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Hip-Hop Fridays: Listen Up, Poser Thugs by Chris Harris

There is this question I been asking myself for sometime now: Does contemporary rap inspire the violence on the real streets, or do the streets inspire contemporary rappers?

The question is becoming more of a mission to expose the truth, to me, more then just an interesting debate. I was born, raised, and am currently residing in one of the toughest ghettos in this nation, so I can provide any interested listeners with an inside track on the real deal.

I believe it is more a result of the environment and activities of street thugs across the country inspiring these "artists," more than the artist inspiring the thugs. The young and impressionable do get a rush listening to a song containing lyrics they can relate to, and are more inspired by the older, less impressionable thugs who aren't famous (or infamous) to anyone but their own neighborhood.

I can remember clearly,when the shift to the hip-hop trend was becoming official back in the late ‘90s. I can pinpoint the exact moment while I watched BET's version of MTV's “TRL.” I saw the youths almost dressed up in costumes as street kids. Now, this is the norm for many kids, even ones who are not from the inner city.

The thing is when a youth from an environment as savage as Detroit decides to dress up as a hood, then they will not be acting for long. I found out first-hand that the danger is real out here, and if you naively believe that sagging your pants and twisting your hat will make you a thug, then you are in for a rude awakening. The overwhelming majority of young hoods in this city are what I call “the real deal” or “true thugs” as opposed to the many posers around, who I call “hip-hop thugs” or “weekend thugs.”

The reality of this very serious situation is that the entity of violence and other crimes plaguing this nation’s inner cities precedes the trend of violent and criminal lyrics in hip-hop music. Elders in the hood will tell you that they grew up with gangs and brawls back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But the change came when cocaine not so mysteriously popped up in our communities, setting the stage for today’s war-zones.

Still, hip-hop did not start off violent. When hip-hop music came about it was all about “rockin’ the party,” bragging about all the material wealth you imaginatively had and how your rhyme skills were too much for any other MC.

This trend gave way to the one we now know today, which is: “I’ll kill you and your whole family, I sell 20 kilos of cocaine a day and I fornicate with all kinds of worthless women.”

Like I’ve said before, lyrics like these sell because 1) they have sold millions of records before and 2) because reality proves these activities are still prevalent. It will take something as drastic and miraculous as an entire change in the mentality of the people to change this trend that is destroying our cultures and communities.

So no, I don’t believe that the repetitive uncreative topics of violence and crime are the major culprit for violence in the inner city.

It goes much deeper than this. But it sure does not help. The youth are the future, and they act out what they see, hear and believe to be “the right way.” Unfortunately, to some, this is the only way to live.

Chris Harris is a staff writer for The South End. This article appears in The South End - The Student Voice of Wayne State University.

Chris Harris

Friday, April 28, 2006

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