Envy and Homicide: The Dangers of Rappers Idolizing Riches

How many rappers must be affected before something is done?

XXXTentacion, Nipsey Hussle, and now, tragically, Pop Smoke. What do these three names have in common? Aside from the fact that they were rappers, in the past three years they tragically fell victim to gun violence fueled by envy and hatred at the hands of fellow African Americans. Despite this, rappers still continue to glorify living a life full of violence, self-medication, and gang culture, as well as idolizing riches. The lingering question now is: how many people must be killed before other artists start to realize the negative effect their music has?

The saddest thing about Pop Smoke’s surprising yet tragic death is that the Hip Hop community is not new to situations like this. As i mentioned earlier, both X and Nipsey died just two consecutive years before Pop Smoke did, and both left a major impact. Despite X’s incredibly controversial past, it’s hard to deny that he was on his way to becoming a much better person. Along with being a strong mental health advocate, X also gave back to his community in a number of ways, with the most notable one being the Helping Hand challenge he created just a few months before his death. 

Similar to X, Nipsey also wanted to see his community thrive and prosper. From planning to meet with local law enforcement to address gun violence to planning to launch STEM programs for underrepresented minorities, it’s hard to overlook the incredible achievements Nipsey would have been achieving had his life not been cut short. And although Pop Smoke didn’t have as many achievements, he is still an example of a life that was lost far too soon due to envy and greed. 

So was hip hop the reason why they were killed? Of course not. But one could argue that Hip Hop played a role in not only their deaths, but the deaths, and imprisonment, of other black men and women who have been murdered for similar reasons. From jewelry to money, it’s no secret that rappers love to flaunt their wealth. The wealth of rappers is usually very different from the environment in which they grew up in. As a result, this sudden class-switch is rare in Black Communities. Wearing diamond-encrusted chains or watches help establish their wealthy status while simultaneously letting the world that they “made it.”

While that in and of itself isn’t bad, Hip Hop’s braggadocios sound has led to an idolization of these inanimate objects, which in turn has led to a craving for these items that must be fulfilled by any means necessary. It doesn’t matter whether that includes betraying your loved ones or breaking the law. If we take a look at the Billboard’s Hot 100, most of the songs by black rappers have lines that flaunts their wealth and glorifies a gangster lifestyle. When adolescents who view them as role models listen to this music, they feel as if it’s okay for them to go down the same path that they brag about going down (Take the motive for Quamari Serunkuma-Barnes murder for example). It also doesn’t help that blacks are 14.5% more likely to be charged with robbery, and 6.9% with homicide.

Despite this, rappers still continue to flaunt their riches, glorify their drug use, and display a hostile-persona. But why? With the deaths of the aforementioned rappers, people, especially rappers, must realize that rapping about the idolization of wealth only leads to more destruction within not only the rap community, but the black one as well. Though homicides via guns is not an uncommon trend in the rap community, it seems as if it is more prevalent now than ever. So as rappers dying before the age of 30 starts to become the norm, it is not difficult to reach the conclusion that a change is needed now more than ever.

Black Commentary and Issues of Today and Tomorrow