Killer Mike has been a smart and powerful voice expressing what so many in the Hip-Hop community feel when reacting to Ferguson on cable networks like CNN or in newspapers. J. Cole penned a heartfelt song about Mike Brown and was seen protesting in NYC last night in the wake of a grand jury failing to indict the cop that murdered Eric Garner.
But while Killer Mike and J. Cole and others are to be commended, why are so many rappers with even greater mainstream visibility—we’re looking right at you, Jay Z, Kanye West, and Eminem—so damn quiet?
To be clear, whether you choose to express your views on the murder of Eric Garner, or not— it’s a personal decision. Let’s say demanding a revamp of a justice system that clearly only benefits a select few, should not be decided on what any rapper tells you to do. Besides MCs, that goes for politicians, actors, ambulance chasing social activists, or even that guy with hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. Check the facts and come to your own conclusions.
However, the platform the aforementioned artists have attained is incredibly large, and choosing not to use it in tumultuous times like these to express their viewpoints and (hopefully) at the minimum foster conversation, is troubling.
It’s easy to dismiss calls for rappers to speak up with a, “Who gives a f*ck what they think anyway?” and a #KanyeShrug. But while naysayers may not care, the reality is hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people sincerely do.
For example, Kanye West has 11 million followers on Twitter. Combine that with the fact that there are Yeezy devotees who hang on to his every word as gospel (ask Sway), him speaking up about Eric Garner or Mike Brown could potentially spark more people to at least be aware of the volatility of what’s happening as opposed to looking past it as another blip in the news cycle.
When all is said and done, West stealing Taylor Swift’s moment or asking the fashion world to accept him is nothing compared to his proclaiming, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” on national television.
As for Eminem, his voice would be further magnified considering he is a white rapper that’s flourished in what’s considered a Black art form. So Shady keeping mum only fosters resentment along the lines of, It’s cool to kick it with the Black people and profit off them, but let me retreat into my white privilege when matters like racist police forces come into the picture. See: Iggy Azalea.
Jay Z has boasted about having Barack Obama on the text. Hova can tell people to vote for the POTUS, but it’s not a good look to urge those same people hanging on his rhyme bars to do more to stop these sham grand juries? Is it because a check isn’t involved?
Ultimately it’s on said rappers to risk losing an endorsement deal and even, God forbid, some fans because they dared to speak their mind. The irony being that it’s their influence that earned them such deals. But what’s the point of having a platform if you’re only going to use it to get paid while the same people who support you are out here hurting?
PS: Props to Nicki Minaj. Lil Wayne is sidetracked, but what about you, Drake?
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