Tag Archives: Gun Violence

Acid Rap: Chance The Rapper’s Good Ass Job

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The first time I heard Chance the Rapper’s voice, it was on the intro to his latest mixtape Acid Rap, appropriately titled “Good Ass Intro.”  With this perfect blend of joy, rasp, and charisma, Chance interrupts the gospel-swoon background to announce: “We back, and we back, and we back….”

I knew, after only ten seconds, that this was a man who was happy to be alive.   Ecstatic that he’s finally emerging as a new voice in hip-hop.  Thankful that he can financially support his mother.  And by the end of the song, confidently content that: “this your favorite fucking album and ain’t even fucking done.”

In a style that many rappers attempt but few can master, Acid Rap is full of self-praise. It’s a “Good Ass Intro,” he’s done a “Good ass job,” he’s “better than I was the last time,” it’s your “favorite fucking album,” that includes “your favorite song, you just don’t know the words.”

Sure, he’s tripping balls on acid right now, but can you blame him?  Chance is alive, he’s not in jail, and he has emerged as one of the best new rappers on the scene, thanks to his original sound, hilarious ad-lib, well-chosen sampling, and witty lyricism.  Coming from a city that tallied more deaths than Afghanistan last year, I think he has the right to rejoice.

But as all acid trips go, there’s a handful of loneliness, mistrust, and abandonment on Chance’s mind.  On “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” he yearns for familial affection, looking back on his childhood days when life was simpler; his family was close, and he wasn’t afraid to hug his grandmother without putting visine in his eyes, or get a kiss from his mother without reeking of cigarettes.

But Chance is grown up, now.  Despite burning up a fair amount of his brain cells, he’s still cognizant enough to recognize the tragic stench of death in his hometown.  On “Pusha Man,” Chance takes us “to a land where the lake made of sand, and the milk don’t pour, and the honey don’t dance and the money ain’t yours.”

It’s not the Israel that God promised Moses–try Chiraq.  And if you’re patient enough to wait through the silence following “Pusha Man,” you’ll be rewarded even more tales of fear and murder and crooked cops on the mixtape’s secret track “Paranoia:”

They merking kids, they murder kids here

Why you think they don’t talk about it? They deserted us here

Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at? Somebody get Katie Couric in here

Probably scared of all the refugees, look like we had a fucking hurricane here

Really, though, where the fuck is Matt Lauer?  While The Today Show is busy reporting on the latest fashion trend, or interviewing a rescued white girl, there are hundreds of young black men dying from gun violence in our inner cities.  While school shootings are mourned across the nation, inner-city schools provide the only glimpse of shelter for many of today’s youth.  The media spotlight has consistently avoided the tragic genocide and mass incarceration of black teens.

But who needs Matt Lauer when we have Chance the Rapper.  He’s here to report that, while he has successfully escaped the dangers of his hometown, his peers are dying from Chicago’s summer heat:

And I ponder what’s worse between knowing it’s over and dying first

Cause everybody dies in the summer

Wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it’s spring

I heard everybody’s dying in the summer, so pray to God for a little more spring

This third verse in “Paranoia” is as telling as it is haunting.  It’s springtime, and the summer is approaching, so he’s saying his goodbyes.  He’s already accepted that hundreds of his city’s youth, and probably a handful of his friends, will die in the coming season.  He’s heartbroken.  He’s perplexed.  But he’s brutally frank.  If only spring could last forever, perhaps Chicago wouldn’t lose another hundred teens.

Acid Rap is much more than a blissful hallucination.  We see Chance bounce seamlessly between pure joy and sadness.  Between mourning and thankfulness.  Paranoia and confidence.  We see the duality hidden in the life of a newly successful black man.  A man who can’t help but rejoice in his triumph, but refuses to forget the calamity he has narrowly escaped.

I’m excited to hear what Chance has to offer in the future.  He’s already established himself as a thought-provoking, innovative artist in an industry full of rappers with a get-rich-and-brag mentality.  For now, I think we can certainly reaffirm Chance’s claim.  So far, he’s done a good ass job.

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Thoughts on Gun Violence, Hip-Hop, and the Hood.

In the aftermath of the tragic Newton Elementary School shooting, we are, as a nation, attempting to recover from the traumatic shock of such a terrible event.  A collective cry in favor of stricter gun control has emerged from the tears and bewilderment.  Here I am wondering why it took the death of 20 children and six teachers, and the shooter’s own mother for us to finally call for stringent gun control. We have children dying every day from gun violence in urban communities in senseless fashion.  We have a video game culture that promotes opening fire with assault weapons on crowds of oncoming humans.  Yes, we have a huge problem with gun violence in the United States, but why have we waited for an elementary school shooting to ignite urgency?

Ravaged by gang violence and crime, many of our nation’s urban neighborhoods face the tragedy of senseless murder on a daily basis. Whereas we were rocked as a nation from the Sandy Hook massacre, families in city limits face the constant fear of gun violence with no end in sight.  Chicago, for example, faced 36 homicides in the month of November, 33 of which were at the face of a gun barrel; that’s not even a high-mark statistic.  November was actually one of the safer months, with August calling in 57 bodies, 49 of them from bullets.  I’m not trying to minimize the tragedy of Sandy Hook, but there are two very different reactions to gun violence, differentiating school shootings and gang violence.  When a white man murders 20 children, we cry for gun control.  Yet, when gang violence causes over 400 black-on-black murders in Chicago, we blame black culture and hip-hop music?

And yet, the NRA and its army of second amendment disciples continue to spew their argument for liberal access to firearms. The most entertaining argument I’ve heard is, to paraphrase, “if everyone had a gun for protection, the shooter would’ve been stopped much earlier.”  Ah, so we’ve gotten to the point where we should arm elementary school teachers (and perhaps, the promising sharpshooters of the next generation) to prevent school shootings?  Certainly not.

The thing is, many of the Americans who stand against gun control are the same people who blame hip-hop music for perpetuating a culture of urban gun violence. To these people, I say listen to the music that you consistently blame to deter attention from the real problem of remarkably easy access to firearms. Then, maybe you’ll discover that we already have an relevant example of what happens when everyone has a firearm for their so-called “personal protection” in urban communities.  Clashing gangs have their members armed with weapons to protect themselves against enemy fire, but all that results is murderous crossfire.

Hip-hop doesn’t get a free pass from perpetuating inner-city violence, but it certainly shouldn’t take all the blame.  Crime didn’t come from hip-hop, but music can certainly glorify and magnify the reality of gang violence.  Rappers can also be, in a sense, reporters of crime from the streets, going along with Chuck D’s claim that hip-hop is “the Black CNN.” Just as hip-hop could take more responsibility to criticize gun violence, we could take more action as listeners.  The fact that gun violence is glorified is not a problem of hip-hop, but rather a problem of gun prevalence in urban communities.

We can continue to blame our nation’s “culture of gun-violence,” but in reality, the only action that will effectively reduce the violence is a firm set of restrictions on gun control.  Whether these guns get into the hands of young brainwashed gang members in the inner-city, or a troubled man who intends to shoot up a school of children, they are equally damaging weapons that rob innocent lives. We can continue to point fingers at hip-hop music and blame some vague problem with our nation’s gun culture, or we can take action now, and ensure that assault weapons stop hitting the streets, for the sake of innocent children in the inner-city and the suburbs.

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