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Chicago Violence: "A National Security Threat"

Chicago Violence: "A National Security Threat"

Rapper-turned aspiring politician Rhymefest speaks on the violence in his hometown and the record labels that are helping to stoke the flames

by Bakari Kitwana, March 21, 2013

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Chicago Violence: "A National Security Threat"

Chicago MC and aspiring politician Che 'Rhymefest' Smith

even have a history of selling records. But, guess what? Interscope didn’t lose, because it wasn’t about selling records in the first place. You’ll find that the majority of artists that glorify violence don’t sell many records. It is often said that this is about money. But we have to ask ourselves if it’s about money and about selling records, then why don’t they sign more artists like Lupe Fiasco, who sold way more records than Chief Keef? It’s not about the money. It’s not about selling records. It’s about an image that’s portrayed.

BK: So then it’s no longer a question of art imitating life or life imitating art?

RF: You have what I will refer to as Internet gang banging that’s taking itself into real life. People are gang banging on YouTube, taking their beef from the street to the YouTube getting 500,000 views for pulling guns on people in the middle of the street, and they’re really ending up dead in the case of Lil JoJo. So, Chief Keef’s not the only one. People are gang banging and the police know who it is. You think that it was any accident that on the day of Hadiya Pendleton’s funeral they charged the people who did it? They knew who did it way before they charged them. The police know exactly who the murderers are. So then ask yourself this question: why are 75 percent of the murders in Chicago unsolved? There’s something more dubious at hand that nobody wants to talk about.

BK: In terms of being part of the solution, you’ve run for alderman in the past. In the light of recent developments, should we expect Rhymefest to make another run for elected office?

RF: I believe that all young people, all artists, you know, everybody in the new generations needs to be thinking more civically. We need to be more civically engaged with our communities because politics works in tandem with community organizations and works in tandem with art and artists. So, you know, it’s definitely something I will consider. Whether or not I run again depends on how many people think that I have the leadership that it takes to change a community. If the people think that I do, then I’ll step out there for them.

Bakari Kitwana is executive director of Rap Sessions: Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop and  the author of the forthcoming Hip-Hop Activism in the Obama Era (Third World Press, 2013).

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