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Young and Minority Leaders

Alicia Keys Blames Gangster Rap on the Government

Robert asked:

Grammy Award winning singer Alicia Keys believes the U.S. Government is responsible for gangster rap. The singer is worried that the proliferation of this genre of rap gives young people a false sense of what being a gangster is all about.

Rappers often use images and scenes from the gangster life when making music, videos and album covers. They often depict gangsters as wealthy, popular and successful African Americans who defeat the system and fight back against authority by using violence.

Keys commented during an interview with a magazine that she believes the government invented and promoted gangster rap to incite violence within the African American community. She adds that there have been complaints from concerned citizens about the popularity of violence in gangster rap and that the government has done nothing to try to curb the trend.

The singer even cites the murders of west coast and east coast rivals Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. as casualties in the gangster rap conspiracy, saying that the government let these murders take place as part of an anti-black campaign. Keys even said that the U.S. government used gangster rap to prevent popular African American leaders from emerging.

Tupac Shakur’s death in September 1996 and Notorious B.I.G.’s death in March 1997 are believed to be brought about by the rivalry between East Coast and West Coast rappers. Tupac Shakur was a part of Death Row records stable of artists, a recording company owned by Marion “Suge” Knight and Dr. Dre. Notorious B.I.G. was part of the East Coast record company Bad Boy Productions owned by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. The two were gunned down in separate incidents that came within mere months of each other. Today, there have been no convictions made in the incidents.

Gangster (or gangsta) rap is a sub-genre of music that rose to fame with Ice-T and the N.W.A. in the 1980’s. The music often depicts the urban life and the tough times the rappers grew up with, particularly difficulties with money, drugs, crime and the police. It has proven to be one of the most financially successful rap genres after the success of its early stars Bone Thugs N’ Harmony, Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, N.W.A. and Dr. Dre.

While recent trends in rap music tend more toward the laid back and sometimes inspirational tunes of industry leader Kanye West or the danceable RnB tunes of T-Pain and Akon, there have been some influences of gangster rap in the recent music. Recent success by the artists 50 Cent and Chamillionaire, who both adopt the gangster lifestyle in their music and songs, are reflective of the presence of the sub-genre. Also notable is the presence of white artists in the gangster rap genre such as Marshall “Eminem” Mathers and The Beastie Boys.

Alicia Keys’ first album (“Songs in A Minor”) was released in 2001, and this album made Keys win 6 Grammy awards including song of the year, best new artist and best R&B album. The New York native has already sold over 25 Million records and has also released her fourth album.

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