To Rap = To Fake?

In case you guys weren’t following it, T.I. was arrested the other day after being caught with a bunch of machine guns and silencers. Yeah, I know.

Jay Smooth has a great video about it, actually, but what I’d like to talk about is the dichotomy between implied violence and actual violence in hip hop.

To give you an idea of how tame violence can seem in a hip hop track, I have never once considered Dead Prez’s “Assassination” to be particularly violent. You probably don’t either– and it includes the lyric “Fuck the Bible, get on your knees and praise my rifle.” Explicit, premeditated, praised violence, right?

The fascinating thing is that, when this implied (though explicit) violence turns to real violence, we all of a sudden switch from being really impressed to being horrified.


I’ll admit to being victim of it myself– multiple times, in fact. We think violence is cool and that a rapper’s a big man for talking about having a gun, not being afraid to use it, etc. But when we realize he’s telling the truth, and he gets arrested, he becomes the object of ridicule.

It seems backwards to me.

I mean, these were machine guns, for Christ’s sake. But let’s admit it– we all think the violence in music is fake. If it were real, we would be horrified… right?





6 responses to “To Rap = To Fake?”

  1. CT Moore Avatar

    It reminds me of that scene in Office Space when the white-collar white boy is listening to gangsta rap on his way to work, but rolls up his windows and locks the doors when a “colored” guy walks by the car.

    It’s the same f**king thing with all violence in the media: we’ll pay $15 a head to wtch it on the big screen, but put our kids on Dr. Phil when they imitate it, and also wonder why things like Columbine happen.

    There are two different reasons to enjoy violent hip-hop: (1) because you’re a stupid punk kid who thinks crack and guns are cool; and (2) because, unfortunately, it echoes your own personal experience.

    The tragedy is that first leads to the latter. I’m a middle class white guy, and four people that I went to high school with (that I know of) are dead because of gang violence. I’ve lost track of how many have gone to jail.

  2. Andrew Avatar

    Hey, look! A real post!

    Incredible insight here. And you’re absolutely correct.

    I often wonder if the music’s content creates the culture or if it’s a byproduct of the culture. No one argues that rap and hip-hop was initially a byproduct of a cultural rebellion (as almost all great music is), but I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.

    Also, where do common sense, critical thinking and sound judgment fit in here? Or does it at all. Being another middle-class white guy doesn’t and never will put me in a position to come to any sort of conclusion.

  3. Julien Avatar

    That’s funny, guys. CT, I’ve told you that you remind me of someone… that person is Andrew. How weird that you both decided to comment.

  4. Christopher S. Penn Avatar

    Violence begets violence. No other reality. Violent thoughts lead to violent words lead to violent actions, and the more tools and implements you surround yourself with that promote violence, the more likely it is you’ll “cross over” from implied to very, very real, with very, very real consequences.

    The more our reality becomes a media-based reality, whether it’s through music, movies, Second Life, whatever, the more vulnerable we are to having our everyday lives influenced by our media. If we choose to load up our minds with violent movies, violent music, and violent simulated experiences, it should be no surprise to anyone that those are the resources our minds will draw upon in daily life.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  5. […] Julien Smith writes about the implied violence in rap music and real violence: when this implied (though explicit) violence turns to real violence, we all of a sudden switch from being really impressed to being horrified. […]

  6. Graham Tobias Avatar

    You know, I have seen Dead Prez cause a riot that resulted in a lot of violence, and flipped over/vandalized/robbed cop cars. Words have a lot of power.

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