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Rhymefest’s message to fellow rappers: Don’t glorify violence

Updated: July 30, 2014 7:01AM

Che “Rhymefest” Smith has a message for fellow Chicago rappers: document violence, don’t glorify it.

Smith joined a panel of local influential music and community members on Saturday in a talk about hip hop music and its impact on violence at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition & Citizenship Education Fund’s 43rd Annual Convention. The talk came a day after a 17-year-old boy was shot by someone in a minivan just outside Rainbow/PUSH headquarters in Kenwood.

Tony Sculfield, morning host at WGCI-FM, told a crowd of young adults that it’s easy to pin music on Chicago’s violence epidemic, in a world where guns, drugs and money are in countless hit songs. But it’s much more complex, he said.

“I think that it’s a very easy target to pick out. I think the real target should be the lack of community, the lack of parenting, the lack of opportunities,” Sculfield said.

Smith stressed the tremendous impact music can have on people.

“‘Mercy, Mercy Me’ by Marvin Gaye, that’s a song that helped to end the Vietnam War. Music helps create movements,” Smith said.

Smith, the Grammy award winning rapper, community activist and radio host said some artists are embellishing lyrics and glorifying violence, instead of using their words to instill change.

“We have to choose between documentation and the glorification of violence,” Smith said. “How do you feel about your world? How do you feel about your dad, your little sister? You don’t hear that in music. You don’t really hear the whole truth.”

Local rapper Katie Got Bandz, 20, told the crowd her struggles, which included dropping out of high school and being arrested on a gun charge. But she said her lyrics are real.

“The things I write about, I experienced or I seen for real,” she said. “…For me, my experience helped me to become a better person. Right now, I want a better life for my little brother. The stuff I talk about in my music I want better for him.”

Smith encouraged the young rapper to write the truth, including the fear she has for her brother.

“The first thing people rap about is guns, guns, guns, money, money, but like you just said, your story is more versatile. That song about your little brother, and what you want for your little brother, well that would probably be the biggest song you ever make…. I wish for the truth about who we are. You are a good person, and that’s what the young people need to see.”

Just outside PUSH headquarters, 22-year-old Akila Wallace helped sell hot dogs from a stand as part of the Green Light Movement, a nonprofit anti-violence group. It provides youth opportunities to learn how to run their own business.

“I hear about a lot of youth getting shot from day to day. I think it’s just because they’re desperate to get money and they want somebody to connect with in gangs,” said Wallace, of Chatham. “With Green Light, we try to get them to make money in a positive way, not through drugs, and get them off the street.”

Helen Vallier, of Bronzeville, sat on the Rainbow PUSH steps Saturday afternoon, reading a newspaper.

“The violence is so unfortunate, because there’s no reason,” said Vallier, 75. “You can’t even understand the why.”


Twitter: @TinaSfon

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