Black Rappers Are Not Your Murderous, Drug-Dealing Scapegoats

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27:  Jay-Z, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Swizz Beatz and  DJ Khaled attend Roc Nation THE BRUNCH at One World Observatory on January 27, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

Black Rappers Are Not Your Murderous, Drug-Dealing Scapegoats

Raven-Symoné took a shot at black rappers in a post on Instagram.

Published February 6, 2018

Childhood television starlet and former host of The View Raven-Symoné is letting her self-hate show again.

After trading in her African heritage for a shiny, new “American” girl upgrade and echoing white America’s rhetoric of oppression against anyone with a “ghetto” name, the Atlanta-bred actress dove headfirst into the sunken place, and tried dragging hip-hop down with her.

What could have been an opportunity to champion Black excellence, Raven wasted as a cheap shot for stale, Black stereotypes disguised as constructive criticism on a photo from Jay-Z’s annual Roc Nation brunch. Top flight fraternity of rap leaders like Hov, Diddy, T.I. and Swizz Beatz are pictured with other industry notables raising a celebratory toast in camaraderie. But, Raven decried a more threatening implication, disgracing the “so-called success” (as the post satirizes) of the photographed men as refrigerated talent of hip-hop’s “drug dealing, pimping, murdering other Black men and disrespecting Black women” debauchery.

Albeit misinformed, Raven’s implication is concrete: sins of the streets should not be inspired as Black mens’ code-cracking formulas for wealth and prosperity. However, that photo, those men, and her point are disjointed. The errs of their former, pre-elitism lifestyles were never catalysts to fame and fortune, but convictions that motivated their hunger for more. For better.

Had Raven used the same hand she so often reaches for Black damnation with to grasp a deeper understanding of Black elevation instead, she’d realized that they are, in fact, antitheses of the very stereotypes she’s cursed.

Before his trophy wall towered with 21 Grammys and his bank account flooded with multi-millions, Jay-Z’s Marcy Projects upbringing afforded him nothing more than a hard knock life.

Slanging dope and running the slums of Brooklyn granted him all the hood riches the streets have to offer. However, it would only take him so far. After shooting his own brother over stolen jewelry at 12 years old and serving three years probation for stabbing one of his industry affiliates at 30, 48-year-old Hov laments, but does not hide, his hustler’s history. Instead, he pours regret over it in tracks like “Kill Jay Z” from his landmark opus 4:44. He secures college trust funds for young, Black children suffering the loss of a parent, a reality that’s far too common and familiar in disadvantaged communities. He sits down with political stakeholders like Governor Andrew Cuomo of his New York stomping grounds to urge criminal justice reform – –the same grounds he escaped from and witnessed the suffering of Black citizens at the hands of institutional racism.

Another glass-raiser in the photo, Atlanta’s King of the South, Tip, isn’t far off.

The Rubberband Man ditched his high school graduation cap for a head start in the drug workforce, hustling narcotics and piling street profits by the pound even before the age of 14. Amid several drug and weapons arrests throughout his rap tenure, Tip has also used his clout to bolster advancements of not only the Black community, but other important causes. In 2010, Tip established “For the Love of Our Fathers” to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and launched his “Give Like a King” campaign to aid America’s veterans homelessness population. And like Hov, regrets of his previous lifestyle found an outlet in his lyricism for reflection, rather than raving:

Mistakes made on this road to wealth
I still ain't forgave myself
Ay, what I am today
I made myself but I still ain't forgave myself
For runnin to the grave getting closer to death
I still ain't forgave myself
For anyone who ever wondered how I felt
I still ain't forgave myself

— T.I., “Still Ain’t Forgave Myself” (2001)

You see, Raven, the reality for street-bred Black men kicking down America’s doors to prosperity aren’t the Disney fairy tales America’s “post-racial society” magic promised. Jay-Z, T.I., Diddy, Swizz Beatz, Jim Jones, Yo Gotti and the other rap luminaries you lazily type-casted into Black America’s villains circle are still deserving of spaces in art, music, literature and expression — flaws of sinner’s past and all. A more palpable foundation for which your rationale could have stood on might have been white America’s disgraceful Black male incarceration rate, which imprisons them at six times the rate of white men, or how marijuana arrests, which Black men are also arrested for more than any other racial group, outnumber arrests made for violent crimes.

Maybe then, before you scapegoated all of Black America’s problems onto hip-hop, you might fathom what it took for America to box rap’s Blackness into drug-dealing, women-disrespecting, ruthless murder music and what it means for these men to bring the Black community out of it.

Written by Diamond Alexis

(Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

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