From a chubby-faced young’un to the rugged man I am today, music has always had a place in my heart with rap being the genre of choice.
I still remember listening to 50 Cent’s “Get Rich Or Die Tryin” repeatedly on my Sony Walkman, during my final year of Primary school – Nothing better than, “Many men wishing death uponnn meee” to get you through your Year 6 SATS.
2020 and my Sony Walkman is a distant memory. Music streaming services have enabled unlimited access to music at our fingertips, long gone are the days of flicking through CD folders.
As the years go by, I’ve started to develop body pains that my 11-Year-old self would’ve laughed at. Whilst the aches and pains of adulthood set in, so does a better understanding of those explicit lyrics we all know and love.
With Lockdown striking London back in March, relentless hours of scrolling through YouTube ensued. While browsing everyone’s favourite app, I stumbled across Chicago rapper “King Von”.
I was blown away by his outlandish lyrics and fluid storytelling; the sky was the limit for the O’Block rapper.
Fast forward to November, and “Von” was tragically killed on the night of his first album release party. His debut album “Welcome to O’Block” peaked at number 5 on the US Billboard 200.
Over the past two years, the Hip-Hop community has suffered immensely with the horrific murders of iconic rappers, Nipsey Hussle, Pop Smoke, and most recently King Von.
Leading to today’s question… Is being a rapper a dangerous occupation?
“MITCH CAUGHT A BODY ABOUT A WEEK AGO, WEEK AGO!” Bobby Shmurda’s debut single “Hot Boy” was an instant street anthem, echoing from the streets of New York to a global audience. “Hot Boy” peaked at number six on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Immediately upon the release of “Hot Boy” back in July 2014, the main questions were “Was he really selling crack from the fifth grade?” and most importantly… “Where did his hat go?”.
Shmurda’s authentic, honest depiction of life on the streets of New York, saw him catapult to fame – a star was born.
Unfortunately, alongside Shmurda’s new celebrity status came scrutiny from the New York Police Department. Shmurda and his GS9 crew were being investigated months prior to his overnight success, “Hot Boy” was the cherry on the cake for the NYPD.
Retired police detective Derrick Parker nicknamed New York’s “hip-hop cop”, had previously said regarding the arrest, “The police really fixated on him and really wanted to bring down his organisation”.
I guess the “hip – hop police” isn’t just a myth…
December 2014, five months on from the release of “Hot Boy”, Shmurda was arrested alongside members of his GS9 group. The Brooklyn rapper was charged with conspiracy to murder, reckless endangerment, and possession of a weapon.
The rapper who was on the brink of saying goodbye to the streets after signing a record deal with Epic Records was sentenced to seven years in jail.
A fellow GS9 associate of Shmurda – Santino Boderick faces a hefty sentence of 117-130 years in jail for his involvement in the gang activity – YIKES!
Many of the rappers we love today, simply discuss the environment they were once in or currently still find themselves in. Hip – Hop is seen as a get-out card for the majority of aspiring rappers, the songs fans are entertained by are sadly true reflections of the life some rappers face.
For the few that luckily escape due to their talent, the hope is their past doesn’t catch up with them. Be it from the law or past feuds.
“Rap and trap there’s a thin line, one hit away to being a number one star or one brick away from being a number on a card”. UK rap artist, K-Trap’s latest album “Street Side effects” illustrates the difficult scenario of being torn between music and street life.
A rapper on the cusp of signing a major record deal maybe currently struggling to pay the rent. Any beefs a rapper may have, are not forgotten about because of a few million YouTube views, to the contrary, beefs are probably intensified with viral success.
Jim Jones a legend in American Hip-Hop controversially once stated in an interview, “being a rapper is more dangerous than being a soldier”. The We Fly High rapper was referring to all the friends he has lost in the rap scene to violence and jail time.
The real ones will recall using Jim Jones on Playstation 3’s Def Jam Icon, battering opponents to the dirty bass of classic single We Fly High – BAAALLLIIINNN
US drill rapper Fivio Foreign echoed Jones’s statement in a passionate tweet not long after the passing of Chicago rapper King Von. “Rappers are the most targeted on the planet earth…Targeted by police, by other rappers, by media”
Fivio Foreign’s passionate tweet – Few days after the fatal shooting of King Von
Now in this new era of opps and thots, we still have rappers that exemplify rap isn’t as dangerous as some believe.
Award-winning rappers Jay-Z, J.Cole, Lil Baby, and Kendrick Lamar all rose from their unfortunate circumstances to global fame and fortune. Narrating in their lyrics the importance of education and racial awareness, becoming spokesmen for their communities while empowering the youth.
“Rap isn’t dangerous, the way you move is dangerous, the way you act is dangerous, the people you keep around you might be dangerous”.
Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka went on an explosive rant online, disagreeing with the sentiments left by Jim Jones and Fivio Foreign, following the untimely passing of New York drill pioneer Pop Smoke.
Bringing it closer to home, while discussing the lifestyle changes a rapper may have to implement as they advance in their career, West London rapper Linefizzy, who has had a phenomenal breakout year releasing his incredible debut project “Jazz Call” with singles “Lately” and “Different”, too believes rap is not dangerous.
“Personally, I wouldn’t change much as I love authenticity from fellow rappers, luckily for me my artistry coincides with my personality! I do think there are things that are better kept hush just for the sanity of an artist and most importantly a human. For the foreseeable future I will probably engage even more with people, as I feel this has been slightly forgotten about in the UK scene – especially within the Grime/Rap communities”.
As London’s winter weather showed no remorse, we then travelled across to the Northside of London to meet London rapper and producer EZ, his thoughts on the dangers in the industry echoed those of Lizefizzy and Waka Flocka.
“Being a rap artist is not dangerous, I believe it is a platform for upcoming artists to showcase their ability and steer away from the distractions of the streets. During my teenage years a lot of my friends gravitated towards the streets, fascinated with the supposed glamour it had to offer. I focused on my passion and craft of music, showcasing my capabilities to live audiences.
“There are several ways to ensure your safety, how you act in and around public is important. One of my musical inspirations M Huncho is a prime example of this, wearing a mask while performing allows him to carry out his everyday life with no hassle from the public”.
Both Linefizzy and EZ are definitely ones to watch in 2021…
In under a decade, youth services across the UK have suffered a staggering 70% in cuts, resulting in little to no investment in lower income areas. A survey carried out by “Musician’s Union” revealed, that children with families earning over £48,000 were twice as likely to learn a musical instrument as to those earning under £28,000.
These cuts have severe repercussions for the working class – where the majority of rappers come from. This decade of cuts has coincided with both a rise in crime, in the capital, and the boom of the music UK scene.
In reality, the longer someone remains in a defunded community, they will become highly susceptible to dangers and allure of the street life. The mammoth sum of money rap generates, provides the platform for Rappers to create better opportunity for themselves, those dearest to them and their communities.
Subsequently, micro-economies are created within their communities, enabling a better future for those coming from similar backgrounds.
This fame and fortune though, as has been mentioned, can be a platform which amplifies the everyday issues a rapper might have in their personal life or in their communities. Communities which have been let down by their Government through a decade of austerity.
So, to you, yes YOU reading this. Do YOU believe rapping is a dangerous occupation?
Writer: Hassan El-Gendy
Editor: Berti Buxhovi