This past week, Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian, offered up some provocative statements regarding issues of race, power, homosexuality and ownership in hip-hop during an interview with Vlad TV. His comments provide us with the chance to think critically about how hip-hop can and should be defined. There is much that goes into this definition and it is worth thinking long and hard about. As I began to reflect on this interview, it became clear to me that Lord Jamar’s comments are doing the social movement of hip-hop a disservice. Lord Jamar is simplifying hip-hop down to a black and white issue and I wholeheartedly disagree with this line of thought. Lord Jamar is taking away from understanding hip-hop as a worldview, how it has grown and what it can do for people. On top of that, he is slighting every hip-hop artist involved in creating what it is today. In light of these comments, we must break down what he is saying because of hip-hop’s significance around the world.
As I watched the video, I expected a burst of gunshots to ring out following the first two. However, there is nothing. It is extremely likely that a hired gunman connected to the police carried out this execution (there is much money to be made as an ex-cop in the “private security” business). It is possible that this was gang-related although Daleste’s father has been cited as saying that Daleste wasn’t involved with gangs. Adding to this, Daily Mail reported that, “Police have since retrieved the first bullet from the scene of Daleste’s murder. It allegedly matches the .40mm ammunition issued by the military police.” MC Daleste is not the first artist to be gunned down at a concert in Brasil; there have been six other rappers gunned down since 2010, including MC Primo and MC Duda Marapé.
Brasilians have a legitimate beef with their government that through a corrupt system has denied them the resources needed to live with dignity.Given the nature of these demonstrations it is critical that we examine the social, economic and political context within Brasil that has led to an overwhelming amount of political corruption and social injustice. If this were not a serious issue, the people would not be driven to the streets during a soccer tournament, the country’s passion. With that in mind, we must also take a close look at what has happened to the artists—and in this case hip-hop artists—that have attempted to address some of these problems through their music.
Music and art are inherently political and will always be a medium with which to defy the repressive forces in societies all over the world. For example, protest songs brought people together and served as a rallying cry for those engaged in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. With the current situation in Brasil, this is no different. MCs in the Funk scene have used their music to get the word out about sub-par living conditions and corruption that is occurring across the country. The terrifying thing is that right now, the situation is so testy that if you step out of line and criticize authority, it is possible that you will be killed for doing so. Is it even possible to imagine going to your favorite artist’s concert only to have them gunned down in front of you and thousands of other fans? In Brasil this has been happening since at least 2010.
It is beyond time that the international hip-hop community comes together around this issue. Activist MC’s such as Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Blitz the Ambassador, Talib Kweli, Pierce Freelon, Invincible, Yasiin Bey and hip-hop heads from around the world are needed to use their influence to spread awareness about these executions. It is imperative that musicians in the spotlight are willing to use their sound as a way of challenging the status quo and creating consciousness. It has been done in any successful social movement because when it happens it gives the people a catalyst with which to oppose the varying forms of political corruption and domination. Given the circumstances, hip-hop music can be that rallying cry. The government of Brasil is facing a serious problem that is more important than international notoriety that must be addressed immediately. The international hip-hop community has to get the word out and come together in opposition of these senseless deaths.