These days, those that follow the rap community, or even just the music industry, might be having the feeling that rappers are getting killed left and right. Unfortunately, this feeling stems from more than just amped up news coverage and is instead a very dark reality with horrifically recent examples. Almost back-to-back, rapper Half Ounce and rapper PNB Rock were each fatally shot in Los Angeles in separate location and isolated incidents.
A high-profile rapper has been fatally shot every year now since 2018. The Los Angeles area has been the epicenter of these shootings and brought into question just how dangerous it is for these rappers to live out even the most basic parts of their lives around the city. With Los Angeles polluted with as much gang violence as it is, many have also questioned whether the “tough guy” persona that many rappers put on is a reason for hostility from gang members, and whether corporate America is to blame.
The “tough guy” persona is one that rap fans have looked up to for decades, and certainly works in terms of boosting rappers’ popularity. However, there is little evidence of record labels looking after what promotion of such an identity can cause. Multiple rappers that have worked for Empire records have been shot and killed over the years, including King Von and Young Dolph. While executives at the company chalk the incidents up to “tragedies,” little more than the mouthing of mournful words is done.
These rappers are given the task of producing music under the guise of a provocative figure, and then fending for themselves when rival gangs or distraught consumers have a chance to meet them in person. The vast money that these rappers make alone is not enough to ensure safety, so many fans are calling for much higher forms of security detail.
In response, these very labels have explained that there is little they can do without becoming overwhelmingly involved in the rappers’ personal lives. While this may serve as a partial reason for a lack of extent of security detail, it is a very poor excuse for a complete lack of. The headlines about these murders are more than enough to explain that what is currently being done to protect these artists is simply not enough.
Another response from many experts and pundits has been outright criticism of the genre itself. Since its beginning, rap has been viewed by many as violent and inappropriate for audiences. Most criticism finds a way to base itself in the reinforcement of stereotypes that have been aligned with gang culture for years and is thus quite unhelpful when it comes to the actual protection of rappers themselves.
Few to no rappers condone any violent or wrongful behavior in their music when discussing it in a different setting, just as action stars don’t condone jumping off skyscrapers or blowing up cars. The rap that does include violence, which is far less than many give the genre credit for, is often rooted in either fantasy or the reality of living in unfortunate places where such violence does happen.
Regardless of anyone’s thoughts, fixing the problems of gang violence and generally dangerous cities is always a far more complicated task than anyone ever actually realizes. Many of the problems that lead to such violence are rooted in systemic issues that will take years of unraveling, research, and action, and such problems simply aren’t going to be solved in a quick manner. However, protection of those in these communities, especially those high-profile rappers with an amount of fame that often acts as a burden in the worst of times, has some very quick and tangible solutions.
While the safety of these figures will likely never be perfected, it is important that fans and the rap community come together to find ways to ensure that those more powerful than these artists are required to use all resources at their disposal to ensure the safety and peace of the musicians that impact the lives of many every single day.