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The Gang Line Series Part Seven
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Tip From The Old School: There are dozens of places in a community where a parent may get their child drug tested or ‘urine dropped’. Your family doctor is a great resource AND can recommend ‘over the counter’ drug tests that you may use at home.
On one afternoon in my city, a local high school was letting out. Traffic was being directed by school police as teens were heading home. One could hear rather quickly the steady ‘thump-thump-thump’ coming from various teen vehicles. I actually laughed as I saw one car full of teens shooting gang signs in time with the music (stacking) at another car load of teens in front of them who, in turn, were shooting the same signs back at them.
Ah, the days of youth…and disposable music.
In spite of the Alicia Keys/50 Cent slamfest about modern music, the truth has started to come out. MOST Rap/Hip Hop recorded, produced, released, and sold in America has no lasting value, save to ‘rile up’ the passions of teens that don’t know any better, and filling the pockets of the artists who wouldn’t know sheet music from a copy of “Jet.”
More and more of the KNOWN artists are recording ‘the standards’ as they have ‘discovered’ that their genre won‘t last past a milk carton expiration date. Industry moguls know Rap/Hip-Hop has been losing revenue over the last five years. More ‘traditional’ songs are being recorded as Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and Diana Ross are the ‘new cool.’ The ‘thugg’ look is quietly being put away, out of fear that the general public will finally wise up and crush Rap/Hip-Hop sales.
THE MAINSTREAM IS ALWAYS THE AIM:
Oh, you KNOW that this is TRUE. While industry experts like to hush that some seventy percent of Rap/Hip Hop music IS purchased by whites--young white males in particular--it should also come as no shock that many street gangs get their ‘bravado’ from consuming Rap/Hip Hop songs and videos, some of them made by artists with KNOWN gang affiliations.
The objective is the mainstream my friends; by influence, buck or power. No matter how creative we Black folk may be, there are few business ventures that can ‘only’ be supported by Black patronage. Thus, Black artists push to get to the mainstream as quickly as possible, just like other artists. As far back as the 1930s, Black musicians, vocalists and artists knew that for anything to sell, it has to be brought to the mainstream--which is--like it or not--white-controlled.
A REPLAY--OF THE SIXTIES?
Recently, the History Channel came out with a documentary about the Hippie culture and its impact on society. I noticed something right away concerning the music of that era. Music moguls of today have taken the trends of the sixties, revamped them and brought them forward with money in mind. If you remember your younger days, music drives society and word of mouth drives music sales and trends. Money, like the O’Jays said, drives them both. Songs are produced, sell and are well received, or they go to the bargain bin.
Rap/Hip Hop is no different.
The more outlandish, the more flesh that shows, the more ‘buzz’ a particular song generates, the better the sales. Teens could care LESS that the props are rented, the homes are borrowed and many of the people in the videos have jobs elsewhere. If it feels good (makes them forget reality) then its OK with them.
The gangs know this and they are succeeding to use music to fuel their ‘reps’.
THE MUSIC IS THE MESSAGE, THE MESSENGER--AND THE MATCH!
Let us not kid ourselves…gangs run on rebellion, and most Rap/Hip Hop serves as the fuel in the tank. In order to be a successful gang member, one must not only be able to stack out (using hand signs to tell a story) their gang affiliation, but to impress or to intimidate others. Don’t tell me that gang members are ‘dumb’. It takes hours of practice to stack with precision. They proudly use spare time that could be used for doing homework or learning a trade or skill to ‘impress’ their peers and increase their reputation.
Think Rap/Hip Hop is not getting the once over from Wall Street? Forbes magazine, as of last year, annually tracks how much rappers make with their ventures.
Needless to say, the millions made does not qualify as ‘chump change’. To a banger, the music is the message, the messenger and the inspiration. It not only ‘excites’ but ‘ignites’. Every gang member, or former gang member that I have come across admits that they like to get high, put on their tunes, and play their favorites…for hours. The music was their pride and joy, their shield and personality.
Sounds like the same things about music said when I grew up with during the ‘summer of love’ era. But, I digress.
Eventually, a banger reaches a saturation point whereby they are either egged on by gang leaders, or just get into a situation where they decide to ‘act out’ what they have been listening to. Hours--or days--later it ‘sinks in’ as to what they have done while they are in a cell, or on their way to trial or prison.
CAN WE STOP THE MUSIC?
For those who think that I make too much of the power of music, I have additional information. In 2007, according to a survey by HealthDay some of the best selling songs as selected by Billboard Magazine for the year 2005 yielded some eye opening results. They found that 77 percent of the top Rap/Hip Hop songs had references to substance use in them. Whether it be booze, drugs, or other items to ‘bend mental reality’, the proof was in the music. By the way, some 37 percent of Country Western songs had substance use mentioned, and 14 percent of rock songs. These findings are NOT new, but let me do the math. Teen anger, plus drugs, plus alcohol, plus aggressive music, plus gang members, plus problems at home or school or in just growing up; mix in some promises of excitement and thrills and this equals a new gang member OR potential gang leader.
I’ve heard those in law enforcement say the following time and time again: “Parents, be they single or married are the BEST weapon in the fight against gangs!” Add to the discussion THIS fact: MOST gangs have in their rules, bylaws, or constitutions the fact that they are supposed to listen to or protect their parents.
HOUSE CLEANING IN ORDER:
Parents; YOU have the power of the purse. YOU determine what comes into your home! Complaining about what is on the public airwaves is pretty lame when each household with an authority figure has steps they can take. From monitoring and limiting entertainment choices to examination of what their teens are listening to or watching, parents ARE the authority of the home. It does NOT hurt to have a foundation involving church, the Bible, and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Since Christ cleaned out the temple; He can strengthen parents and guardians to clean UP their OWN homes IF they want to see a change in their teens. Remember: There IS no separation of church and state in a jail cell, or in the morgue autopsy room. Until parents get a grip on their teens’ ears and limit their spending on bad entertainment choices, the flow of young people into the gang scene will continue.
The incentives are worth pursuing if parents would start teaching! I would suggest that parents dust off their Bibles--and their vinyl-- and provide a few history lessons about where our music came from, and what it stood for--and against. The history of our music is more about the spirit…than the pocket.
Even in an unfair fight, Mississippi Mass can still take down 50 Cent.
MIKE RAMEY is a Street Gang Specialist, consultant, trainer and Lead Instructor of THE GANG LINE, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. This column appears on fine websites around the world. If you have questions, comments, or would like to have him speak at your school, church or facility; OR train your group, ministry or agency on how to spot/stop gang activity, email
©2008 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.
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