Rap music star Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) was shot to death leaving a music industry party in Los Angeles last weekend. The drive-by murder was the second brazen attack on a gangsta rap celebrity in the past six months. Brent Anthony Collins spoke to rap fans about the shootings and the role rap plays in society.
DARIEN V.L. TURNEREl Camino Community College student and office manager
I've read enough about various rappers to feel that they are positive role models offstage. Their images on record are just that: images, the urban version of the American dream.
I've hung out in South-Central and I haven't had those experiences, but maybe they did, maybe they didn't. As the Geto Boys said, "Your 'hood ain't no darker than mine." That means everybody has problems. All this territorial division is unnecessary; instead of butting heads, people should recognize each other's pain.
When I heard Biggie got killed, I was surprised but not shocked because people who listen to hip-hop these days confuse the art form with the lifestyle. Everything that artists rap about is not necessarily the way he or she is living, but the rappers are blurring the line because they perpetrate a certain lifestyle and there are consequences.
It seems like people are callous because they have removed the human aspect of the music. They see an artist as the image portrayed, not as a human being. The artists are treated like their image.
As long as gangsta rap has a consumer base, it will exist. If there are going to be any changes in the hip community, they will happen from the inside; not from some outside force.
I'm remorseful, not so much that Biggie died, but that Christopher Wallace died over nothing. People didn't see him as a son or a father within a family structure; somebody saw an image and they reacted to it.
Tupac and Biggie talked about money, drugs, clothes, cars, women and the way they acquired them. They both portrayed neo-gangsters, nouveau riche characters, and a lot of people tried to emulate them. Now that both icons from both coasts are gone, where does that leave hip hop?
The essence of hip hop, the good thing about it is that it changes with the times; whatever's going on is what it's about. It will continue to evolve and it will survive because hip hop represents a generation of people who need some way to express themselves.
LEYNA BRYSON27, Ventura homemaker
The gangsta role model overall is not a positive influence. It's not what you would hope the good American role model would be. The wealth and luxury rappers rap about is positive, but the overall gangsta image is not. It's romantic. Kids find it interesting--living the good life--but the rappers have to think about what they are doing.
Urban life is not as glamorous as they make it seem. They add dramatic scenes to make it more appealing.
I didn't think the rumors of a coastal rivalry had any foundation until Biggie's death. I hope the war ends. This is too much. It's like the two biggest kids on the block fighting. Like the U.S. and Russia used to be. I don't think the artists keep it going. The media focuses on it and the attention makes the fans hyped.
I heard people saying "Biggie needs to watch his back" when he was on the (Soul Train Music) awards last week. People were saying he should've done his part and went back East. I think Tupac's death had more impact because it was bizarre; we weren't ready for it. With Biggie, it wasn't a shock because of Tupac's murder.
I think the real problem needs to be addressed. Education regarding guns, bullets and drugs is one way to combat all this violence. I'm not for gun control; I own guns, but I teach my children responsibility.
SAM GONZALES17, Bell High School senior
I was shocked when I heard Biggie was killed. For [a rapper's death] to happen again in such a short time span was shocking. The more ignorant people said he deserved it because of the East-West Coast rivalry.
I listen to hip-hop for entertainment. I can't really identify with it totally, but I know that what they rap about is everyday life for some people.
I think that this might be only the beginning of a coastal war. I think it will take a couple more deaths before people realize how senseless all the violence is. I heard Tupac [Shakur] always wore a bulletproof vest. That is is no way to live, fearing that someone will kill you.
Rappers don't abandon their lifetyles when they become famous. They have money and the opportunity to live anywhere, but they hang around the same people and places bacause if they don't, they consider it selling out.
Tupac's death had more impact because it happened first and he was more popular than Biggie.
I don't think rappers are role models. Their music is more like an art form. They express their feelings and the feelings of many other people. Kind of like painting. They should be recognized for their work, not their lifestyles.
KESHA WARDEN20, Los Angeles, paralegal/student
I was not shocked when Biggie was killed because of all the violence in the rap industry. Also, because of the life he lived. He was a known former crack dealer turned rapper.
A lot of people in Los Angeles were into Tupac and they knew he didn't like Biggie and I think that influenced how they felt about him, so people seemed to be like, "They shot Biggie? Oh, OK." Kind of nonchalant. It wasn't necessarily because of who he was, though. It was because of the timing. Also, people have become numb because of the violent society we live in.
I don't think rappers are role models at all. African American youth should not be looking up to someone who speaks about violence, degrading women, drinking and drugs. They are popular because they have had the same experience as many African Americans. Kids can relate to them more than R & B singers, who sing mostly about love.
I think some of the subject matter in rap songs is glorified. Biggie's death will be another wake-up call. It's society's choice whether they want to recognize that violence can happen to anyone, not just drug dealers, gang bangers and urban youth, but to those who have acquired material things and can buy what they want and live where they want. Violence can still hit them.
The violence in society is not the rappers' fault; they are just giving the fans what they want. If they change their music, the fans won't like it. You can take Snoop Doggy Dog as an example: On his latest album, he changed how he refers to women and what he talks about and no one likes the album. Because he's changed--he's a father now--he's not telling them go out rob and steal and you can have this. That's what a lot of rap fans want and he's not giving it to them.
It's up to the youth and their parents to change things. If you allow your children to think that being a gangsta is right as opposed to getting an education to acquire things . . . if people think that robbing people or selling drugs is the only way to get things, that's what they will do.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun