News from the recent terror attack in Brussels has been heartbreaking. The airport and train station bombings that has resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people and hundreds injured has rattled the world. ISIS, the well-known terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Belgian capital, and yesterday Christopher Dickey, author and foreign editor for the Daily Beast, spoke with MSNBC in an attempt to explain how young people in Europe are recruited into joining terrorist groups.
Surprisingly, in the midst of his analysis he compared terrorist recruitment to gangster rap in the United States. Come again!? The segment has yet to make its way online, but a friend of DJBooth recorded it on DVR and passed it along:
"It's a little bit like gangsta rap in the neighborhoods in the United States. This is how you show the man. That's the technique that's used. It's not nearly as much as religious as it is basically appealing to their testosterone, their desire to be heroes and the idea that they can project themselves on the world stage."
Reading his comments I can imagine palms resting on faces, the deep sighs escaping chests and a feeling of bubbling outrage. Once again hip-hop, specifically gangster rap, is being wrongfully dragged down to a depth it doesn’t belong in.
I have to imagine that Christopher is an intelligent man, I don’t know enough to assess his other thoughts on terror recruitment, but to juxtapose gangster rap and ISIS recruitment is ignorant and completely off base. Yes, gangster rap is known for coming from poverty stricken areas and often practiced by men and women who capture the madness of their surroundings through rhyme. It can be defiant, it can be raw, it can be violent and it can also be honest, passionate, and in some cases it can even be beautiful.
Obviously Dickey is stuck thinking about hip-hop in the same narrow, prejudiced ways outsiders have for decades now. Yes, gangster rap has pushed many men onto the world stage who became idols and heroes to others, but never in the history of hip-hop has any artist committed an act of murderous terrorism that would even remotely warrant the comparison. It’s easy to see the rebellious nature in rap music, but don’t belittle the artform by attempting to group its members with people who are taking the lives of the innocent.
When Dylann Roof opened fire at the Charleston Church with hopes of inciting a race war it wasn’t an attack inspired by Biggie Smalls. Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the deadliest domestic terror attack in U.S. history, didn’t have Tupac in his headphones when he detonated a truck bomb in front of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. There have been a tragic number of acts of terrorism on U.S soil and not a single one could be directly tied to rap. And yet here we are, watching someone go on national television and mentioning ISIS and rap in the same sentence.
It continues to become increasingly obvious that no matter how big and popular the genre gets, people will remain blinded by their own misconceptions. Instead of being silent in their ignorance, they only shout louder, and sadly they have the platform to speak on stages that can reach the masses. I don’t know Christopher Dickey, but I can assume he’s not a bad man intentionally trying to hurt the culture, just one who ignorantly insulted a community he now owes a wholehearted apology to - one I won’t hold my breath to receive.
Chuck D was right when he said, “Rap is our invisible TV network. It's the CNN that black people never had,” because obviously we can’t trust the mainstream news to represent the culture fairly. All bringing hip-hop into this conversation does is distract from what truly matters, mourning the victims and hoping for a better future.
I won’t make that same mistake here - our thoughts are with you Belgium.
By Yoh, aka (Y)oh.(W)ith.(A)ttitude, aka @Yoh31