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Why are so Many Rappers Being Killed?

Collage of Rappers who have been killed by gun violence

UNITED STATES – Known by his stage name “Takeoff”, 28-year-old rapper Kirshnik Khari Ball was shot and killed during a private party at a bowling alley this week. While employees at that bowling alley told police an argument took place after the party ended, it is still unclear why the argument started, or who shot Takeoff.

The rapper’s tragic death has started conversations about the high mortality of Black, male rappers in the industry. The hashtag “Black Men Deserve to Grow Old” is trending on social media, with many people asking why so many Black rappers die before they turn 30?

Ball was best known as one-third of the platinum-selling rap group Migos, formed with his uncle and cousin in 2008. The group rose to fame following the release of their breakout single “Versace” in 2013. 

While his death is tragic, we know that Takeoff is far from the first rapper to die from gun violence. Think PnB Rock, Pop Smoke, and Nipsey Hussle, all of whom have died by gun violence in the last few years. It’s not just an American problem. Toronto’s very own Houdini was fatally shot in 2020. 

It’s obvious that the game is changing in the rap and hip-hop world, and it seems like no level of fame can protect you from gun violence. But is gun violence really to blame – or is there a bigger issue at play?

Hip-Hop Community Reacts to Takeoff’s Death

Takeoff’s untimely death has shaken the world, sending fans and the hip-hop community into mourning. Many celebrities have taken to social media to share their thoughts after his passing. 

“This broke my heart. Rest In Peace,” wrote Gucci Mane, who recently collaborated with Takeoff on the track “Us vs. Them”.

Chloe-Bailey Tweet

“This is horrible. From the tragedy of the death to the tragedy of there being a video of it online. It’s all just tragic and I am so sorry to his whole family and all he touched. Really terrible.” actress Keke Palmer wrote on Instagram.

While fans also took to social media to share their condolences and love for the late rapper.

“Takeoff, man…Offset lost a brother he’ll never get to fix things with. For nothing.

Quavo lost his nephew. For nothing.

Rap lost a good one. For nothing.

All this bloodshed. For nothing.

It’ll never make sense. Never ever.

Rest in Peace. Prayers to the family of the fallen,” wrote one fan. 

“So many people dying in our generation .. famous and non , why do we always bring gun violence into things that could be solved with words .. maybe hands,” posted another. 

Why are so Many Young, Black Rappers Dying?

History shows that both rap feuds and beef play a role in many rappers not seeing their 30th birthday. Back in 1996, the iconic Tupac Shakur was shot and killed at only 25 years old. Then only months later, the Notorious BIG would be shot and killed at just 24. The East Coast/West Coast rivalry took the lives of two mega-talented artists with bright futures ahead of them when the hip-hop game was just getting started.

Over the years, feuds would fuel the rap game. From Lil Wayne and Birdman, to Nas and Jay Z, to Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, the disses and feuds have always added an extra layer of seasoning to hip-hop and rap music. But it’s also the reason many music writers, experts and fans question whether hip-hop has an issue with gun violence, or with envy. 

On Twitter, journalist Jemele Hill expressed her condolences for Takeoff.

“Here comes another useless conversation about how the real issue is we need to better navigate our lives around gun violence. There are 400 million guns in this country — twice as many as we have people. There is no navigating around that. Black people should be allowed to wear expensive things they’ve worked hard to buy, be out late, have petty arguments, without losing their lives. We keep pointing the blame at everything but the people who recklessly pull the trigger,” Hill wrote. 

Hill also highlighted that most people are murdered by people of the same race and people they know. Warning that painting Black people as more violent than anyone else is a lazy default. 

But Hill wasn’t alone. Many others agree that hip-hop culture reads to be overhauled and reformed. Zeze Millz took to Twitter to share her thoughts. 

“We need to have a serious conversation about what hip hop CULTURE has become. Because ain’t no way there should be this amount of rappers being murdered. Tell me another genre where the artists are being murdered at this rate?” she wrote

Meanwhile in Toronto…

Here in Toronto, gun violence plagues communities with a handful of deaths stemming from rap beef. Our city had this conversation in June of 2018 when a shooting outside a nightclub left rapper SmokeDawg dead at only 21-years-old . 

Then in May of 2020, Houdini was shot in the middle of the day by what some would call his “opps” or opponents. 

Rap Culture: The Bigger Picture

It’s important that we don’t paint hip-hop, rap, or the artists who make this music as inherently more violent than others. This is especially true as the majority of hip-hop and rap is made by Black people, people who’ve experienced poverty, loss, and abuse under long-standing oppressive systems and governments. Many of these artists are the first to make it out of their families, neighbourhoods and sometimes entire cities. 

The thing is, only a few artists are able to beat the odds and become famous, and for those who are fighting to make it out of damaging environments  – it’s easier to understand why feuds and disputes can escalate to the point of death.

But how should the Black community in the States, here in Toronto, and globally address this rising issue? Does there need to be more respect in hip-hop culture? Or does the whole thing need to be reformed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 



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