Are Fans Impressed By Rappers' Criminal Cred?
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The rapper known as Lil Wayne recently pleaded guilty to attempted gun possession. He now joins the long list of rappers with criminal records. Youth Radio's King Anyi Howell has followed Lil Wayne's career for years, and he considers the rapper's guilty plea a call to action.
Mr. KING ANYI HOWELL (Host, Youth Radio): If you listen to Lil Wayne's music, you believe he was campaigning for a prison conviction, and he got elected. What do fans say? MTV says fans think Lil Wayne's time behind bars won't hurt his career. Of course, not. It's the fans themselves that encouraged these federally-funded vacations. It seems rappers who ram about the streets in criminal activity feel the need to have prison sentences on their rap resume. Think 50 Cents to T.I., Beanie Siegel to Gucci Mane, it's as though rappers are interviewing for the possession of reenlisting rap, and fans make the choice. And they're less impressed by a rapper's ability to simply recite provocative rants. Oh, it says here you spent three years at San Quentin Correctional Facility for a weapon's possession. Welcome aboard.
Then when artists are thrown in jail for whatever reason, guilty or not, some fans architect these insane, free MC business/campaigns.
In 2001, bad boy records rapper Shyne was sentenced to 10 years in prison for firing a gun inside of a crowded nightclub. Almost immediately, the Free Shyne movement began. People wore Free Shyne t-shirts in videos, photo shoots and award shows. Now that Shyne is free, the countdown has begun to his next album release.
I agree some rappers have spent time in prison for questionable charges and do need the support of the rap community. But I do have a big problem with just instantly making any old rapper out to be a political prisoner. It's time to remove these mandatory requirements from a rapper's resume. We need to stop encouraging and validating the lawlessness. Stop buying the albums. And as far as rappers excusing themselves as musical actors of sorts, just playing characters, I'm calling cut.
The world of cocaine kilogram distributing, crack rap cooking, trigger squeezing, prostitute pimping, misunderstood poet has been filled several times over.
So when others prepare to start screaming free Lil Wayne, I'm going to start the movement to free Lil Wayne's mind.
(Soundbite of music)
NORRIS: King Anyi Howell's story was produced by Youth Radio.
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