The topic of violence has been on everybody’s lips this summer due to the public shootings that have taken place at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the shopping mall in Toronto and the block party in Scarborough, Ontario; in addition to the ongoing violence plaguing New York and Chicago.
Questions abound on whether the shooters in Colorado and Wisconsin cases are merely victims of undiagnosed mental disorders, whereas in Scarborough and Chicago the gaze of blame is on the hip-hop community. While hip-hop may not be setting the best example, blaming hip-hop for gun violence is as misguided as blaming the Food Network for obesity.
While the constant flood of rich grown men and women are boasting their drug game and gun prowess, reinforcing negative stereotypes, below are a few examples of hip-hop promoting peace and non-violence, trying to dissuade others from falling victim to the harsh realities of gang life and gun violence.
1. Self-Destruction – Stop the Violence Movement (1989)
One of the original anti-violence posse cuts, the song features KRS-One, MC Lyte, Public Enemy, Heavy D, Ms. Melodie and many others. KRS-One began the ‘Stop the Violence Movement’ after Scott LaRock (the other half of Boogie Down Productions) was killed and also after a concert-goer was shot a few months later at one of his shows. Tired of seeing the gun violence, KRS-One gathered various east coast rappers for this special cause, with proceeds going to the National Urban League.
2. We’re all in the Same Gang – West Coast All-Stars (1990)
Featuring N.W.A, Ice-T, MC Hammer and many other west coast rappers of the early 90s, the song speaks out against gang violence. Los Angeles was a breeding ground of gang activity, due to their two infamous gangs, the ‘Bloods’ and ‘Crips’. The West Coast All-Stars, formed by Dr. Dre and former Crips member Michael Concepcion, attempts to curb black on black violence, conveying the message that ‘the skin colour we share is the only colour that matters’.
3. Tonz ‘o’ Gunz – Gang Starr (1994)
Always smart and insightful, Guru & DJ Premier piece together a song that despite being released over 18 years ago, seems to perfectly articulate the current gun problems in Canada and the US. Detailing the senseless violence that occurs when young men possess and use guns for the wrong reasons, Guru explicitly states that this song is not to glorify guns or gun violence.
4. Where is the Love – The Black Eyed Peas featuring Justin Timberlake (2004)
Are the Black Eyed Peas still hip-hop? It’s debatable, but this song marks a turning point in the careers of the Black Eyed Peas, and is as ‘kumbaya’ as hip-hop can get. Speaking out against terrorism, racism, war and violence, the group uses this song to promote unity, equity, love and understanding.
5. Do the Right Thing – Ludacris feat. Common & Spike Lee (2008)
Taking the title of the song from the classic Spike Lee film, of the same name, Luda and friends want people to ‘wake up’, insisting they ‘use they brain and do the right thing!’ And as we all know, Ludacris and Common know a thing or two about using their brains.