Rapper Killer Mike’s words of caution on race in rap lyrics were echoed by a group of black artists, including rapper Jay-Z and rapper Talib Kweli. Both men had spoken out against Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. So did Jay-Z and Kweli during the presidential campaign when many of their fans were outraged at his comments about Mexicans. But in a new analysis of a new survey from the Black Youth Project at Southern Methodist University and Northwestern University, the Black Youth Project’s executive director and professor of urban education, Darryl Johnson, and his team found that while rappers are often critical of police and other authority figures, they also frequently praise the virtues of police and other authority figures who help build strong, prosperous communities and reduce crime.
And when these praise efforts fail, their work may be seen — as some have suggested — as racist.
“They seem to say, ‘Well, I’m not white! You should look up my face!’ ” Johnson said. “And, I don’t want to imply that they’re just a blank slate. But they tend to reflect the social conditions we have in terms of income and socioeconomic status.”
Some rappers are so racially charged that they have been banned from performing in certain cities because of their comments, the analysis found. These rappers include Common and Ice Cube.
When asked if rappers should be banned from performing in certain communities because of their statements, Johnson suggested that these remarks should be seen as harmless — and that, in some cases, rappers’ efforts in improving the lives of the poor and disenfranchised will be seen only as an effort to please or satisfy white authorities.
“It’s not to say they are never going to speak out and say, ‘My life is not fair’ ; they may be,” he said. “But if the community decides they’re not going to be helpful, maybe they shouldn’t be on that stage.”
If he believes so, Jay-Z — who was arrested for driving while impaired while on tour in August and later released — could be barred from performing any shows in the South and West, said Johnson.
“If it’s that important to you, you should be able to choose not to speak out and not do it, or should we ask the [law enforcement] to give more discretion to the police to decide where they want to send people who are deemed as threats to public safety?”
Keller Smith, spokesman for the National Urban League, said that he is
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