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Electronic Elasticity

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gun Violence, Gang Culture and CBC News:

I was inspired to blog about gangs and guns today by an arts, 4 part series article written for the CBC website. It follows the evolution of gangsta rap and hip-hop culture, and asks many questions about whether violent lyrical topics inspire actual violent behaviors. Now I am not going to get all Nature&Nurture™ on my blog today, but I would like to get my thoughts on paper regarding CBC's view, and its relation to the other views out there, and which views are legitimate / useful.

Seems to me that there are a few big points of view on the whole hip-hop gangs thing, and please bear with my terrible generalizations and ignorance, kthx:

1. The Young People™ who DONT really listen to it.

The young, non-black, absent-minded, post-secondary, urban, scholastic incarnation of our "future". Hah! Lets hope not...

ie: me.

points for Me:
a. Has listened to some hip-hop, mostly the stuff that defined the genre or made headway (according to *gasp* much music)
b. Vaguely in touch with music's "young person's section". / can identify with
listeners tastes and can play "name that band!"
c. Hates mainstream CHFI music.

points against Me:
a. Closest exposure to a real ghetto was the word written on a university
chalkboard, and then discussed.
b. Closest exposure to a real gun and live ammunition was in a cop-shop, watching my dad fire it for 30sec at age 9.
c. Closest exposure to real and dangerous violence was a series of high-school tussles and some cool police stories. Not to be under-estimated, but certainly not
relevent experience of real violence.
d. Ability to voice a well-articulated and valid opinion worthy of dicussion = negligible. (This is where most would stop reading, you masochist)

2. The Older People™ (who won’t listen to it).

Points for:
a. They gets to shape the public opinions!
b. They ARE the public opinion (one side, obviously) on issues like these.
c. They finance the music and make money from it, and also freely denounce said music upon the death or injury of someone from category 1.
d. Some of them actually try to understand to roots of the music. These people are generally found in Arts/history classes or coffee shops, chewing on baguettes.

Points against:
a. They actually went to a live beatles (or insert equivalent "antique" cultural powerhouse) concert. J.S. Bach who?
b. They have children who listen to that darn rap music (ruh roh!). They do not listen to the music. They eventually listen to or read the LYRICS. (semantics, given the worrying content of rap music really is in the lyrics, duh Lanky....durrr)
c. They do not pay, employ, or generally associate with the avid listeners of this music.
D. :. Identification with the culture is limited or nil.

3. The Mini-thug Fanboi's N' proste-Toddler Gurrls (who haven’t attended nor graduated from ghetto school):

points for:

a. Limited access to the following:
bling (Watch your wallet dad!)
Cars (ditto)

b. Plenty of access to the following:
The White Picket Fence Institution

Points against:
(See points for)

c. All that and a bag of Doritos plus xbox360.

4. The Actual Ghettos (Complete with Gangstas in Training):
Now I was taught, in some white-washed room containing mostly middle-class white academics, that the United States bears the real marks of ghetto culture. I am nominally inclined to agree. Dont discount Canada and its T.Dot, though, as Boxing-Day 2005 proves in a rather terrible fashion...

In any case, if I wanted to really try to understand what rap, and its association with guns REALLY MEANT to people, or to re-phrase, where it has actual bearing and relevance for real-life, would ask people in LA, 'Liberty' City (Miami), the Bronx, inner Chicago, most of Detroit...

I would not ask Richmond Hill, Markham, Young St, Rideau street, the Bayshore Mall...my 95 bus companions (at the back).

unless I was polling group 3 on something.

I'd ask about the big inspirations of the music, not the money. I can reason out why rappers sing about steaming, sexualized objects labelled women, cars fashioned out of gold and diamonds with mounted machine-guns, and large parties with erupt into simultanious sex and gunfights.

Its pretty easy to figure out. You belt out some rhymes about that shit, call it a gangsta's (not er's, Al Capone was pretty damn racist thank you) life, kinda explain how you got it all, and proceed to actually get it by selling the instructions slapped on a mediocre mixed or sampled beat.


But just because thats what we see and hear doesnt mean that there is nothing more to the genre. I have heard too many interviews of intelligent rap artists to believe that they all willingly propigate a violent culture. There should be more to it.

In a ghetto, are the settings too immediate? Is life so close to that pit that you must simply end situations with finality? Historically fear and lack of understanding (viz. 'convictions') spawns the nastiest breed of violence. So is that what I am seeing when I turn on rap city? A depiction of the terrible immediacy of ghetto existance? Who is equipped to handle that message? Kids from suburbia? Other gangstas? Thugs in Training?

Free Speech?
The thug can speak freely to your child.
Now you must speak carefully to your child, so that he does not emulate said thug.

Do I make sense?



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