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Looking at Hip Hop Through a Different Lens

Influential hip-hop artist, Takeoff, tragically passed away this past Nov. 1 in Houston, Texas. 

After a heated intervention outside a club in downtown Houston, a gunfight broke out between Takeoff’s group and an unidentified posy. The rapper was caught in the gunfire and was unfortunately shot several times. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Although rappers may represent themselves as “thugs,” the media needs to have some common sense and realize that hip hop, like any other form of media, is for entertainment. 

Since its inception, hip-hop has always been labeled as “African American” music. You already see the problem here. We can categorize hip hop, but I bet it would make a CNN headline if Dr. Dre said country music was for “whites” only. Music, including hip-hop, is art that everyone enjoys, no matter their race, sex, or political values that you have. Hip-hop, especially, has inspired generations alike for societal change. Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed record, DAMN,  won a Pulitzer award in 2018, the first hip-hop record to do so. Lamar’s feat has inspired aspiring artists to continue and pursue their passion for the art of music. Hip-hop has also changed my life as well. Works from artists such as Tyler the Creator, Travis Scott, Kanye West (yes Kanye West!) and even Takeoff, have helped me persevere through some tough times of my life. Hip-hop is not just for “African Americans”, it is a universal experience of art and culture! 

A big reason why hip-hop is often criticized is for its “controversial” subject matter. Many artists rap about their tough experiences growing up in rough cities in the United States. Kendrick Lamar speaks about the horrors of the streets of Compton and how he was able to persevere and create a better future for himself through his music. Rapper Pusha T recounts various tales of him having to “push” drugs to make a living. What did you expect them to sing about, drinking rosé poolside in Beverly Hills? Most of hip-hop’s subject is of the real world, violence, struggles with drug or alcohol abuse, and death. Their music reflects their life experiences. You would not expect Taylor Swift to sing about cruising down Crenshaw Avenue looking for revenge, would you? That is because that was not her life. However, as much as an artist’s subject matter does have some truth to it, they are also great storytellers. Artist Westside Gunn talks about shooting at least one person in every single one of his songs, (followed by some BOOM BOOM BOOM adlibs). Yet, none of it is true. Storytellers want to paint a picture for a targeted audience, but they also integrate a lot of fictitious details to prove their point. 

I am very candid about this point because it is infuriating when after Takeoff’s death, the media’s common consensus was that his “thug-like” persona and his violent lyrics led to his unfortunate passing. 

The media always tries to point to a figure when tragedy strikes. A school shooting happens, “it’s those damn video games”! A rapper dies, “he was asking for it”.  Takeoff did not “ask for it, his life was stripped away from him. He was with his uncle, hip-hop artist Quavo, at a birthday party in downtown Houston when tragedy struck. Takeoff did not pull out any weapon, in fact, he was shot before he had a chance to realize his surroundings. 

Instead of putting down hip-hop, let us listen to it with a sense of open-mindedness and instead of the media criticizing Takeoff’s career, let us celebrate his life. There is already enough hate in this world, so let us not let music act as a barrier for people, but rather as a bridge to unite us all. Rest in power, Takeoff!

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