This week, a Chicago-based music website apologized for airing an interview with a budding rap artist that took place at a gun range in New York City.
The editor of Pitchfork TV, Mark Richardson, had this to say about the interview in a statement:
“Selector” is a Pitchfork.tv show in which we interview rappers and watch them freestyle over beats. We often try to conduct these shows in unusual locations, and several months ago we interviewed Chief Keef at a gun range in New York City. This concept was rushed and never should have happened. We’re proud of the “Selector” series as a whole and its production will continue, but this particular episode was insensitive and irresponsible.
Pitchfork’s roots are in Chicago and many of our employees and several contributors live in the city. The horror of the gun violence that has plagued our hometown is something we all take very seriously. Many people have pointed out that this episode could be seen as trivializing gun violence, and we feel they have a good point.
This raises a rather interesting question, is a gun range an appropriate venue for a rap interview?
Before one answers that question, there are probably several things one should consider (a) the content of the rapper’s lyrics, (b) the relationship between rap culture and gang violence and (c) most importantly, the rapper’s character, i.e. is he a law-abiding and responsible citizen.
In this particular instance, it turns out that “Chief Keef” – real name: Keith Cozart – is a controversial figure within the industry.
Recently, upon hearing about the death of one of his local rivals, rising rap star “Lil Jojo,” who was shot dead while riding on the back of a friend’s bike, he tweeted the following:
(LMAO stands for “laughing my ass off.”)
After receiving a blitzkrieg of negative feedback from his followers, “Keef” went on to say that his Twitter account was hacked into and that he didn’t post that tweet:
Despite his apparent backpedaling on his initial remark, Chicago police are investigating to see if there’s a connection between Keef’s remarks and the death of 18-year-old “Lil Jojo,” real name Joseph Coleman.
It was this incident that prompted Pitchfork TV to apologize for the video interview:
“Given recent news regarding the shooting of Chicago rapper Lil Jojo and the investigation of people involved in Chicago’s rap scene, this seems like the right time to express our regrets regarding that episode,” Richardson said in his statement. “We apologize for this mistake and have removed the video from our archives.”
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Okay, so, in hindsight one can argue that it was unwise to interview “Chief Keef” at a gun range because in addition to being an insensitive knucklehead, it appears he has certain affiliations to Chicago’s gang culture.
But does that mean it’s always a bad idea to interview a rapper at a shooting range?
Some would argue that due to the way gun violence disproportionately affects minorities that it’s always a bad idea to glorify the use of firearms in any context, even if it’s in a safe and responsible environment like a gun range.
Here are some statistics that speak to this point, from a recent article in the New York Review of Books:
In 2008 and 2009, gun homicide was the leading cause of death for young black men. They die from gun violence—mainly at the hands of other black males—at a rate eight times that of young white males. From 2000 to 2007, the overall national homicide rate remained steady, at about 5.5 per 100,000 persons. But over the same period the homicide rate for black men rose 40 percent for fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds, 18 percent for eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds, and 27 percent for those twenty-five and up. In 1995, the national homicide rate was about 10 per 100,000; the rate for Boston gang members, mainly black and Hispanic, was 1,539 per 100,000.
These numbers are tragic. As such, one can see why there is a strong sensitivity to firearms in minority communities.
But it should be pointed out that shooting ranges are not the streets. They are places where law-abiding citizens of any profession (rappers, DJs, whoever etc.) can go to learn about gun laws and how to safely use a firearm. As such, interviewing a rapper at a shooting range is perfectly acceptable, so long as he/she is a responsible citizen. The same can be said for any artist, celebrity, rock star, etc.