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Drill Rap and Frustrations of The Urban Black Poor

 

The Rise of Drill Rap 

 

Chicago Rapper Lil Marc Killed Days After Releasing Music Video Mocking Rival Gang

  Drill Rap, taken from the Chicago colloquial term to ‘Drill’, means to carry out a shooting against a rival gang. Drill Rap is used by rival African-American gangs such as the Black Disciples, Black Stones, and Gangster Disciples to issue lethal threats at one another and boast of their weapon arsenal. The storytelling prevalent in drill rap, hip-hop musical genre that emerged in Chicago’s impoverished Black communities on the South Side demonstrates how: structural racism continues to produce bleak opportunities for Black social, political, and economic advancement. 

Video imagery of drill artists often contains young Black men brandishing automatic weapons with lyrics that contain messages of rebelliousness, lawlessness and defiance of authority.  It is common to see drill artists diss deceased members of rival gangs, use military style weapons brandished casually in videos and for drill artists to be gunned down shortly after the release of diss songs. What distinguishes drill rap from the many other genres within hip-hop is that  drill rap is inherently militaristic and its artists often live the life they speak about.  

Systemic structural racism has resulted in the prevalence of the underground drug economy and gang violence in black Chicago which undergirds the phenomenon of drill rap. Drill rap in its essence embodies the frustration of urban poor Black men. Drill artists so often discuss through their lyrics their fear that they may not make it past 21; they may end up with a lengthy prison sentence, and the fact that they see no way out of a miserable life of violence. Drill rap articulates the frustrations of the urban black poor in Chicago and shatter illusions of a post-racial America in which structural racism no longer serves as a barrier to black, social, and political advancement. 

The Saga of Yummy 

Lil Mouse, the rapper from Englewood, Chicago, made a song in tribute to Robert Sandifer, a child soldier from Chiraq. Lil Mouse spits “Yummy was a hitter, push a nigga shit back. Gutta’ in my blood. Leavea nigga laying flat.” Think back to the period you were nine years old, at this age, many kids in America live carefree and jovial lives while contemplating the cool new gadgets they want from Santa for Christmas. For African-Americans in urban areas throughout America, the experience is totally different for such kids.

When Robert Sandifer was only nine, he had already been in and out of jail multiple times and was deeply involved in the South Chicago street life. He was active in committing a series of armed robberies and arsons as a member of the Black Disciplines (BD) in Chicago’s Roseland community.  As a kid in the streets of Chicago, the kid was trading drugs for profit, committing burglaries and breaking into houses. Sandifer hadn’t even reached his teenage years before he began carrying out murders for his local gangs.

Worse yet, he didn’t even live to reach his teenage years.  At 4’6”, he was armed with loaded guns and was not even remotely afraid to use them.  Receiving the nickname ‘Yummy’ due to his love for junk food, he lived his life as a drug dealer and caused terror in his community by breaking into houses and stealing cars. Before reaching five feet tall, he was already putting people six feet in the ground. He committed a recorded twenty-three felonies and five misdemeanors while carrying out his missions for his local gang.  The only picture available of him on the internet is a mug shot—a photo that showcases pain, anguish, and depression.

 Telling this tragic story, Lil Mouse spits “Ask you what you’ claiming if you ain’t 7-4 hit you in your face Cock it back and let it blow.”  On August 28th, 1994, Robert Sandifer tried to shoot a member of a rival gang. Stepping between two storefront churches on Chicago’s south side, he began firing at teenagers playing football with a semi-automatic pistol.  Instead of hitting his target, he hit a 14-year-old black girl named Shavon Dean. Robert was only 11 years old at the time he took Shavon’s life. After this brutal murder, the police went on a relentless manhunt for the killer.

Fearful that Robert Sandifer would reveal secret information about the Black Disciples, Sandifer was met by two brothers in the Black Disciples, Craig and Derrick Hardaway, who were age 16 and 14 respectively. They lured Robert Sandifer to a viaduct underpass where they carried out an execution with two bullets leading to Sandifer’s death at age 11. In response to the story of Sandifer’s tragic life, Times Magazine ran a headline, “So young to kill, so young to die.”

From an early age, Sandifer’s father was incarcerated, and his mother became addicted to drugs. As a result, Sandifer lived with his grandmother whose household consisted of over 19 kids.  Upon discovering that he was being neglected, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) sent Sandifer to live in a DCFS shelter from which Sandifer ran away, involving himself in gang life with the Black Disciples. The Sandifer saga became symbolic of the gang problem in Chicago as it showcased the lack of opportunities and breakdown of social safety networks.  Robert Sandifer was born on March 12, 1983, and died on September 1, 1994.

Yummy was abused from an early age; having over 40 scars and parts of his skin burnt from cigarettes butts.  He was eventually placed under the care of the state and the minute he escaped from his government-mandated foster home, he quickly took to the streets. Hardaway, who was convicted for Yummy’s murder at fourteen years old, had this to say from prison, “Yummy was the average black kid growing up in a drug infested community. There are millions of Yummys, it’s just that Robert Sandifer gained national attention. He was an impressionable kid who looked up to everyone that was in the streets. I knew him but he was a kid to me. I was a kid myself but I was older and involved in a lot more stuff.”

Indeed, there are millions of black children in urban areas throughout America, especially in the Southside of Chicago, who hang out on street corners, looking up to nobody but gang members and illegal paths in an attempt to help them cope and temporarily relieve themselves of the stress and pains that they face every-day under the American capitalistic society.  This is a reason why ‘loud a type of Marijuana’ is such a huge subject of Chief Keef rap videos.

Drug economy remains the only mechanism to get things that most whites inherit at birth. These things include food, clothing, and shelter.  Like Yummy, Hardaway is also a victim; a victim of a racist, capitalist society that created the conditions where an illegal economy is the only way to provide for loved ones and possess the basic necessities of life.

Yet, over a decade later yummy Chicago rapper, Lil Mouse emerged on the rap scene highlighting the same dilapidated conditions still prevalent in Englewood, Chicago. From the hardcore streets of Englewood, Lil Mouse spits “Glock 40, I’m thumpin man, I’m rolling with my hitters. I’ll send my hitters to go get you.” In Englewood, the law of the streets prevails and individuals are quick to use guns to settle beefs and feuds   

Renowned African-American psychologist, Dr. Amos N. Wilson, provided the following insights to understand the violence we witness in the Black community. He wrote, “Black on Black criminality and violence represent quests for power and outraged protests against a sense of powerlessness and insignificance.” Feeling powerless and insignificant, having minimal opportunity for socio-economic advancement, acts of violence among brainwashed black brothers in the streets often instills a false sense of power.    

Lil Mouse spits, “Posted on the nine with some savages. Everybody scared of us cause we be clapping shit. Keep some killers with me that aint lacking shit. Call my brother Grupy he shoot like the Mavericks bitch.Many black youths in Chicago grow up in abject poverty and see only two paths for their future: prison or death. Their mothers feel hopeless as they are unable to earn enough wages to provide for basic necessities such as electricity, rent, insurance, and food. Black youths in these communities endure subpar living conditions as seen through the decaying housing, substandard schools, drugs, and poverty. After examining these appalling social conditions, people often claim that the gangs that terrorize the community with violence are driven by some “innate” delinquency or aggression amongst black youth.

 In reality, Chicago street gangs are a product of social conditions created by institutional racism, police brutality, and white vigilantism. Blacks have been systematically disempowered and live in the most violent areas, not because we are “naturally” aggressive. Rather, this is a result of the economic conditions that have been imposed on us by malicious outside forces

Robert “Yummy” Sandifer was killed by his own gang at the tender age of 11 and the reality is that Yummy, alongside millions of unnamed inner-city black youths never had a fair shot in this country. Still, America deludes itself as the foremost purveyor of freedom in the world. White Liberals who adamantly believe that black people are making ‘steady progress’ in this country, often point to blacks in high places such as Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, and, of course, the President Barack Obama. White Republicans also, a cesspool filled with vicious racists, refuse to give credence to the notion that systematic racism severely restricts the social mobility of African-Americans. Both political parties believe that the discrimination, oppression, and disenfranchisement of African-Americans was just a misunderstanding rather than a core element that has ensured the growth of the U.S. capitalist, imperialist system. The reality is that Civil Rights legislation were never passed for altruistic reasons and the condition of black people in urban areas of America has not improved at all since the Civil rights legislation was passed – and this is no accident.

The Trick of Civil Rights Legislation 

As a legal scholar, Derick Bell has noted in Desegregation as a Cold War imperative, White people did not suddenly have a change of heart and decide to give black people rights. Rather, the American government acted in their own self-interest.  During the ‘Cold War,’ America and the Soviet Union battled with competing ideologies and both of them sought to establish an imperialistic grip on the world. The American government branded itself as the epitome of freedom and democracy, while casting the Soviet Union as a communist, totalitarianism regime that did not place value on human rights and freedoms. While it should be noted that the Kremlin, with Josef Stalin as president, engaged in purges to kill his enemies and saboteurs, U.S.A was not a saint either.  

When it seemed like U.S was winning the P.R war, the Soviet Union began to use video footages which showed African-Americans in the south with their flesh being ripped and eaten by vicious canines. At this revelation, America could no longer tell the world it was the epitome of human rights and freedom while subjugating its black population to open overt torture and suffering. If she did, she would appear to be a hypocritical liar. Thus, superficial changes had to be made in the power structure of America as regards the manner in which it carried out its oppression against black people. This was one factor that contributed to the passage of Civil Rights legislation.  

Another factor that contributed to the decline of overt institutional racism against blacks was the threat of violence from blacks. After the cold-blooded assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., blacks in urban areas throughout America were outraged.  The government referred to the actions of African-Americans after King’s death as ‘riots’ rather than what they really were: rebellion! Something had to be done in order for America to gain an edge in the ideological war against the Soviet Union (also known as Cold War). In order not to look absolutely ridiculous when she proclaimed herself as the leader of human rights and freedoms, the U.S government pushed for the Civil Rights legislation to be passed.

Civil Rights legislation did a much better job at pacifying African-Americans than it ever did at putting an end to racial inequality, discrimination, and racism. In every area of American society from housing to health-care to employment opportunities, black people still face discrimination to this day because Civil Rights legislation was never adamantly enforced. Take a look at the facts; Chicago is among the most segregated cities in America and while whites live lavishly on the Northside, impoverished Blacks have been suffering throughout Chicago for decades.

When Dr. Martin Luther King first came to Chicago, he arrived with the intent to protest housing segregation and the substandard housing of Chicago’s black population. In response, White residents threw rocks at him while others held signs in protest, one reading, “Roses are red. Violents are Black. King would look good with a Knife in his back.” They then led a cheer saying ‘Kill Him!, Kill Him. Over 40 years later, Southside Chicago neighborhoods are nicknamed (and for good reasons) ‘Terrortown’ and ‘Killaward’ in the streets; areas that are just as ‘substandard’, and worse off than its state when King took part in his first protest.  When a reporter asked Chief Keef how dangerous the Southside of Chicago was he simply responded with one word: “Chiraq.

Anti-black discrimination continues to be ubiquitous throughout American society, from housing, to employment, and education. While civil rights legislation merely removed the overt signs of racism, such as “No blacks allowed” signs, it did not mitigate the everyday practices of racism which manifests in different spheres of daily American life. These manifestations of discrimination can be found in blockbusting and redlining tactics of real estate agents in housing, the discriminatory predatory loans practices of banks, or courtrooms which continue to bequeath harsher sentences to black offenders. At large, the black population in America is segregated in ghettos in which the only viable source of employment is the drug economy. This population is systematically deprived quality education, healthcare etc. and the results of this are, constant breeding of lethal gang violence, neighborhoods filled with food deserts, terrible living conditions where many residents die from diseases that could have been prevented.

Racial discrimination is as pervasive as it was during the ‘60s; the only change being the way the current racism manifest itself. After years of solidifying anti-black discrimination in every facet of American society, discrimination has toughened to the extent that it continues without an overt legal mechanism to support it. Taking all these into account, it is clear that civil rights legislation protected white supremacy by putting an end to the overt manifestation as a recuperative mechanism. This was merely done to create an illusion of equality.

 The truth is that it is governmental actions from the neighborhood composition act, the denial of essential social services to Chicago’s Black community, the intentional placement of Black communities near toxic waste dumps,  the Chicago police department ‘s wholesale torture of Black communities, and the multiple massacres white people have perpetrated on Chicago’s Black communities that has created desperate social conditions whereby gang-involved Black youth are forced to compete over the control of a fleeting drug economy.  In American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, sociologist Douglass S. Massey notes that due to practices such as redlining, racial steering, and blockbusting that developed in the Post-Jim Crow era, “the level of Black-White segregation has hardly changed. 

In Racism Realism, Derrick Bell famously stated that “[t]he adverse psychological effects of nonexistent opportunity are worse than the economic and social loss.”   The themes of drill rap, whereby young Black artists make known their bleak life prospects  reveal that continued impact of structural racism on black socio-economic mobility. The genesis of the neighborhood and communal conditions that gave rise to drill rap as a genre were birthed by systemic institutional racism which civil rights legislation failed to adequately address. The  themes highlighted in Drill Rap particularly that of invincibility and bravado function as a survival mechanism to exist in a world of bleak opportunities in which black-street organizations have been forced to compete over crumbs in a criminalized market.

 

 

Why the Black Conservatism of Abdullah bin Hamid Ali Has No Place In The Black Muslim Tradition!

Within the broader African-American community, Black Muslims were once renowned and respected for uplifting their communities. African-Americans took a leadership role in the struggle against white supremacy. The term “uncle tom, Black Muslim” would have been seen as an oxymoron in the days of Malcolm X. It was the ability of Black Muslims to make Islam speak to the most oppressed Black communities that accounts for Islam’s rapid influence and growth in Black America. Unfortunately, there are elements in the Muslim community today who are seeking to impugn this legacy.

Zaytuna College is the first accredited Muslim undergraduate college in the United States. It was collectively founded by Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Hatem Bazian.  In 2016, Hamza Yusuf blatantly disrespected African-American Muslims by denying systemic racism in America’s police forces. He declared that the breakdown of the Black family and not institutional racism was the true problem facing the Black community.

In a very pertinent question, brother Bilal Abdullah, of the Being Black And Muslim in America Podcast, asked”With this type of thinking, what is Zaytuna institute going to produce? They are not going to produce revolutionary minds who transform their communities with Islam. They are going to produce passive Muslims who are making excuses for this system. They not going to stand against injustices facing the people, especially Black people. ”

Indeed, it would appear that Hamza Yusuf has hired a Black professor who shares with him his egregious denial of the structural racism facing Black America. Abdullah bin Hamid Ali is a Professor at Zaytuna College. According to his biography, he teaches Islamic law and the prophetic tradition at Zaytuna college.  Here are some blatant examples of Abdullah bin Hamid serving as a Black face for White Supremacy.

Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali argues that police brutality impacts White Americans just as much as it does Black Americans. He ignores data from Stanford Open Policing Project and the ACLU’s study on Stop and Frisk. He also ignores  a  study indicating that police brutality is detrimentally impacting the mental health of Black people.  These studies provide  unequivocal evidence that police brutality disproportionately falls on Black Americans.

Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali argues that there is no evidence that discrimination in hiring is a government policy and that “violators usually get prosecuted” because “EO[equal opportunity] laws exist to fight against this.”  Of course, this is blatant ignorance of how structural racism operates in America society. This likely explains Abdullah Ali’s sophomoric effort to critique critical race theory.

Racial discrimination in hiring is a pervasive reality. African Americans with “Black sounding” names are less likely to be called back for job interviews  than those with “white sounding” names even when the qualifications are identical.    Another study found that White men with criminal records were  viewed more positively by hiring managers than Black men without a criminal record .

The fact that there may not be governmental actors mandating such racial discrimination by law does not take away from its negative impact on Black social-economic mobility.

Ali provides no proof for his claim that violators of equal protections usually get prosecuted. Indeed,many African-Americans who are victims of racial discrimination in hiring have neither the time nor resources to sue their former employers under equal protection laws. This is one of the reasons of why racism can persist despite formal equality under the law.

In addition to denying the role of structural racism in driven Black mass-incarceration and denying the role of racism in voter suppression, Abdullah Hamid Ali makes an additional egregious claim. He asserts that poor Black spending habits are a more significant factor in the black-white income gap than the history of slavery and institutional racism.    Ali writes “Wealth disparities: we all know the history leading to “some” of this. But, much of what we witness can be attributed to irresponsible behavior and not taking advantage of education.”

Of course, the claim for which Abdullah Ali presents no evidence to support is easily debunked by studies in the area from Black Labor, White Wealth: The Search for Power and Economic Justice by Claud Anderson, and  How White Folks Got So Rich by the Reclamation Project.

A study on this very topic titled What Is Behind the Persistence of the Racial Wealth Gap? by economist Dionissi Aliprantis concluded that “The current racial wealth gap is the consequence of many decades of racial inequality that imposed barriers to wealth accumulation either through explicit prohibition during slavery or unequal treatment after emancipation. Examples of postemancipation barriers include legally mandated segregation in schools and housing, discrimination in the labor market, and redlining, which reduced access to capital in black neighborhoods.”

Abdullah Ali believes that much of the wealth disparity between Blacks and Whites can be attributed to poor education and irresponsible behavior on behalf of Black people. Abdullah Ali does not provide any evidence that Black people engage in higher levels of irresponsible behavior than do white people.  Whites have greater wealth than do Blacks. As a result, whites have a greater shield when it comes to being protected from  irresponsible financial behavior.

It is the irresponsible behavior on the part of whites in the form of slavery, jim crow, redlining, and segregation that has resulted in Black poverty.  Ali also fails to consider that Black people who live in poverty due to historical segregation do not have access to equitable education as whites.  Furthermore, the acquisition of education by Black people does not solve wealth disparities. A study noted that whites who are high-school dropouts have more wealth than Black college graduates.  Another study also noted whites are more wealthier than Black people at every education level.  Black women in particular obtain college degrees at record levels but it has not  translated to an end in racial wealth disparities.

 None of the opinions of Abdullah Ali on the Black white wealth gap nor police brutality are supported by any studies or data. It’s just  right-wing talking points. Abdullah Ali’s political commentary are the uneducated ramblings of a man who watches more Ben Sharpio and Jordan Peterson lectures than Malcolm X, Safiya Bukhari, Imam Jamil Al Amin, Selou Odinga, and Dhoruba Bin Wahad.

Abdullah Ali’s political commentary are a blatant disrespect to the struggle of Black people against white supremacy. Black Muslims need to be influenced by the Islam of Malcolm X and Safiya Bukhari as we struggle against the defacto structural racism still impacting our communities.

Abdullah Ali’s political beliefs will only keep Black folks trapped in “Toby Muhammad” style  interpretation of Islam in which Islam is reduced to rituals without playing an active role in confronting the appalling political conditions facing Black America.  This goes for anyone. It does not matter how much classical Arabic texts one has translated or how much Al-Ghazali texts one has studied, any man that believes “irresponsible behavior” on behalf of Black people  and not “slavery” is the more significant factor in the black/white wealth disparity cannot teach Islam to Black people in an empowering way to confront their political realities.

 

Lil Reese & The white origins of Chriaq’s gang wars.

I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.

In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap.

Where I’m from? Chiraq……..

..300 Normal Spelled Backwards.—Lil Reese

Many people growing up in Chiraq have lost many friends and relatives from the ensuing gang wars. Lil Reese indicates that he too has been affected by this and states that this is reality, not ‘movie shit.’ He’s done this in efforts to distinguish himself from  your typical studio-gangsters who make idle threats and appear ‘thugish’ in rap videos only to go back to their fancy homes after the video shoot to a full refrigerator and comfortable couches in the suburbs.

His phrase ‘turned into a savage’ refers to the mentality that many people in his crew have developed from living in such appalling social conditions. A recent study indicates that black youth in Chiraq who are exposed to such violence develop post-traumatic stress disorders comparable to troops returning home from military combat. However, for these youth, this isn’t ‘post-traumatic’ because this violence is a continuous cycle that takes place in their neighborhood everyday. Further, unlike military troops, these youth never receive visits from psychologists to aid them. As Lil Reese stated, “A body getting dropped everyday – this shit is real.”

A body getting dropped refers to people dying from gunshots. The sad truth is that many youth have absolutely nothing to lose within the confides of the current social system. Indeed, when you watch a Lil Reese video, in his hood you’ll see many shirts displaying “R.I.P.” to the names of various friends and “Free”  to the names of various people locked away.

Both Chief Keef and Lil Reese grew up in Englewood. They would probably be surprised to hear that their now impoverished and violent community was once predominately white and affluent. Moreover, in addition to being mostly white, it was once a stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan. As America began to integrate and African-Americans entered deep into the Chicago areas—this once predominately white area began organizing violently against the African-American communities. They then formed a neighborhood associations with slogans like: “America for whites, Africa The Only Place for Niggers.”  They then went on to say “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages.” While these whites portrayed African-Americans as savages, all the behavior that whites partook in to defend against integration were of that very nature. After a rumor that a house in Englewood was going to be purchased by a black family, whites began to carry out bombings, physical assaults, and arson on black residents for simply trying to live their lives. After putting up posters saying “NEGROES INVADING” a bunch of white racists came together starting the “EngleWood Race Riots of 1949”. As African-Americans continued to move in, “a white plight” took place as whites moved to suburban areas, leaving the black community in absolute turmoil, chaos, and social decay.

Now, I’ve constantly heard the argument that goes something like this: “Lil Reese was born in 1993, those riots took place in 1949.” As if it had no effect on him.  White people had the benefit of passing wealth to their children who could then pass it on to their children; they also had the luxury of a stable home and other infrastructure. As a result of these race riots, blacks who were affected   were not given the same opportunities nor has the racist system that has been designed to disenfranchise blacks from employment been abolished. These riots and systemic obstacles left the black community in absolute economic turmoil. The poverty that resulted from it allowed the illegal economy to takeover as the number one employer for black youth. Similarly, when peaceful African-Americans first moved to Englewood, a racist of the white, anti-intergrationist stated that” I think they[Blacks] are savages.” Now, over 30 years later Lil Reese embraces this image, stating that “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.”  The forces of white supremacy turns oppressed Black people into savages creating the conditions for gang warfare in black communities.

A critical look at the South-Side of Chicago

Nearly everyone in Chiraq has friends who are now imprisoned, have been shot, or are now six feet in the ground.  This is a place where people shoot bullets with no regard for life, as if it is some type of video game. The brilliant thing about hip-hop is that it has allows for people at the absolute bottom of the socio-economic ladder, those who resort to selling drugs, violent robberies, and gang-banging to provide food, clothing, and shelter to gain riches and notoriety almost overnight through luxurious record contracts and it has also allowed their stories to be told via album releases and, more recently, YouTube. ‘The Third World Inside of America: A critical Look at the Southside of Chicago’ series will examine the social conditions in Chicago using primarily rapper-created lyrics and images coming, rappers in this area who expose the government’s role in maintaining poverty that in turn allows gang-violence to flourish.

Lil JOJO in the Field

First up is now deceased Rapper Lil JOJO who in his ’Shit Is Real’ song stated that “This shit is real in the field. So I keep the steel. You throw up a L you see how it feel.” Lil JOJO belonged to ‘BRICKSQUAD,’ a faction of the Gangsta Disciples. When he discussed being ‘in the field’ he is referring to selling drugs, being in enemy territory and partaking in the various activities typical of street organizations.  ‘To keep the steel” is to have a gun on you at all times, ready to preform hits if you are confronted by rival gang bangers.

The last line is very interesting, as Chief Keef and Lil Reese often begin their songs stating “Ls up.” This is them vocalizing their gang sign which represents the Lamron Faction of the Black Disciples. Both Black Disciples and Gangsta Disciples go to war over drug territory, but many of the recent shootings have been retaliatory.  In this song, Lil JOJO threatens those who put up Ls, saying that those who dare to put up this sign up will be shot.

In JOJO’s “Put In Work’ track, he further describes his life on a day to day basis, stating that, “I’m counting so much money my fingers hurt. Shooting all these guns now my fingers hurt. You better duck ‘cause these shells hurt… Gang-BANG doing hits.” Indeed, the picture to the left shows LIL JOJO with a wad of cash and the other shows him with automatic weapons. As a participant in the illegal economy, black youth often bring in fast money – but that money comes at a price; through violence gangs must use to defend their enterprise. If anyone attempts to encroach on their territory, they are forced to carry out ‘hits’. To do a hit means to shoot and kill rival streets organizations.  As black youth becomes accustomed to the street market, competition is not carried out in the form of price cuts and ad campaigns. Gang members compete over territory to sell their products and services. With no other source of income, protecting ones block or corner becomes a matter of life and death.

The Root Cause of JOJO’s violent Lyrics

There is no doubt that Lil JOJO’s lyrics were outright violent. Yet, we must examine the structural conditions that contributed to these social conditions. JOJO was from Altgeld Gardens, a predominantly African-American housing project that has the majority of its residents living under the poverty-line. This community was originally built for African-American World War II veterans—the Chicago Housing Authority did not want them to reside in whites areas and thus from its inception ‘Altgeld Gardens’ was designed to be a segregated community. Currently, it is among the lowest income communities in America. [1]

 jojoripeAdditionally, The Chicago Housing Authority constructed the housing without adequate plumbing technology and would not even give this community the benefit of regular garbage disposable services.  This community was essentially neglected. Perhaps more appalling and disgusting is the place that the Chicago Housing Authority decided to build this housing project. [2]

Lil Jojo’s community was built in an area surrounded by 53 toxic waste facilities and 90% of the Chicago’s landfills. It was filled with toxins such as ammonia gas, lead, heavy metals, and xylene and stood surrounded by a chemical waste incinerator. The residents of this area have an extremely high rate of children born with brain tumors; an abnormal number of fetuses in the area were aborted because of brains developing outside of the skull. These social conditions the government is directly responsible for lead to the infant mortality rate sky-rocketing, but children fortunate enough to make it teenage years are disproportionately affected by asthma as a direct result of this toxic waste.[3]

Moreover, since the community was essentially neglected, you can rest assured that any opportunities for employment are slim to none.  The majority of these households were female headed and lived below the poverty line with many of these mothers turning to drugs to help ease the pain that they faced every day.  Many mothers work very hard and seek employment but simply cannot provide for their children which in turn lures black youth to the drug economy to be given a chance to have the things that most other elasticities are given at birth—things such as food and clothing.  Black women also face numerous institutional hurdles- Recent studies indicate that Black women only make 63 cents for every dollar that white males make for equal work[4]. Moreover, as a result of indoctrination from the capitalist media, many youth are very materialistic and want the latest clothes (I.E Jordan’s, POLO, etc.). These are all things that lure black youth into the drug economy which in turn leads to vicious gang wars. These drugs wars are all rooted in poverty and gang members feel like “men” when they defend their turf-because they have no real power over the larger social and political system of America.

The older brother of JOJO had this to say “It was a character and just an image that he was giving, because that image is hot. We’re not from the North Side. We’re not from the nice community. We’re from the ’hood. We’re from where mothafuckas are hungry and ain’t got shit and it’s a matter of whether you’re a nigga that do eat or don’t. The nigga that eat do negative things to get it.”[5]

Indeed, his older brother was correct Jimmy Lovine, the CEO of Interscope whom signed Chief Keef to a multi-million dollar contract (JOJO was seeking the same thing), currently owns stocks in various prison corporations. This means he profits off the imprisonment of black youth. The more black youth in jail, the fatter his pockets get.  In jail, many blacks are forced to work for cheap labor—this is essentially a modern form of slavery.

The sad truth is, many blacks live in social conditions where crime is the only way to have the basic necessities of life– thus, these record labels are able to bring talented black youth from rags to riches almost overnight – but the violent nature of their lyrics and their widespread popularity can only contribute to furthering the prison system  as more black youth begin to act our these images.

Lil Reese

Next is Lil Reese, a Chiraq rapper, who is the right hand man of the now imprisoned rapper Chief Keef. He states that:

I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.

In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap.

Where I’m from? Chiraq……..

..300 Normal Spelled Backwards.—Lil Reese

 As stated earlier, many people growing up in Chiraq have lost many friends and relatives from the ensuing gang wars. Lil Reese indicates that he too has been affected by this and states that this is reality, not ‘movie shit.’ He’s done this in efforts to distinguish himself from  your typical studio-gangsters who make idle threats and appear ‘thugish’ in rap videos only to go back to their fancy homes after the video shoot to a full refrigerator and comfortable couches in the suburbs. His phrase ‘turned into a savage’ refers to the mentality that many people in his crew have developed from living in such appalling social conditions. A recent study indicates that black youth in Chiraq who are exposed to such violence develop post-traumatic stress disorders comparable to troops returning home from military combat[7]. However, for these youth, this isn’t ‘post-traumatic’ because this violence is a continuous cycle that takes place in their neighborhood everyday. Further, unlike military troops, these youth never receive visits from psychologists to aid them. As Lil Reese stated, “A body getting dropped everyday – this shit is real.”

A body getting dropped refers to people dying from gunshots. The sad truth is that many youth have absolutely nothing to lose within the confides of the current social system. Indeed, when you watch a Lil Reese video, in his hood you’ll see many shirts displaying “R.I.P.” to the names of various friends and “Free”  to the names of various people locked away. Living in such violent social conditions has a profound impact on the psychology of black youth, this is precisely why after Lil JOJO was shot, Chief Keef responded by saying,“HahahahahhahahahahahahahaahhAAHAHAHAHA” #RichNiggaShit “Its Sad Cuz Dat Nigga Jojo Wanted To Be Jus Like Us #LMAO.”

    The Root Cause of Lil Reese’s Violent Lyrics

Both Chief Keef and Lil Reese grew up in Englewood. They would probably be surprised to hear that their now impoverished and violent community was once predominately white and affluent. Moreover, in addition to being mostly white, it was once a stronghold for the Ku Klux Klan. As America began to integrate and African-Americans entered deep into the Chicago areas—this once predominately white area began organizing violently against the African-American communities. They then formed a neighborhood associations with slogans like: “America for whites, Africa The Only Place for Niggers.”  They then went on to say “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages.” While these whites portrayed African-Americans as savages, all the behavior that whites partook in to defend against integration were of that very nature. After a rumor that a house in Englewood was going to be purchased by a black family, whites began to carry out bombings, physical assaults, and arson on black residents for simply trying to live their lives. After putting up posters saying “NEGROES INVADING” a bunch of white racists came together starting the “EngleWood Race Riots of 1949”. As African-Americans continued to move in, “a white plight” took place as whites moved to suburban areas, leaving the black community in absolute turmoil, chaos, and social decay[8].

Now, I’ve constantly heard the argument that goes something like this: “Lil Reese was born in 1993, those riots took place in 1949.” As if it had no effect on him.  White people had the benefit of passing wealth to their children who could then pass it on to their children; they also had the luxury of a stable home and other infrastructure. As a result of these race riots, blacks who were affected   were not given the same opportunities nor has the racist system that has been designed to disenfranchise blacks from employment been abolished. These riots and systemic obstacles left the black community in absolute economic turmoil. The poverty that resulted from it allowed the illegal economy to takeover as the number one employer for black youth. Similarly, when peaceful African-Americans first moved to Englewood, a racist of the white, anti-intergrationist stated that” I think they[Blacks] are savages.” Now, over 30 years later Lil Reese embraces this image, stating that “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage.” Why  else would Lil JOJO, Chief Keef, and Lil Reese all have lyrics basically equating to “gonna get these guns, and I’mma kill these niggas”? The lyrics resemble the rhetoric of white racists of the past. This is all a result of blacks internalizing hatred and racial stereotypes of the society they live in.

1)http://www.plp.org/challenge/2009/11/13/derrion-albert-is-not-racist-capitalisms-first-or-last-victi.html, Derrion Albert Is Not Racist Capitalism’s First or Last Victim

2) Arnold Richard Hirsch, “Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960″, University of Chicago,1998,http://books.google.com/books?id=px0PuO7GWhsC&pg=PP1&ots=9I1rYsYyNh&dq=%22Making+the+Second+Ghetto%22+hirsch&sig=IPgKY-xgpCRZwpCsboI_rk0UPgc#PPA18,M1

3)Working Party on Environmental Performance,  http://www.oecd.org/environment/country-reviews/33848718.pdf#page=27

4) http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-affirmative-action, 11 Facts About Affirmative Action

5) Chief Keef and Lil Joj0 http://www.suntimes.com/news/crime/15007423-418/chief-keef-and-lil-jojo-a-rap-feud-straight-outta-englewood.html

6)http://www.sohh.com/2013/01/i_aint_dissing_chief_keef_im_dissing_jim.html,  “I Ain’t Dissing Chief Keef, I’m Dissing Jimmy Iovine”

7)I See Everything Through This Tragedy” February 12, 2012, 11:00 am ET by Alex Kotlowitz http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/social-issues/interrupters/i-see-everything-through-this-tragedy/

8)Black Literature of Revolutionary Protest from Chicago’s South Side: A Local …

By Michelle Yvonne Gordon,http://books.google.com/books?id=nMwuX6wKz40C&pg=PA199&dq=chicago+englewood&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nqgOUdXxDoH89QTAgIHwCQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=chicago%20englewood&f=false

The Making of Chiraq

herb43The name Chiraq, which is frequently employed the black Chicagoans, has attracted much criticism, with some arguing that its utilization glorifies an urban culture of violence. Lil Reese, who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, describes his upbringing by forcefully testifying, “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage […] Where I’m from? This Chiraq.” In numerous rap videos, these self-proclaimed savages residing within the enclave of Chiraq appear brandished with weapons that are suitable for military combat. Their T-shirts often have insignia that reads ”R.I.P______,” with the blank filled by the names of deceased peers. “Chiraq” is just one of many of these ghettos; the same lifestyle can be found in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and other urban communities. In Lil Bibby’s pivotal track entitled “Raised Up,”  he asserts, ”We some savages, that’s what the hood made us.” Lil Bibby and Lil Herb describe the dominant mode of life in inner-city ghettoes, which is one of pure survival where youth must  bear the brunt of a chaotic environment that consists of coping  with the stress that comes with living in and out of jail, violently protecting ones stake in the drug market, and dealing with potentially lethal run-ins with law enforcement.

In the public’s imagination, these ghettoes are home to black welfare queens who are leeches on the economic system, as well as a remberinghadiya“black criminal deviant underclass” who carry out horrific acts of violence in the form of drive-by-shootings, car jackings, and burglaries. The linguistic choice to dub their areas of the city “Chiraq” by Chicago’s youth conveys a fundamental reality about the status of black Americans; it reveals that they constitute a segregated space in  the United states, effectively challenging the commonly held belief in the post-Civil Rights era of America in which  institutional racism is said to be gradually fading as we move towards a  more progressive society, heading more towards  accomplishing  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream with every passing year. After the death of Chicago public school student Hadiya Pendleton, President Barack Obama made the tragic death a mere issue of “gun-violence” and utilized it to advocate tougher gun control legislation, without acknowledging the oppression that went into creating the violent conditions in her community.

The Violence that Created the Violence

chicagogreatmigrationThe ghetto and all of the sporadic anti-social behavior, which is a product of perpetual violence (both physical and institutional), continues to create the social conditions needed for gang conflicts. In 1870, after legal plantation slavery was abolished, 80% of black Americans resided in the rural south; these families were forced to endure an oppressive sharecropping system which had largely replaced slavery. They were marred in poverty with a lack of education while having to cope with a series of repressive black code laws which were the precursor to Jim Crow. During the great migration, African-Americans began moving to Chicago in search of better opportunities, but would instead be met with violence.

 

The White Circle League, formed with the mission of “keeping white neighborhoods free from negroes,” regularly terrorized Africanchicagoraceriots-Americans in Chicago.  Between 1917 and 1921, the bombing of African-American homes occurred once every twenty days on average. In 1919, an African-American boy who was swimming was killed as a result of whites throwing heavy rocks at him. When blacks sought to report the incident to police, they themselves were arrested while the white individuals who had killed this young man went unpunished.   As African-Americans began peacefully protesting, whites began to violently assault them, forming mobs that eventually sought to harm African-Americans through various avenues, from attacking patients in black hospitals to setting fire to the homes of blacks. The Irish Hamburg Athletic Club was among the groups who made an effort to kill many blacks; a man who would eventually become mayor decades later – Richard J. Daley – was an active member of this group. These violent attacks left many African-Americans homeless, causing them to lose the relatively small amount of wealth that they had come up north to accumulate. Furthermore, the Irish gangs who carried out these brutal attacks would in mass numbers be recruited to the Chicago Police Department.

 

cjocagpb;aclbe;tThe Chicago Housing Authority also implemented the “Neighborhood Composition Rule,” which ensured that blacks would be segregated and confined to housing in the black belt. The housing for black Americans lacked plumbing and was routinely neglected; the neighborhoods did not even receive the benefit of regular garbage disposal services. In addition to being near toxic waste dumps, the decrepit housing set aside for blacks drastically increased the levels of infant mortality.  Even after the neighborhood composition rule ended, whites would take to violence to ensure segregation.

 

In Englewood, the  birthplace of rappers Chief Keef & Lil Reese, was once a bastion of white supremacy. After African-Americans had
nnegroes
 merely visited the neighborhood, due to fears that a home was going to be “sold to niggers,” neighborhood associations campaigned with slogans like “America for whites, Africa is the onl y place for niggers.” One white person being interviewed argued that, “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages. ” With protest signs stating, ”Negroes Invading,” whites began the ‘Englewood Race Riots of 1949,’ not only carrying brutal acts of violence against African-American citizens, but also finding black residential homes to arson, which left many blacks dead, homeless, and losing all of their property. All of this set the precedence of the creation of the ghettos within the city due to the huge wealth loss that black families had struggled to gain. White Flight  took place and years later Lil reese would rap,”I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage. In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap. Where I’m from? Chiraq.”

The Failure of Civil Rights

tenants A week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Richard J. Daley, who was part of an Irish Club which routinely terrorized blacks, would become the Mayor, and his racism would be backed with institutional support. Daley ordered his police force and U.S. army troops to cripple and maim outraged black citizens. Nonetheless, African-Americans won some concessions; the Fair Housing Act was passed, allegedly attempting to address housing discrimination.Under the Fair Housing Act, African-Americans could sue if they were subjected to housing discrimination. However, such legislation did nothing on a practical level to restructure American society. Indeed, think about the capitol, time, and effort that the average African-American single parent would have to expend to pursue such a case in ‘job discrimination’ or ‘housing discrimination,’ all while struggling with what comes from living in the ghetto.

 

While the “No Niggers” signs and overt visible signs of racism declined, the act could do nothing to change the everyday racially discriminatory practices of realtors and city planners who would routinely blackhousign4operate along radicalized lines. Douglas S. Massey points out that realtors had unspoken assumptions in their clients’ interest which kept “unwanted” elements (blacks) out of affluent neighborhoods, fearing the professional repercussions from their clientele. This confirms that, despite legislative changes ending overt signs of racism, such legislation would have no effect in transforming the cultural attitudes and daily practices of institutions of city planning and realtors who would continue to operate along racist lines; in summation, relators were found to, and have continued to, keep African-Americans away from white neighborhoods despite the passing of the Fair Housing Act. The sociologist Douglas S. Massey concluded, “Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act, the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.”

In fact, according to the current trend, blacks in Chicago will still compromise a segregated group as far into the future as 2042. Douglas Massey, states, ”Ironically, within a large, diverse, and highly mobile post-industrial society such as the United States, blacks living in the heart of the ghetto are among the most isolated people on earth.” Born witlilreesehout a silver spoon, in the ghetto, the typical lifestyle of a resident consists of languishing in run down areas, being pressured to hustle on the streets, carrying out “hits” to protect their block as a result of the lethal underground drug economy, all resulting in a continuous cycle of going in and out of jail; many individuals born in these areas know they may  face an early death, and they do not expect to live past eighteen.

 

 

The segregated status of black Americans, which separates them from white America, protects white Americans from the social violenceLeondore Draperproblems, drugs, gang wars, and violence, which are a result of an unjust social order. Meanwhile, innocent  African-American women, such as Chicago Public School Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot down by stray bullets on her way home from school, and Leondore Draper, who was shot coming back home from an anti-violence  campaign that she helped to organize, bear the brunt of a racially segregated society. The complicity and perpetration of this racial segregation includes both conservative right wing forces, many of whom deny racism is even a viable factor in the social mobility of blacks, often blaming “immoral black culture.” Also complicit are  liberal left wing forces seeking to liberalize America while  reinforcing the violence against African-American  by spreading the narrative of “steady progress” for blacks and thus obfuscating their true plight and the desperate living conditions they live within.

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American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass by Douglass S. Massey A. Denton

Making of the Second Ghetto, Race * Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch