Takeoff’s death highlights the lasting impact of gun violence | CBC News

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During a news conference Wednesday morning, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner had some updates on rapper Takeoff’s death the night before at a downtown bowling alley. But after confirming the identity of the rapper (Kirshnik Khari Ball) and the fact that no suspects had been arrested, he did have something to say.

Speaking before a crowd of reporters in the room and the millions of fans that Takeoff and his group Migos had amassed, Finner warned the public against demonizing the hip-hop community following the loss of one of the most famous names in the genre in the last decade.

“Sometimes the hip-hop community gets a bad rap, and I know… a lot of great people in our hip-hop community and I respect them,” he said.

“We all need to come together and make sure that nobody destroys that industry.”

The choice to emphasize that point is tied to the perception of hip-hop and a constant problem that seems to perpetually haunt the genre: the untimely death of some of its most promising artists.

But as Finner also emphasized, there was no indication that Takeoff himself was involved in criminal activity and more than likely he was just an innocent bystander caught up in the violence swirling around him.

Alongside that has come a tense debate about the cost of authenticity in the hip-hop community, where artists can feel pressure to live up to the lifestyle they describe in their music. Others say that gender is unfairly scapegoated and that violent lyrics don’t translate to real-world violence.

Successful rap artists are not insulated from violence

After news of Takeoff’s death broke on Tuesday, the music community mourned the 28-year-old artist who, as a member of the rap trio Migos, pioneered a new sound in rap and hip hop.

But while fans have expressed their sorrow over Takeoff’s death, the level of shock is unique in the world of hip hop. While the deaths of celebrities at the top of other genres, like Drake or Taylor Swift, would be extraordinarily unexpected, this year seven rappers have been killed, giving fans a rubric on how to react when one of the biggest stars of hip-hop dies.

Migos’ impact on hip hop and culture in general is impossible to ignore and has far exceeded expectations since its inception.

From left, Quavo, Takeoff and Offset of rap group Migos perform onstage at the 2021 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The Toronto Pressa rapper described them as ‘the Beatles of rap [world].’ (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)

“They’re like the Beatles for rap [world]the Toronto Pressa rapper told CBC News, referring to how they influenced both the music industry and pop culture.

Though versace It failed to top the charts when it was released in 2013, peaking at No. 99 on Billboard’s Hot 100, proliferating in Atlanta clubs, and eventually achieving international fame when Drake added an extra verse.

Meanwhile, frontman Quavo and Offset, one half of a power couple with fellow musician Cardi B, garnered the attention of the audience; Meanwhile, the quieter and younger member Takeoff seemed to take a backseat in interviews and performances.

But in reality, he was the one who largely drove her creative process, and whose mastery of her triplet initially caught the attention of Kevin (Coach K) Lee and Pierre (P) Thomas, co-founders of the Migos label and management company. QA.

“The Migos are their thing,” Pressa said. “You know, they had their own culture. They had their own sound. And I feel like a lot of people take their sound and incorporate it.”

CLOCK | Takeoff’s death raises concerns about gun violence:

Migos rapper’s death raises concern over gun violence in hip hop

The shooting death of popular rapper Takeoff is just the latest in a series of violent incidents that are raising serious concerns about the rise in gun violence in the hip-hop community. [Correction: The graphic referring to when rapper Pop Smoke died contains an incorrect date. Pop Smoke was shot during a home invasion in 2020]

The fact that it was the more reserved Takeoff who died seemed to underscore the danger some hip-hop artists face, even if their lifestyle is free of violence. But the group’s perception has previously been separated from its nature: From the start of their careers, the men behind Migos were often hit with criticism for apparent dishonesty in their music.

As music journalist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib wrote in a 2017 article for the National Post, some fans took issue with the fact that the three members, who grew up in a suburban area outside Atlanta, rapped about drugs and crime.

That sentiment, Abdurraqib argued, pushed them to engage in behavior more in keeping with their music, as when Offset was arrested in 2015 and later attacked a fellow prisoner in custody.

“Like Johnny Cash in the mid-’60s, they spent time getting too close to the fire,” he wrote. “It’s hard to build a myth that big without eventually becoming a part of it.”

And in hip hop, a genre that values ​​authenticity and self-documentation like few other art forms do, they are far from the only group affected by violence. Since 2018, more than a dozen high-profile rap artists have been shot to death.

Among them is Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was shot outside his clothing store in 2019, though he was best known for his community building, general friendliness, and poetic, heartfelt lyrics. A year later, Toronto rapper Houdini was killed while he was shopping; Memphis-based Young Dolph was killed while buying cookies in 2021; and PnB Rock (real name Rakim Hasheem Allen) was killed this year while having lunch with his girlfriend at a small Los Angeles restaurant, in an unprovoked robbery after a stranger apparently saw his location in a social media post he made. the rapper

After praising Allen for being a joy to work with, rapper Nicki Minaj implored other artists in the genre to stop being so available to their community.

“You are not loved as you think you are,” he wrote. “You are prey! In a world full of predators! What isn’t clicking?”

“It’s just dangerous as an artist,” agreed Pressa, who said he was with Migos member Offset at a separate event the night the shooting occurred. “I don’t like to broadcast and tell [my followers] where I’m going, and that’s what it is.

‘It just didn’t happen overnight’

But discussions about the causes of these incidents are not simple. AR Shaw, an Atlanta-based historian of trap music who wrote a book called cheat historytold CBC News that gun violence “seeps in” to communities of color, because it’s a broader problem in the rest of North America.

“I want to spread the word that it didn’t happen overnight, that these are years of underserved communities and abuse that has happened in communities of color, in particular, and these are the repercussions of that,” Shaw said. .

“We have seen this generalized violence that is happening [among] artists and within the hip-hop community,” Shaw added. “But it’s also indicative of what’s happening in communities across the country.”

Takeoff of Migos performs on stage during Global Citizen Live on September 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Gun violence ‘seeps’ into communities of color because it’s a broader problem in the rest of North America, said music historian AR Shaw. (Getty Images for Global Citizen)

In general, gun violence has been on the rise in Canada and the United States. Between 2018 and 2019, the criminal use of firearms increased by 21 percent in this country, according to Canada Statistics.

Shaw said the issue of gun violence began many years before rap and hip hop emerged as cultural forces. Where some would see violent messages in some rap and hip-hop subgenres fueling further violent behavior, Shaw said it’s often a documentation of the effects of long-standing trauma in those communities, and a way to resolve it.

Rapping about crime and violence isn’t causing the problem, he said, but identifying it. “Hopefully we can change the narrative, but first we have to understand what the source is.”

On the other hand, some in the hip-hop world see it differently. Kiana (Rookz) Eastmond, a Toronto music executive and former rapper, said that while rap has evolved as an outlet to deal with that trauma, as a genre it also pushes its artists to perennially focus on hardship. Other genres allow artists talking about their lives to move on.

“We’d like to see them, you know, grow and evolve into a space where they don’t have to share their trauma or [where] they are not defined by it. We don’t ask that of rappers,” she said. “We are not asking you to ever find peace. We’re not asking them to move on.”

Comparing it to the NFL, which for years ignored the damage concussions cause before finally bowing to public pressure and altering the game to protect athletes, he said the same should be true of hip-hop.

Instead of demanding that rappers spend their careers extracting the most traumatic moments from their lives, and then rewarding them for it, the industry and fans alike should set a higher standard and demand music that demonstrates growth in the genre.

“Artists are people. And I think in the same way that we expect our stories to be humanized in black culture everywhere, we should expect that from hip hop now,” he said. “We have to expect it from rap.”

A young man with long black dreadlocks, a frayed jean jacket, and round, shiny purple sunglasses is standing outside, looking up at the sky.
Takeoff performs onstage with Migos at the 2017 HeartRadio Music Festival on September 23, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

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