Why the link between rap and violence is becoming increasingly alarming
Florida rapper XXXTentacion had just left a motorcycle dealership on June 18 and was about to drive off when two masked men approached his car, robbing and fatally shooting him, according to CBC News. It was an incident as tragic and heart-wrenching as it was controversial.
While devoted fans mourned the loss of their favourite artist, others showed no sympathy, largely due to the rapper’s cumbersome heap of criminal charges which range from harassment to domestic violence. But this isn’t the first time a rapper has been in hot water in the eyes of the law. According to Complex Magazine, in 2016 Famous Dex was sent to jail after hotel footage was released showing him beating his girlfriend; something similar happened in a case earlier this year when NBAYoungboy was indicted on assault and kidnapping after a haunting video of him with his partner at the time surfaced on the web, according to TMZ. TMZ also revealed that rapper Tekashi69 currently faces up to three years of jail time due to sexual misconduct—and these are among the most celebrated voices in today’s rap scene. Many of these rappers came up from nothing and are riding off a wave of instant success, which is great. But this also means the spotlight can be placed on people who don’t realize the power they hold, or simply take advantage of it.
I believe the escalation of violence in the lives of rap artists is a result of the genre being too aggressive in its present state. This might seem like an absurd claim—after all, isn’t rap music supposed to be hostile from time to time? But I believe that, nowadays, rap music and culture condones (or perhaps even encourages) toxic behaviour, resulting in an escalation of violence, exposing both the artists and their listeners to danger.
I believe that in the age of social media, an artist’s music and their personality are more prevalent in a holistic sense; rappers need to market themselves on platforms like SnapChat and Instagram as much as they need to advertise their actual tracks to gain traction.
It is a time when anybody with a laptop, a mic and a SoundCloud account has the potential to turn heads, and rappers often take a multitude of measures to ensure the spotlight stays on them. This includes changing their appearance with dyed hair or face tattoos, flexing new purchases (designer clothes, jewelry and cars, to name a few) or, of course, getting caught up in a public beef with another artist.
The latter I’ve noticed much too often in recent memory. With each new day, more rappers are livestreaming themselves and talking one another down in what feels more like a desperate publicity stunt than anything else. In a lot of cases, the talk is, well, just that: talk. But other times it gets physical, with one recent example taking place in our very own Montreal, between rappers Killy and Lil Xan after a storm of malicious tweets. Fights and in-person showdowns between rap artists are about as frequent as they are unsurprising; footage of these tussles go viral.
What scares me is that we live in a world where the fine line between entertainment and reality is becoming harder for people to distinguish. Violent behaviour makes the growing popularity of rap even more complex, as this genre has increased by 72 per cent in on-demand audio streaming in the last year, according to global information and measurement company Nielsen. This same company noted that, for the first time, rap surpassed rock as the most popular genre in the United States last year, with the vast majority of its listeners being young adults and teens.
I’m not trying to demonize rap—on the contrary, I’m trying to protect the music I love. Whether it’s the effortless tongue-in-cheek way Lil Pump approaches his bars or Kanye’s hilariously egotistical one-liners, I believe rap is an unfailing method of getting people to vibe together and providing something to talk about. But rappers should be viewed as entertainers, not idols. They have stories and motives that are unknown to us, and it is of vital importance that any rap listener, seasoned or novice, take this into consideration before putting on their headphones.
Graphic by Wednesday Laplante