Some Memorable Hip Hop Songs That Address the Issue of Gun Violence

stop the violenceWith much of our attention focused on the gun debate, Newtown, Ct and NRA (National Rifle Association) head Wayne Lapierre talking about how music, movies and video games have caused gun violence, many of us are also talking and asking hard questions.

Earlier today I was asking myself which rap artists would seize the moment and put out compelling music around the gun debate issue.. When I asked this publicly I got a lot of cynical responses, noting that rappers work for an industry that is violent prone and would discourage such efforts.. I don’t buy it. Folks in Hip Hop from day one have long spoke out against violence.

From the days of Afrika Bambaataa doing community center dances in Bronx River projects to promote peace in the early 70s to The Hip Hop Peace Summit w/ the Nation of Islam in the 1997 to Oakland rapper T-Kash running a marathon a couple of years ago to bring an end to gun violence.

In between we had KRS-One launching a Stop the Violence Movement with the Urban League which was accentuated with his landmark song Stop the Violence. In 2001 KRS went to the United Nations to unveil recently the Hip Hop Declaration of Peace.

We had songs like Self Destruction which was a famed posse cut led by KRS-One featuring everyone from MC Lyte to Kool Moe Dee to Ms Melody, D-Nice, Public Enemy, Justice and Stetsasonic speaking to gun violence.

That cut was followed up with the West Coast All-stars We’re All in the Same Gang. That song which featured everyone from NWA to Digital Underground to Tone Loc to JJ Fad was the underscore the efforts that were afoot to bring about a Gang Truce in LA.. In fact during the launch of the song, rival gang members appeared on the Arsenio Hall show to shake hands and call for peace in the hood.

Not too long ago (2005) Snoop Dogg revisited the We’re All in the Same Gang concept by bringing the West Coast Hip Hop community for a Unity Summit..

KRSOne-bfresh2

KRS-One

Three years ago, KRS-One got the Hip Hop industry including Nelly, Redman, Method Man, Styles P, Rah Diggah, Busta Rhymes to name a few, to revisit the Self Destruction project ..There were several songs done to address violence in the hood including the title track  Self Construction.

There are plenty of artists who have always and will continue to speak on issues of the day including gun violence. They may not be covered in the mainstream and many pundits may either be unaware or purposely chose to overlook their efforts, but it doesn’t mean they’ve been silent…It’s up to us to highlight them. Whether it’s the Hip Hop Chess Federation with Adisa Banjoko or artists like DLabrie of Hip Hop Congress, Queen Deehlah of the Silence the Violence Movement or Refa 1 of Aerosoul Movement all doing peace efforts in the Bay Area or artists like Wise Intelligent,  Hakim Green of Channel Live doing peace efforts in New Jersey or artists like I Self Devine, Toki Wright and Brother Ali of the Rhymesayers sparking peace in the Twin Cities to Jasiri X, Paradise Gray of X-Clan and the folks in Pittsburgh’s One Hood . There’s a lot of folks doing good things..

man-with-gunOne of the best and most timeless songs dealing with gun violence comes from Oakland rapper Frank J.. He was a member of a crew called Legion of Une  (Union City) which later became 187 Fac.. The song Brotha Put the Gun Away, was Frank J recounted all his friends who died and how he decided to put the gun away. He talks about real life incidents that took place in Oakland and around the Bay Area including losing his brother.. It’s a powerful song..the lyrics are searing.. I wish more folks would do songs like this..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGJJGFzl7jM

Another incredible and profound song comes from Organized Konfusion..Pharoah Monch and Prince Po drop lyrics that describe the path of a stray bullet..

These lyrics are haunting and all too true is far too many instances
Let the trigger finger put the pressure to the mechanism
Which gives a response, for the automatic *bang*
Clip to release projectiles in single
file forcing me to ignite then travel
through the barrel, headed for the light
At the end of a tunnel, with no specific target in sight
Slow the flow like H2O water
Visualize, the scene of a homicide, a slaughter
No remorse for the course I take when you pull it
The result’s a stray bullet
Niggaz who knew hit the ground runnin and stay down
Except for the kids who played on the playground
Cause for some little girl she’ll never see
more than six years of life, trif-le-ing
When she fell from the seesaw
But umm wait, my course isn’t over
Fled out of the other side of her head towards
a red, Range, Rover, then I ricochet
Fast past a brother’s ass, oh damn, what that nigga say
“Aww fuck it”, next target’s Margaret’s face *bang*
and I struck it

courtesy of OHHLA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNcS5Wl2qlo

We should also note as was pointed out by long time writer Spencer Abbott.. that Stray Bullet was the first of 3 songs dealing with this topic..Pharoah Monch takes it to higher levels with these other two songs When The Gun Draws and climaxed with “Damage“.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ6-FYAngvc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h4jOId8eSg

public Enemy ptAnother cut that deals with Gun Violence comes from Public Enemy… Its called Whatcha Gonna Do.. The song is incredible where Chuck D talks about how we keep shooting each other.. Some of the lyrics are as follows:

Talkin dat drive by shit
Everybody talkin dat gangsta shit

Talkin dat drive by thang
Everybody talking dat gangsta swang

Slaves to the rhythm of the master
Buck boom buck another
Neighborhood disaster
(Drummer hit me one)

A gun iz a gun iz
A muther fuckin gun
But an organized side
Keep a sellout niga on the run

What you gonna do to get paid
Step on the rest of the hood
Till the drug raid

See you runnin like roaches
Black gangstas need track coaches

The white law set you up raw
When you have his trust in killin us..

courtesy of OHHLA

The video which was rarely seen depicts a re-enactment of an attempt to shoot a fictional Black president near the grassy knoll ala JFK.. Great video, but the lyrics stand by themselves and speak to issues of self-hatred and gun violence..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhKqsIe283c

Anothers songto consider and perhaps the most potent is NasI Gave You Power

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJf2q_w7L_8

A Conversation w/ Pharaohe Monch

Even in the thick of the bountiful early ’90s scene, the Queens-bred duo known as Organized Konfusion stood out. On their self-titled debut and their revered follow-up, 1994’s Stress: The Extinction AgendaPharoahe Monch and his partner, Prince Poetry, defined the lyrical vanguard with ear-bending enjambment, melodic cadences, stutter-stepping flows, and furious, multisyllabic rhyme flurries. Perhaps more than any of their contemporaries’, OK’s records conveyed an exhilarating sense of possibility: like the avatars of free jazz, they had the chops and the courage to take a song anywhere, at any time.

Conceptually, the group was just as adventurous, rhyming from the perspectives of stray bullets and “hypnotical” gases. The way they cloaked battle rhymes and social commentary in clouds of energetic abstraction marked them as heirs to legendary Bronx super-weirdos the Ultramagnetic MC’s—as well as forefathers to scores of unlistenable rappers who never mastered the proper ratio of organization to confusion.

Critical acclaim and $4.25 will buy you an iced mocha latte, so after a third album, 1997’s The EquinoxMonch decided to go it alone. The year 1999 saw the much-anticipated release of Internal Affairs on the tastemaking Rawkus Records. Like the disc with which it shared advertising space, Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides,Internal Affairs showcased the versatility of a newly solo artist with ambitions and influences that both transcended and embodied hip-hop. Monch crooned, sparred with a who’s-who of guest MCs, and spewed high-concept rhymefests in the OK vein.

But it was “Simon Says,” Monch’s attempt to simplify his flow for maximum commercial impact, that gave the MC’s MC a bona fide crossover hit. Over an ominous sample jacked from a Godzilla movie, it commanded dancers to “get the fuck up,” and they obeyed in droves. Club DJs loved the song; radio embraced it.Charlie’s Angels and Boiler Room picked it up for their sound tracks. Then the Tokyo-smashing monster (or his human representatives) sued for the uncleared sample, and Rawkus was forced to pull the album from stores.

It would be nearly eight years before Monch released his next long-player, Desire,in June 2007—two or three eternities in the notoriously fast-moving world of hip-hop. Few artists could have marshaled a fan base after such lag-time, but hip-hoppers of a certain era are proving to be quite elephantine in the memory department (see: the resurrected career of MF Doom), and Desire found an audience.

It didn’t hurt that the album showcased Monch at the height of his powers: pushing boundaries with conspiracy theories, multipart narratives, and Tom Jones impressions; challenging listeners to digest his wordplay at the rate he served it up (“still get it poppin’ without Artist and Repertoire / ’cause Monch is a monarch, only minus the A & R”); structuring entire verses around the names of financial institutions and wireless devices. Desire manages to be simultaneously indignant and inspiring, defiant and joyful, hilarious and paranoid. Listening to it now, it is striking to realize how palpably the record feels like a document of the late Bush years.

Monch and I spoke several times by telephone shortly after his return to New York from a European tour. He was preparing for an Organized Konfusion reunion show, the first in ten years, and also laying verses for a new album, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), scheduled for release in February. In each case, we talked until his cell phone ran out of juice.

—Adam Mansbach

Check out http://www.believermag.com/issues/201101/?read=interview_monch where this article original appears

I. THIS IS LADIES NIGHT!

THE BELIEVER: It seems to me that hip-hop today is like jazz was in the early ’70s. For the first time, the major innovators are not new artists, but fifteen- or twenty-year veterans—guys like you, MF Doom, Ghostface, Nas, Jay-Z. Even Lil Wayne has been in it for almost that long.

PHAROAHE MONCH: I think there’s a couple of reasons. Having the savvy to know what you want to say, how you want to say it, and what music you want to say it over comes with time spent and wisdom gained in a music career. Back in the days, a prodigy usually was cultivated by the veterans around him—take Nas, who was surrounded by Q-Tip, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Premier, and L.E.S., all listening to the tone of his voice and the way he rhymes melodically and saying, “He’s gonna sound better over this.” If Nas had tried to produce his first album himself and hand out demos to people… whatever, I don’t need to elaborate. I remember talking to Nas after [his debut verse on Main Source’s] “Live at the Barbeque,” and he was unsure what he wanted to do. It took time for him to cultivate his mental state and decide, This is what type of artist I want to be.

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