There are a lot of things that you can use hip-hop to defend. Politics, social institutions, your right to party; all are acceptable subject matter within the lexicon of rap music.
One topic that typically isn't protected speech in the genre though is hate, and more specifically, racially-motivated hate. It's with that in mind that Yelawolf, a white rapper from Alabama, has decided to once again take on what he sees as the demonization of his region's symbol, this time delivering his somewhat mellowed opinions on the topic in the form of "To Whom It May Concern."
Reportedly conceived during a conversation with Big K.R.I.T., the record is the latest in an ill-conceived campaign by Yela to champion acceptance for the stars and bars, albeit this time he seems to understand the score a bit more fully.
Following the senseless Dylan Roof shootings at the historically-black Emanuel A.M.E church in Charleston, South Carolina, which sparked protests against the flag nationwide, Yelawolf's support for the Confederate Flag has been unwavering. Until now. Finally, at long last, instead of backing the same slanted rhetoric as the rest of the flag's supporters, it seems the Trunk Muzik emcee is ready to sing a song of a different tune, coming to the realization that the flag is truly a symbol for hate and addressing the Charleston shooting in the process.
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“Nine innocent churchgoing people get murdered / There’s not a word I can utter, there’s not a rhyme I can say / There ain’t no fixing that ever, those people brutally slain / And I refuse to see ways to justify all the blame / That motherf*cker’s insane / I got so mad at my own image, I took down merch / No explaining it now, it’s only making it worse / This fucking coward, this criminal’s, just a puppet, a mental case / But the truth is the truth, he did it because of race / There’s nothing I can describe, the shame that I felt inside / A white boy with the flag committed this homicide”
It's refreshing that Yela has finally relinquished his push for the acceptance of the flag, understanding the ramifications it has for much of our population. The symbol has come up several times in rap culture: the Yeezus tour merch, Andre 3000 on several occasions. However, a white rapper from Alabama 'reclaiming' a symbol of the south isn't quite the same.
Let's put this on the table: the Confederate Flag is and always will be a direct symbol for racism, slavery and much of the ugliness of America's past. It was literally designed and flown in a fight with half of the country over the allowance of slaves.
I've just never understood the disconnect, the willful ignorance of those that call it "cultural." Sure, it's cultural... if the culture is hate.
With the recent Anonymous leak of American politicians who are tied to the Klu Klux Klan, it's apparent that this hate permeates to the very essence of the country even today, and it's important that these symbols aren't propagated to continue these sentiments. It's great to hear Yelawolf finally see the error in his previous public support and his nearly eight minute explanation is both welcomed and appreciated, but his defense in the months following the Charleston shooting were dangerous and harmful amidst a national discussion on the topic.
It appears this topic, as it pertains to Yelawolf, is something that we can finally put to bed, but it just might have a lasting effects on the artist that is central to it.