In the continuing celebration of hip-hop’s influence and sustainability for the last half century or so, all the voices and context are not of the positive kind. Many of the early rappers who achieved some fame and notoriety (and avoided death) are regularly disdainful of the current iteration of rhythmic wordsmiths, repeatedly calling them mumble artists who manufacture or copy someone else’s beats on a laptop, but who then don’t articulate much of anything---just make mouth noise, disrespecting hip-hop culture itself along the way. So said Eric B. and Rakim recently. Without calling out specific wordsmiths currently on the radio, Eric B. and Rakim called them all “a mob of mumblers who don’t seem to even try to create meaningful change through words and verses."
Even worse, a significant amount of the new breed seem to have become jailbait, as many in the last few years have become the subject of Rico cases that have put them in the penitentiary for long stretches. Generally, these situations are not for political advancement or trying to raise the consciousness of the people, or urging people to exercise their voting rights or anything like that. Instead, the young rappers, Young Thug, for example, seem to continually sacrifice themselves to the authorities by bragging about actual killings, beat-downs, robberies and other thug life, on records played for the public.
Citing statistics that show more than 90 former rappers having been killed, usually by other young Black men, media shows like “The Breakfast Club” repeatedly comment on the carnage. They often identify New York as the deadliest city for rappers, followed closely by Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, and Atlanta.
Also important to note during this period, is that during rap music’s 50 + years of significance, more and more Black folk have attended and completed law school training. Fani Willis, the now famous Fulton County, Ga prosecutor made her bones prosecuting rap artists and others who made music videos about killing, maiming and otherwise trying to eliminate street rivals. In 2022, Willis’ office indicted over 28 rap music affiliates, including prominent artist and YSL label owner Young Thug, for violating Georgia’s RICO Act. The indictment cited one of YSL’s main acts, Gunna, and his appearances in the music videos “Take it to Trial,” “Ski,” and “Fox 5” as overt acts in furtherance of an alleged criminal enterprise.
This trend is not only noteworthy to rappers, the fact that many additional Black college grads have gone on to finish law school during rap’s “golden era” is also news for the current gaggle of court cases involving Donald Trump, and at least one of them may prove catastrophic to Mr. Trump’s political career outside the walls of a prison. The importance of this development almost changed the title of this present article.
It is Fani Willis again, a Black woman prosecutor who has charged and arrested Mr. Trump in Georgia and brought a RICO charge against him; it is also a Black female judge who is supervising the January 6th case against Mr. Trump and may ultimately be the one to remand him to a prison cell. Further, it is a Black female prosecutor---the New York State Attorney General, no less-----who may prevail in getting the Trump organization barred from engaging in any further business in the state of New York (goodbye Trump Tower), and a Black NYC prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, who may send Mr. Trump to jail for financial crimes against New York.
The celebration of 50 years of rap involves more than meets the eye. Legal and other changes are indeed upon us.
This is whether we are ready or not.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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