Is Criminal Activity a Catalyst for Fame in Hip-Hop?
I find myself struggling to maintain hope in my feelings toward today’s current hip hop climate. The pervasive acceptance of criminal activity and its use to propel kids to stardom has been seen time and time again. Various artists receive minimal local support or progress slowly under-the-radar for years, then after the reporting of major criminal activity or a sudden string of unfortunate events within their personal life, the artist seemingly gains mass attention. Within recent years, we’ve seen the careers of artists like Tay K, Da Baby, YNW Melly, NBA Youngboy, Bandman Kevo, King Von sky rocket after criminal activity has been highlighted and widely publicized.
This is an extremely damaging concept to allow consumers and music fans to observe. As we see throughout hip hop, music culture on social media, and the norms of today, the rampant publication of criminal activity on mediums like Instagram and the escalation of “street-beefs” and inter-community warfare go hand in hand. Having Dead Opps, Flashing Stacks of Untaxed Income, and having no regard for consequences is what is ostensibly required to be a major rapper. Artists like Yungeen Ace and Julio Foolio have benefitted from the intensified tension and bloodshed between their two gangs in Jacksonville Florida. Honeycomb Brazy of Alabama has been streaming better since news surfaced about the slaying of his grandparents and the burning of their home. After federal agents did a sweep on an entire Houston neighborhood, Maxo Kream has seen major success. Newer acts like Walkdown Will, YC Woody, G Fredo, 7981 Kal and various other artists are gaining notoriety after the media has started to publish information about their criminal proceedings. These occurrences across a plethora of regions in the United States give evidence to the claim that criminal activity translates to success within contemporary music.
A 2019 Harris poll of 3000 United States children found that roughly 48% of children aspired to be in the entertainment industry. With so many of today’s youth looking to enter into the arts and entertainment industries, more youth will in turn look to crime as a catalyst to propel their success. According to Nielsen, Hip Hop surpassed Rock as the most popular music genre in 2018. Violent Crimes across much of America’s major cities like Atlanta, New York City, and Miami have seen a 30% – 40% spike in the few years since hip hop’s ascent. The patterns ushered in by the recent mainstream success of hip hop music illustrate a troubling future for today’s youth.
The media’s ability to create the illusion of positive social effects from negative criminal activity is leading to a decay in meaningful messaging within today’s music. It has also established a precedent for crime to be used as a useful tool for major notoriety. Hopefully Major Artists like Da Baby and NBA Youngboy can begin to use their music to help other upcoming artists understand that crime should not be used as a means to gain fame.