Has Hip Hop Traded Credibility for Capital?

July 16th, 2013

(Photo: John Ricard / BET)

By Jake Rohn

As expected, the George Zimmerman acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin has polarized the nation. There has already been an outpouring of outrage expressed by celebrities via social media and Beyoncé took a moment during her performance to acknowledge the verdict and to send thoughts and prayers out to Martin’s family. Young Jeezy took to Facebook to extend his thoughts to the family as well, saying, “I would like to offer strength to you and the family throughout this entire ordeal. I pray that justice is served and the memory of Trayvon is carried through you and through all of us.” He added, “It’s in GOD’s Hands.”

The following morning, Jeezy released “It’s a Cold World” to his Facebook page with the disclaimer, “I am in no way shape, form, or fashion trying to capitalize off of the latest series of events; these are my true feelings and my form of expression about it.” What does it say about hip hop that Jeezy had to release this disclaimer? Hip hop, like rock ‘n’ roll before it, has infiltrated pop culture and become a commercial force to be reckoned with, but what are the implications of disclaimers like this one needing to exist when we’re talking about the loss of human life?

Hip hop has always been utilized as a legitimate way for MCs to feed their families, but at its heart, it’s also an art form, a catharsis, a release and a voice for those not empowered enough to speak for themselves. The timing of this issue is interesting considering Jay-Z’s controversial release of Magna Carta Holy Grail, which many people were turned off by when they found out it was a big data mining mission by Samsung. Jay himself acknowledged that he felt the album was received differently as a result of the corporate collaboration.

No matter what your job or career is, the first focus is feeding yourself and your family. Freestyles may not pay the rent but hip hop values integrity, and if you don’t have it, your career will be short-lived.

The reality is that this disclaimer might not reflect the current state of hip hop as much as it reflects a more paranoid society that over analyzes everything and believes in nothing anymore. Hip hop used to reflect those that mistrusted the system, but now more closely represents the object of said mistrust.

Anyone who is familiar with Young Jeezy’s music knows that he means what he says. The disclaimer he posted might have just been precautionary, since the Twitterverse is filled with paranoia, skepticism and trolls. At a time when hip hop’s voice is needed to add perspective to a horrible situation, it’s a shame that the people it’s speaking for don’t even trust the messenger anymore.

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