Is UK Rap To Blame For Youth Violence?

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On Friday (5 August), upcoming rapper Showkey, 16, was stabbed to death. Many artists from the scene took to social media to pay their respects:

Quickly, talk turned to the hypocrisy of artists with violent content sending their condolences:

In particular Giggs who has been described my many as the godfather of UK trap/road rap:

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Do these people have a point though? Simply put: no. This question has been brought up many times in regards to urban music. Giggs, 67 and Section Boys are just the latest in long line. It’s certainly not the first time Giggs has been criticised and lest we forget that the police literally tried to end his career. And they pretty much managed it with So Solid. Let’s stick with So Solid for a moment then. In the early 2000’s The Daily Mail felt that the controversial So Solid Crew needed to be shut down as they glorified drug and gun culture and would undoubtedly influence the youth to make similar choices. And so the police shut down shows preventing them from touring, and for all intents and purposes – The Mail won.

And then what? Did violence miraculously end? Did everyone link arms and begin to sing around the world? No. Actually a few years later our country went to war. Fights still broke out in pubs/bars/clubs, over football, bad driving. People still paid to watch professional fighting. So I ask where was all the road rap in this particular violence? Where was Giggs when the riot in Upton Park broke out between West Ham and Millwall where a man was stabbed? Where were 67 when 23 year old Samuel Watts kicked 72 year old Merlyn Hargreaves to death last year? How is this even a debate in a country where the most popular program is heavy with rape, war and decapitation; yet, no one calls for a ban on Game Of Thrones. Because for some reason we can accept that as fantasy.

Music can be powerful, but we overstate it’s impact on ‘young minds’. The truth is twofold and there’s proof. Firstly our obsession with cartoon violence in hip hop is no different to our obsession with cartoon violence in movies. The Taken movie series is popular because of the operatic gun fights; where men with guns pop up on screen and disappear in a hail of bullets. It’s not popular because it documents the impact of the death of each and every goon. How the deceased’s family are affected by a lack of income. How a child is now missing a father. It doesn’t even really document sexual slavery. It creates a world similar to our own and uses it as a playground. Not even the mighty Giggs could murder so many as he describes on his records and not spend the rest of his life in jail. It’s make believe and we know that.

As for proof, if So Solid were corrupting people with songs about gun crime and drugs; why wasn’t everyone brainwashed when they dropped their ‘2nd Verse‘ album? The album was full of positivity and focused on the harsh realities of what they portrayed. But that’s not what people want from So Solid or anyone in that position. It’s escapism. The same way kids from poor, crime ridden areas with little opportunity are drawn to music that focuses on the gains of that lifestyle; is the same way kids privileged enough not to live in these areas are drawn to music that depicts the realities of a world they’ll never experience. Experiencing another world. Escapism.

Since 2014 the highest grossing films have all had high death tolls and naturally haven’t addressed the impact of death. Every time Captain America hits someone we see them fall over. What we don’t see it the guaranteed death 0r in the very least severe brain damage. Because that’s not what the film’s about. And that’s not what road rap is about.

More than anything if the music was so corrupting, then surely everyone who purchased the albums and went to the shows would be criminals. And yes rappers like Giggs do have a history with violence, but music has changed that.  And for every Giggs there’s 5 Yungen’s who create similar music in hopes of achieving the same level of success. It isn’t an endorsement of the lifestyle, as much as it is playing to the crowd. You can hear this in the sound changing from 50 Cents New York hip hop, to Rick Ross’s trap and Drake’s moody r&b.

So if tomorrow the next big rapper begins rapping about cuddling puppies, you can guarantee within the month a new wave will emerge of rappers talking about animal care. A lot of rap is about people telling stories, but a larger part is simply selling success through entertainemnt. Therefore a rapper rapping about violence isn’t necessarily committing or endorsing it, and the people listening to it aren’t either.