it’s almost like you always think it’s never gonna end. … You’re not trying to hear that advice that people are trying to give you. You’re not trying to hear, ‘You shouldn’t be going there’ or ‘You should be extra careful. He should have extra security, or you shouldn’t overspend on this … They’re looking at you like ‘Yeah, well, you’re just saying that because y’all don’t have it.’”