Updated: Jan 10, 2022
“Drakeo the Ruler Dies at 28, Stabbed at Los Angeles Festival”. “YOUNG DOLPH DEAD AT 36, Shot And Killed In Memphis”. Headlines like these has been an unfortunate constant lately. Take out Young Dolph or Drakeo the Ruler, insert another rapper’s name, and it seems to fit way too easily into the headline. Rappers, on the come up, already with a foot in the game, or even superstars, dying young, a lot of times in a violent manner, and not being able to truly escape their past. It is one of the saddest things I have seen throughout my life. It happens way too often. It happens enough that at this point, so many people are numb to it.
I love hip hop. I love rap music. The culture, the sound, the talented individuals that make up this thing called hip hop. I love it all. It has been a part of my life since I can remember. The culture, the art of rapping, the rawness, and all the elements of hip hop represent something that is truly beautiful. It represents pain, struggle, poverty, purpose, self-expression, individuality, and so much more. It is a voice for the voice less. These artists represent community, the undervalued, underappreciated, and shine a light on the places and people in America (and now the world) that feel unheard. It is something that brings people together, makes people move, and makes you feel something deep within.
With everything that is good, there is the bad and the ugly. One of the ugliest aspects of the hip hop culture is the undercurrent of jealousy, envy, and hate that comes with the game. It is the worst part of the culture. What are the root causes? Well, how much time do you have? There are that many. Boosie summed it up as best as one could in the shortest way possible saying, “People are hypnotized by hatred.” He talked about how people see rappers they grew up with or from similar circumstances become popular, successful, and loved by a wide range of people. They see these people grow up the same way they did then obtain unimaginable amounts of fame, success, and money. The people that are watching this happen do not feel like they get the same opportunities that those rappers got. Even more so than that, they feel like they have not gotten the same love from the people around them that those people give to the rapper that came from where they did but blew up. That is one thing that can breed jealousy and envy that eventually turns into hate. Instead of being inspired, they feel like they have nothing to aspire to. So, the resentment sets in. All those feelings build up and develop into a mindset of “When I catch them slipping, watch what happens to them.”
It might not make sense to you. But think about it like this. Imagine growing up barely having a thing, never getting the chances you deserved, feeling unloved, and like nobody cares about you. All these factors are a driving force in your life that you never asked for or deserved. Do you see how your circumstances can cause you to become careless and cold hearted? You feel like you have nothing to lose. You feel like you have to inflict the same pain and hurt you have felt your entire life onto somebody else, especially when you see them doing better than you. Living better. Seeing them get everything you can only dream of. The love from people in your community that you have never gotten from those same people. Getting it so easily and effortlessly. At least that’s how it seems to you. Most people do not care, see, or know about the hustle, struggle, journey, and what it took for successful people to get to where they are at. You just know that you feel like you do not have a chance and will never get to where they are at no matter what you do. That mindset can put you in situations where you do not care about taking another person’s life, no matter who they are to the rest of the world.
Speaking on one aspect of this undercurrent is just scraping the surface. It does not even begin to explain why jealousy, hate, envy, and violence end so many rapper’s careers and lives way too soon. Rappers seem to get targeted and killed way too often. Whether it is over money, a failed robbery, an argument or dispute, past issues, affiliations, beef, etc., it has become a constant in the culture. Jim Jones said being a rapper is the most dangerous profession in the world. That can be discussed and debated as you please. But there is doubt that it is dangerous as fuck to be a rapper. Chinx Drugz died in a Porsche Panamera on his way to becoming a star. Pop Smoke was killed in a mansion in Los Angeles as he was popping off. Stacks Bundles was killed during a neighborhood dispute as he was becoming one of New York’s hottest rappers. Big L was killed in a drive by in his neighborhood. Proof died during a confrontation in his hometown. Young Dolph was killed in his hometown picking up cookies before he hosted an annual turkey drive that he had funded for years. XXXtentacion was followed and killed over a botched robbery after visiting a motorcycle shop to purchase a high-end bike. Tupac died at the height of his career. So did Biggie. Fabulous was shot in Manhattan in 2006 but survived. Cam’ron was shot in DC in 2005 after he left a performance then drove himself to the hospital. He survived. The circumstances (failed robbery, dispute, street ties, past beef, argument, etc.) that led to all these shootings and killings is different. But the root causes are the same: jealousy, envy, hate, and lack of respect for one another.
I do not know the answer to stop this from happening. I think the answer is bigger than the communities that these rappers come from. The problems do not begin or end with the shooter. Hate and jealousy were around long before hip hop was. What is sad is this. A rapper survives a rough childhood, everything thrown their way, and makes it out of their circumstances. They make a name for themselves, achieve success, make more money than they have ever seen in their lives, and begin to be able to live the life they always dreamed of. They start building a life for themselves, their family, children, and can give friends’ opportunities. Just as they begin to be able to put themselves in a better position, feel a weight start to lift off their shoulders, and make something of themselves, they get killed. Gone is the opportunity to create generational wealth for their family. Gone is the financial stability for their families and loved ones. Gone are the opportunities for their friends. Their dreams, career, and life are gone in an instant. Families are ruined. Lives are changed forever. The cycles continue. Think about all the young, talented individuals we have lost in hip hop to death and jail. It is a tragedy within itself.
To end on a more positive note, below is a poem by Tupac Shakur “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”. It touches on people who come from places people consider not so great and even with their imperfections (like a rose), they obtain greatness and success.
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature's law is wrong it learned to walk with out having feet. Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.