Jamil Jivani: Meek Mill — the rapper who spoke the truth

Meek Mill should be applauded for talking about hip-hop and gun violence. Instead, he's an outcast

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We live in a time when it’s more controversial for a rapper to try to stop gun violence than it is for a rapper to promote gun violence.

In fact, these days, a rapper may face cancel culture for simply trying to save lives in his own community.

Philadelphia’s Meek Mill shut down his social media accounts after being hit by a firestorm of criticism on Twitter. Traditional media, like Complex magazine and radio station Hot 97, amplified Mill’s detractors. Fellow Philly rapper Poundside Pop declared that Mill is now “banned” from the north side of the city.

Mill’s offence? He recognized that the hip-hop industry contributes to gun violence. And he dared to change the way the industry operates. Mill tweeted that aspiring rappers in his hometown, five cliques of them to be specific, “get they most attention when they beefing.” He proposed a solution: “I’ll get all the main big artist(s) in Philly a (record) deal if they put them bodies behind them and squash them beef.”

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Imagine that. Instead of incentivizing young men to become gangsters, as the hip-hop industry does by dangling record deals in front of artists promoting violence, Mill proposes that the industry could do the exact opposite. He wants to dangle record deals in front of artists to incentivize peace in the streets.

Meek Mill should be applauded. Journalists should invite him onto every cable news channel. Rappers should be talking about how brave he is. Politicians should meet with him to talk about supporting his vision. After all, that’s what everybody did when Mill came out of prison and backed a “criminal justice reform” agenda. But he hasn’t been getting the same warm reception to his new idea. Why? Pointing a finger at the hip-hop industry just isn’t woke. Even if you’re a rapper. Meek would have been treated better by social media activists and journalists if he were offering liberal platitudes about gun violence, instead of trying to actually help his community.

I’ve learned this lesson personally, after the Globe and Mail published a racist hit piece against me, written by their monotonous and inflammatory “race and ethnicity reporter.” Similar to Mill, over the summer, I dared to talk about how the multi-billion-dollar hip-hop industry contributes to gun violence in our cities. In response, woke preachers at the Globe thought it was appropriate to question my blackness, as if hip-hop is synonymous with the Black identity, which is a racist premise. Mill has faced an even more intense version of this particular form of disrespect reserved for Black men who try to help their communities outside the confines of wokeness.

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When Mill told the truth about the hip-hop industry, he committed a cardinal sin in the religion of wokeness. He refused to be a helpless victim. Mill took responsibility for a piece of a complex problem. And he reminded others — the five cliques he wants to help — that they can bring about?peace by exercising their own agency. Mill did not deny that structural issues are relevant to crime, but he did remind us that we don’t have to wait for every structural issue to change before lives can be saved.

Mill’s example is relevant to Canadians, too, as we mourn the loss of 12-year-old Dante Sebastian Andreatta, who was killed in Toronto by stray bullets. Toronto police have said the conflict that led to Dante’s death is believed to involve individuals connected to the hip-hop industry, part of a long-running gang war. This tragic reality begs the question: could the Canadian hip-hop industry, including Sony Music Canada and Universal Music Canada, be doing more to help achieve peace in our cities? Might Drake learn something from Meek Mill, with whom he once traded diss tracks, and try to change the industry for the better?

Mill is expected to return to social media some time soon, as he has new music coming out shortly. Let’s hope he hasn’t been scared off from telling the truth about hip-hop, and will continue challenging woke dogma. Lives are literally at stake.

National Post

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