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‘Gangsta rap’ artists are unworthy of acclaim | READER COMMENTARY

In this Aug. 15, 1996, file photo, rapper Tupac Shakur attends a voter registration event in South Central Los Angeles. He was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas one month later. (AP Photo/Frank Wiese, File)

Leonard Pitts is one of my favorite journalists, a foot soldier in print, but I found it difficult to reconcile this with his take on rap music, specifically the “gangsta” rap artists and their contemporaries (”Leonard Pitts Jr.: How yesteryear’s moral panic over rap music becomes today’s soft sell,” Sept. 12). I recall the differences I had with my dad in the late 1940s and early 1950s when Black music veered from the Big Band sound of Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford and Duke Ellington to the small R&B combos of Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five and “Bull Moose” Jackson.

Music is generational, and I understood that when rap emerged on the scene. Early, old-school elites rapped about the conditions and challenges of living in the Black community, the daily struggle with everyday situations plus the constant oppression from embedded systemic racism. Quincy Jones correctly dubbed them “street poets.” As film director Kasi Lemmons pointed out in a Washington Post article a while back, white Americans’ “lack of imagination is killing us.” Those early rappers like Run D.M.C., Kurtis Blow and the Sugarhill Gang were educating white America about the Black condition in America. Without question, their social commentary enlightened and informed a huge segment of America that was oblivious to the reality of living Black in this country.

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Didn’t take long for major labels and record moguls, Black and white, to see the sweepstakes that loomed ahead and swoop in with gangsta rap. The absolute worst thing you could do to young urban minds and bodies already living on the margins of society was to glorify thug life, but they did with a flourish. Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur and imitators abound and emerge, foul language, videos denigrating Black women in dance and context became commonplace. The coastal warfare and violence was unprecedented and a horrible stain on the genre.

I’m 90 years old, but I dug me some Kool Moe Dee, Biz Markie, Salt-N-Pepa, Kid ‘n Play and MC Hammer. Gangsta rap should’ve never happened.

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— Walt Carr, Columbia

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