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13-year-old rapper Lil' Mouse from video 'Get Smoked'

13-year-old rapper Lil' Mouse from the video "Get Smoked"

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Updated: September 13, 2012 6:22AM


That’s how a controversial gangsta rap featuring a 13-year-old South Side boy left Diane Latiker, founder of the celebrated “Kids Off The Block, Inc.

The video shows the boy rapping about sex, drugs and guns. It has already gotten more than 300,000 hits on YouTube. There is one encouraging sign, however. While 1,851 people liked the baby rapper, 2,638 did not. So while some of us have clearly lost our way, a lot of us still know right from wrong.

Latiker is the founder of a nationally acclaimed youth organization in Roseland that was recently featured on “ABC’s Secret Millionaire.” The nonprofit organization has long been a safe haven for children in the Roseland area. She denounces the video as “promoting violence for the love of money.”

“Because why else would you let your child do that?” she asked. “There is no other reason, certainly not out of love.”

“Where in the world can grown adults stand around and listen to a kid recite lyrics that he probably don’t know how to spell,” she added.

Unfortunately, the depiction of black folks cursing, swigging liquor, lighting up blunts and brandishing guns is so entertaining that out-of-town record producers are showing up in Chicago looking for talent.

Touissaint Werner of the Positive Influence Social Marketing Group, a company that develops positive messages targeting young people, called the Lil’ Mouse video phenomenon “extremely sad.”

“It’s a culture. I don’t know the child. I know the culture. What he is doing is emulating the adults in his community. The adults in his community are not on the right path,” Werner said. “They are on the path of low self-esteem, poverty, hopelessness and joblessness.”

I get that.

But I don’t get why it is acceptable for adults to corrupt a child.

Parents have a moral responsibility to instill character and values in their children. The parents of this boy are clearly failing in that regard. Everyone has something to say about that when children are killed in the crossfire of the city’s gang wars and in the drug dealing that leads to turf wars.

But too few of us are willing to nip all this in the bud by challenging the recording studios and radio stations that shamelessly market death and violence to our children.

Frankly, I’m shocked to learn that exploiting a child in a raunchy rap video is not treated as child abuse.

Even though the Lil’ Mouse video has gotten more than 300,000 views, the state Department of Children and Family Services has not received one complaint, even inquiring if the his appearance in a video where adults are waving guns represents child endangerment.

And YouTube doesn’t have a problem with underage children being in videos either, although YouTube’s Community Guidelines ban content that’s intended to incite violence or encourage dangerous, illegal activities.

That’s insane, especially in a city where hundreds of young people have been murdered. That this young boy is building a following and getting paid for rapping about shooting people is nothing short of dangerous.

Even more scandalous, after Lil’ Mouse appeared on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times, adults scrambled to justify his involvement in making gangsta rap videos.

For instance, I received a lengthy “press release” about Lil’ Mouse from someone who identified herself as O’Nesha McNair, that will give you a good idea of where this young rapper is heading.

The writer argues that Chicago was “built on a foundation of drugs, sex and violence going back to the days of Al Capone,” and that “Lil Mouse is continuing on the path that has been set before him.”

“This is a way out of poverty. This is a way out of the streets of inner city Chicago. This is how he will escape the dangers of his community. Lil Mouse’s life has changed overnight. He is now spending long days in the studio, which is shielding him from the streets of his community. Lil Mouse is imitating what he sees everyday, what he has been taught, and what has been instilled in him,” McNair wrote.

That doesn’t make it right.

Frankly, if Lil’ Mouse is spending “long days in the studio” making music about killing people, using drugs and having sex, it’s for the sole purpose of putting money in somebody else’s pocket. The adults who are marketing this child are using him to capitalize on the city’s violent image in an industry that celebrates violence.

But rapping is not the way out of poverty. For most young people, becoming a rap star is a fantasy, like making it into the NBA or NFL. While a lot of people have made a lot of money off of gangsta rap, a lot more people have ended up dead or in jail trying to live the life they are rapping about.

Most of the people who live in neighborhoods like the one Lil’ Mouse comes from are not dealing drugs and representing gangs.

“That is not the reality in Roseland,” Latiker pointed out. “You have people here who are trying to work, trying to survive. Things happen in life, but they still try to provide. They aren’t out here promoting violence and killing each other, and their children are not either.”

But when a community can’t do anything about the shameless corruption of a 13-year-old boy, it is powerless to change much else.

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