Are Today’s Rappers Cowards?


In light of Michael Brown’s cold-blooded murder, law enforcement’s military-like response to Ferguson’s peaceful protests, and the troubling increase in police killings taking place across the nation, many in the Hip Hop community have been wondering why most popular rappers, besides a handful, have remained silent about the tragedy that has captured the world’s attention. Of course, we’re not talking about indie and underground Hip Hop artists who regularly address a wide range of social concerns, including police brutality, in their music. We’re not talking about folks like J.Cole and Young Jeezy who visited Ferguson and met with the people. We’re talking mainstream artists like Jay Z, Kanye, Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, or Nicki Minaj. The belief is that these household names could effectively use their influence and international platform to lend support to such cause and inspire fans to get involved in making a difference in their communities. Are these rappers cowards for not speaking up or are we just expecting too much of them?

Am I supposed to believe that an artist who raps about growing up in the hood and starting “from the bottom” can’t find a damn thing to say about the almost weekly reports of murders by police officers? Aren’t a lot of these rappers always screaming about how “hood” and “real” they are? Strange how they never seem to have a problem publicly beefing with other artists, instigating corny Twitter wars, or flexing their gangsta persona…but when it’s time to put that “tough guy” talk to good use – crickets.

Many pioneering artists like Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, used their voices to uplift society, willing to sacrifice their successful careers, because they understood the power of their influence and truly loved the people. Fearlessly, they pursued their mission and became legends in the process. In Hip Hop, groups like Public Enemy, X-Clan, and Poor Righteous Teachers were unafraid to speak truth to power, whether it was popular or not. They too are legends. But with all the money and so-called power today’s big name rappers brag about having, the truth is that they lack any power at all to do anything truly significant. Buying cars, jewelry, houses, clothes, and other material things doesn’t prove you have power; it proves you’re a consumer, nothing more, nothing less. How many of these so-called artists will go down in history for doing anything except rapping about everything they have and everything you don’t? God forbid they deviate from the program and upset their label or risk their endorsement deals for growing some balls and rapping about something meaningful for once.

On the other hand, should we really expect these artists to suddenly become socially conscious when their music has never been? It’s foolish of us to bash rappers for not standing up like men and women when their music only demonstrates how absolutely buffoonish they are. Do we really expect these “entertainers” to magically become the voice of reason? Am I not an idiot for waiting on Nicki Minaj’s words of wisdom regarding the growing militarization of America’s police force? Isn’t it slightly delusional of me to expect Nelly to openly challenge Ferguson PD’s attack on peaceful protestors when Honey Nut Cheerios pays his bills?

Then again, these artists may be involved in various acts of social activism that the public knows nothing about. After all, I’ve never been in a position to risk hurting my career for simply sharing my opinions in public. I’ve never had million dollar endorsements on the line for speaking up about social problems. I don’t know what it’s like to be forced to hold my tongue because my family’s financial security depends on my passiveness or silence.

And for that, I’m thankful. I’d hate to be bought out, used when needed, and silenced when convenient…kind of like a prostitute.

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