There has not been a lot of joy in the world of hip hop lately. Manipulated by powerful forces in the music and cultural industry, hip hop’s lyrics, language and spirit have been contentious, hypersexualized, violent and filled with disunity. The billion dollar, global art form is far from its origins today.
Tragically, hip hop battles have not simply been on wax, or recordings, but on actual streets with lives lost. The killings of Young Dolph in Memphis, South Carolina rapper 18veno, New York rapper Pop Smoke and Chicago rappers Edai and FBG Duck are some of the painful deaths we have endured.
As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan asked during his closing address at the recent Nubian Leadership Circle summit, “Who’s feeding the filth over the radio that makes our young people rap in a foolish way? It’s not like the early rappers who rapped with knowledge of self, but today it’s filth, it’s indecency; it is debauchery. It is the glorification of niggerism, the glorification of something that we should never call each other, ‘nigger,’ and make it seem like it’s something nice.”
So a difficult hour for hip hop and a difficult hour for Black people.
But there was a light shining in the darkness as Kanye West and Drake, who once had beef, performed together Dec. 9 at the Los Angeles Coliseum at a Larry Hoover Benefit Concert. As Billboard magazine noted, “It marked the first time Kanye and Drake were on the same stage since 2016.”
But more than the performances and music was the beautiful sign of two young, talented and wealthy Black men coming together for another Black man who has spent nearly 50 years in prison. Larry Hoover, the legendary leader of the Gangster Disciples who moved the group to the philosophy of Growth and Development, languishes in federal prison.
And as his son Larry Hoover, Jr., said during an interview with Kanye, the man should be home now. At a time when there is so much chaos and death in the streets along with the disintegration of Chicago’s mythic street organizations over the years, Mr. Hoover could help solve some of the violence problem.
We were given a sign that despite our self-hatred and the enemy’s machinations, we can resolve differences, find the path to reconciliation, appreciate one another and move forward. Again, as the Minister observed in a Dec. 4 message, “We are descendants of the Creator Himself. So when I say to you, ‘my brother,’ it’s because God is our Creator and our Father. So you are my natural brother, my natural sister who has been made unnatural by an unnatural enemy.”
Kanye and Drake together were a welcome sign in a day when Twitter trolling, social media insults and threats are leaving mothers burying their sons and children losing their fathers. And while neither Kanye nor Drake are in the “gangsta rap” tradition, light in the midst of darkness is important.
Mutual respect and unity for a bigger cause are essential. So these influencers offer our young people an example of how conflict doesn’t need to last forever. Ego doesn’t need to rule our lives and psyches. Hatred doesn’t need to permeate our existence. We have lost too many already to rap beefs, gang rivalries, envy and jealousy.
The enemy hates these powerful images and the critique that Kanye offers of society, politics, the record industry and lending his billionaire status to a man many see as a political prisoner in America. This is not the negro that the Caucasian loves to see, this is something different. And if one can be different than others can be different. Each can offer skill, talent and intellect to the mission of reconciliation and find work in the vineyard of freedom, justice and equality.
Imagine thousands seeing Kanye and Drake together and hearing about the need to free a Black man the U.S. is holding hostage. What could their influence yield?
“Draped in the ‘Free Hoover’ merchandise designed by Balenciaga which retailed for hundreds of dollars at the venue, the Chicago native kicked off his set with Donda’s ‘Praise God’ before moving into early classics from his discography that made the world fall in love with Ye such as ‘Jesus Walks,’ ‘Gold Digger,’ ‘All Falls Down,’ ‘Touch the Sky’ and Graduation’s ‘Stronger,’ ” Billboard reported.
And, according to Source magazine, “In an interview with Billboard, J. Prince spoke about the concert and the reconciliation between Ye and Drake. ‘We have to start with the name Larry Hoover. He planted the seed,’ J. Prince said. ‘He wanted Kanye and Drake to come together in the name of peace. His son Larry Jr. was hanging out with Kanye a lot, and of course, Drake is my son, but [Hoover] planted the seed, and I watered it.’ ”
Let’s keep planting, watering seeds and shining the light of purpose and unity on those seeds as we call our people to the right path and a new day in the sun—a day of perpetual peace and progress.