In 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office commented on local rapper Chief Keef’s halt to a hologram concert in Chicago saying the Englewood native was “an unacceptable role model” who “posed a significant risk to public security â.
But while Emanuel used his platform to punch Keef, he was a less than perfect role model himself. Three months later, the world would understand that he was the main participant in the cover-up of the 2014 video of local teenager Laquan McDonald being murdered by a Chicago cop.
When it comes to explaining the city’s heart-wrenching violence, local rappers and their lyrics are a frequent target, as are radio stations – primarily WGCI-FM (107.5) and Power 92-FM (92 , 3) – and the record companies that traditionally present them.
But many in the community say the aforementioned groups are practical scapegoats and that the real problem is the historic failure of city officials to rectify systemic problems within marginalized communities.
Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a former executor of Chicago’s notorious street gang, Gangster Disciples, is among those who believe that music providers play a role in the increase in violence. He pits the management of violent hip-hop against the treatment of rapper DaBaby, whose set Lollapalooza was canceled after making homophobic remarks during a previous concert.
“Why aren’t we apprehensive when rappers use music and social media to say they’re going to kill someone?” Bradley asked. “Jay-Z and Kanye [West] had a song “Murder II Excellence” that wasn’t played so much because it was about stopping the violence. “
Meanwhile, there is a lot of academic work linking rap – and other musical genres – to violence. In 2003, researchers at Iowa State University and the Texas Department of Human Services reported findings that aggressive musical lyrics increase aggressive thoughts and feelings, which could perpetuate aggressive behavior.
Englewood rapper Daweirdo calls reviews “bullshit”
and blame it on a âlack of leadershipâ within communities marred by violence.
âI see it every day when I was growing up as a kid; it was never the music. There still weren’t enough frontline leaders, âsaid Daweirdo, who created the Stop Teen Violence music tour, where he performed at many local high schools. âMusic illuminates a lot of things. People have their own way of telling us stories with music. I am the narrator or journalist in my neighborhood. â¦ The stories I listen to from the kids I sit with in my neighborhood are never about music; it is always a question of survival.
While radio stations and record labels pay the price for critics, the recent crop of artists does not depend on them to gain notoriety. They cut out the middleman by uploading their music to YouTube, using the DIY approach.
Rapper South Side Rooga’s âGD Anthem,â a tribute to gangster followers that uses abbreviations to name various gangs, has 7 million views on YouTube. Rooga, the cousin of slain rappers FBG Brick and FBG Duck, partly raps:
Oh, you say you GDK? F — is that wrong with you?
He said: “Because you GDN, I can’t do a song with you” “
And if the comics find out, they’ll put me on the news
I’m like, “Shut up f- – – up, b- – – -, stop picking sides'”
Reach Media editor-in-chief JR Bang, formerly of 93.9 WKYS in Washington, DC, agrees with the premise of a critical look at YouTube.
âRadio is the oldest form of communication other than the telephone when you think about it, so it’s easy to blame radio,â Bang said. “When you look [93.9 WKYS] playlists, our playlist consists of the majority of people who don’t talk about [violent rap] it could be one of the two. In the case of Chicago, since I’m back, I barely hear we on our airwaves. But if I talk to a boyshort, he’d say, âYo, go to YouTube. “”
Power 92-FM personality Pharris Thomas says terrestrial radio is often seen as a âscapegoatâ because it is viewed by critics as much more accessible to criticism than streaming services.
âThe radio has actually made a conscious effort to clean up the music that goes on the airwaves from the on-air mixing shows,â Thomas said. âThey attack us because they can’t do anything to other platforms. If we don’t play some songs, they can go straight to YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. The radio is NOT the problem. Parents need to monitor what their kids are doing and where they are visiting on their phones.
Maze Jackson, host and owner of podcast creator WIIFTBP (What’s In It For Black People) Media, believes social media streaming websites – especially YouTube – that take advantage of rappers in death carry some of the responsibility when violent words turn deadly.
King Von’s post-death rise on the Billboard charts confirms Jackson’s claims that the slain rapper O Block posthumously owned four songs on the Billboard Hot 100 weeks after his death.
âThe benefits outweigh the dysfunction,â Jackson said. “I would like to highlight the likes of Lyor Cohen [YouTubeâs head of music], and the white disc frames that control urban culture. I have a dead artist and a YouTube channel with all this music that I can put out – I think it’s pretty insidious.
âCohen has been at the forefront of our culture, from Def Jam to now at the helm of YouTube Music. And when you look at all these places, it left a trail of death and destruction for black music; he never really uplifted our community.
YouTube declined to comment, but pointed out content restrictions in its community guidelines.
Vocalo-FM radio program director and DJ Ayana Contreras has a simple formula for checking the content.
“I don’t care if I know [the song] is going to be a big hit or No. 1 on the streets, âContreras said. âI think what’s more important is what kind of energy I want to use our platform to diffuse around the world. I don’t want to exclude any artist, because I think that artists contain multitudes like everyone else.
“I wouldn’t say that there are artists that we habit play, but there are definitely some records that we won’t play, and themes that we don’t want to elevate.