Where’s the Love for Chi-Raq City?
—In My Jay-z Voice.
“First the Fat Boys Break up….”
Although it is never digested well, violence has always been an alarm for help in America’s major cities. The 1965 Watts Riots gave America a good whiff of some the pent up anger and frustration the black community endured. The looting, fighting, and rebelling were encouraged through mob mentality. Everything was right about it, but when it was over and the participants took stock of the devastation, everything was wrong about it. A vibrant black community was destroyed and the time it would take to rebuild the affected area was unclear. Though many community groups tried to nurture Watts, including the Black Panthers, restoring the neighborhood seemed like an impossible task. Even with government funding available progress was slow. Nonetheless, Watts still had a soul, and despite the slow recovery musicians from Stax Records and activists such as Jesse Jackson created an event called Wattstax to celebrate Watts’ endurance and give hope for its future. Stax Records were among a few record companies that were determined to use their celebrity to take stand against the unlawfulness of police brutality, race discrimination and restrictions placed in Watts. These musicians became a part of the story that motivate change.
“Then the Fugees Gonna Break Up…”
Perhaps rage in Watts was excited after observing racially motivated riots in New York and Philadelphia the year before. The tumultuous mood of rebellion was followed in many other cities across the country: Detroit 1967, Newark 1967, Chicago in 1968, and in DC in 1968. When would it end? Marvin Gaye was one of the artists of the time that reached out to comment on inner city violence as well as political issues such as the Vietnam War with his acclaimed album “What’s Going On?”
“Then Richard Pryor Go and Burn Up and Ike and Tina Turner Break Up…”
The 80’s ushered another siege on the America’s inner city with Crack-Cocaine. New York was ravaged by an epidemic of Crack related crimes and gun violence. Hip Hop emerged as a partial relief to some of the inner city youth that may have fell victim to the array of dangers presented in the city. In the early 90’s crime and drug abuse became unbearable to KRS-ONE after his best friend Scott La Rock ‘s life was taken because of gun violence. His death galvanized the Stop the Violence Movement that combined a long list of East coast rappers to protest gun violence and drugs on wax and off. The movement even produced a legendary single “Self Destruction” that included KRS-One, D-Nice, Ms. Melodie, Stetsasonic, Kool Moe Dee, MC Lyte, Doug E Fresh, Just-Ice, Heavy D, and Public Enemy. All the proceeds from this album went to the National Urban League. Many Hip Hop fans of today may not remember these artists, but their commitment to change a violent atmosphere began to shape Hip Hop with a positive tone.
“And I Wake Up to More ish…”
Popular musicians of these time periods made efforts to curb violence within their communities, nationally and locally. CNN.com recently reported 535 people were murdered last year in Chicago, which represented a rise in murders from 433 in 2011. In January of this year alone 43 murders have already been reported. There is no safe place to turn; children and adults are being killed indiscriminately. Poverty, neglect, education, and easy access to guns all fall into the mix bag of goodies that seem to plague Chicago right now. With that said, who will be the musician(s) of the today that’ll create a front against painstaking murder statistic raging out of control in Chicago. Yesterday Obama admitted that out of the grave number of murder victims in Chicago in 2012, 65 of them were under 18 years of age. He added, “that is like having a Sandy Hook everyday.” Who will be the rapper to respond to this current and seeming ongoing tragedy?