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The Joy & Pain of a Young Generation: “Chiraq”

Watched some of Noisey’s “Chiraq” documentary last night. The gang culture there and the Drill music scene are really interesting. Basically, you can see how these youngsters have been affected by the previous generation. When I see these young men dancing, smoking, and waving guns in their videos I think, “Where are the fathers, where is the guidance?” Then I realize they are the product of a generation that was almost entirely killed or incarcerated by the system in the 80s and 90s. The family unit has been disrupted, the guidance is not there. Then I listen to the music. I used to not feel Chief Keef, Lil Reese, etc., now I realize they’re just a mouthpiece to the streets. The emotion they put into their music is very real, the production is creative, and their expression is honest. It’s just kind of a shame that their generation seems to have lost the lyrical and performance skills that MCs used to need to get respected. Now respect comes from how “real” your music is. This is also a result of the past generation.

I often think how I grew up in the early 90s hearing 2Pac, Wu-Tang, Ice Cube, etc. on the radio. These kids grew up in the early 2000s hearing Ca$h Money, Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy. Partly, the elders have failed to build with the youth and properly pass on the culture, but it’s mostly due to corporate America promoting ignorance and negativity, and blackballing artists with a positive message. While I don’t think Chief Keef is personally to blame, I think it’s a shame that a corporation pumped $8 million dollars into spreading his message of violence and destruction when there’s so many talented young artists out there who could have a positive impact but are going unheard. Funny enough, most of the consumers of Chief Keef’s music are white kids who are physically and mentally far removed from the South Side of Chicago. It reminds me of mainstream’s America initial shock once rap music left the ghetto and started coming in the suburban households of white children in the 90s.

I have a feeling that the producers of this Noisey documentary were some of those children. Same goes for many bloggers, journalists, and other people of “influence” within the music industry. It’s crazy how many people in hip-hop have nothing to do with the culture, the areas where it was created and the people it’s supposed to represent for. It’s almost like a regular 9-5 family man watching The Godfather and feeling like a Mafia don. Of course dude would never join the Mob, but he gets excited when he sees Michael Corleone shoot up the restaurant. For some reason it’s exciting to see impoverished Black teenagers point guns at the camera, smoke weed, and talk about the murder and destruction that makes life in Chicago a living hell for many people. Kids are really dying behind the lyrics to these songs, the videos on YouTube, and the posts on social media- meanwhile record labels, magazines, and blogs like Noisey are profiting. I don’t believe this documentary was made for any reason other than shock and entertainment.

So I will ask the questions that I didn’t see get asked in the “Chiraq” documentary: What can be done about the gang violence in Chicago? How do you reach a kid like Chief Keef and teach him accountability & the true meanings of the culture without attacking him for who he is and still respecting his art? How do we shift the culture of the industry so that people from our communities are properly involved and represented?