Rappers And Hip Hop’s Elephant In The Room: America’s Epidemic Of Gun Violence
The death of popular rapper Takeoff underscores a uniquely American problem – gun violence.
Add the name of Takeoff, a member of the popular rap trio Migos, to the ever-growing list of rappers, recent and past, tragically and violently killed.
The initial reaction to the Nov. 1, 2022, shooting death of Takeoff, born Kirsnick Ball, was to blame rap music and hip-hop culture. People who engaged in this kind of scapegoating argue that the violence and despairing hopelessness in the music are the cause of so many rappers dying.
Even within hip-hop culture, the continued violent tragedies have led some artists, like Jim Jones and Fat Joe, to go so far as to claim that rap is the most dangerous profession and rappers are an endangered species.
It’s troubling. As Lupe Fiasco raps in “On Faux Nem,” “Rappers die too much.”
But as a rap artist and scholar, I always feel compelled to push back on the notion that the plague of American gun violence is unique to hip-hop culture or rap music. As a professor at the University of Virginia, I live in Charlottesville, a place that has recently been besieged by gun violence.
Like many places across the country, the city has seen an increase in shootings, and on the night of Nov. 13, 2022, the university campus was locked down for 12 hours, with students, faculty, and community members sheltering in place as police searched for a gunman who shot five people, killing three.
During the lockdown and for days afterward, I endlessly scrolled social media for updates. My phone incessantly chirped from text messages and the university’s emergency notifications.
I found myself frantically engaging in a ritual too familiar to far too many Americans of reading the texts and alerts and scrolling my phone for news. Part of this ritual, too, was sending students a message to let them know I’m available to talk or listen or try to answer questions. I shared the numbers and links of the professional counseling services offered by the university.
The lockdown was lifted on Nov. 14, shortly after police arrested the suspect in the campus shootings. On the same day, another man was arrested in Charlottesville for “concerning and threatening social media posts” against the university. The man, a convicted felon, was arrested on several weapons charges and possession of a controlled substance.