"It Was All A Dream" : Does Hip Hop Culture Have a “Collective Consciousness”?

 The Rose That Grew From Concrete

As always, using Simon Frith's "Technique and Technology" theory as our guide, we have learned through a combination of Cobb's To The Break of Dawn and Philipe Bougouis' In Search of Respect that Hip Hop music in the modern era is an amalgamation of the Blues ethos with South Bronx boom bap.  

By the early 90s, rap music became in particular characterized by the tragedy of urban America's crack cocaine epidemic, from its lyrical content to how it has been marketed by a global entertainment industry.

For an understanding of Hip Hop music in 21st century, rather than analyze record sales or identify who pioneered the seemingly infinite sub-genres of rap, we turn to Rha Goddess' essay "Scarcity and Exploitation: The Myth and Reality of the Struggling Hip Hop Artist."  

This essay along with Danny Hoch's "Toward a Hip Hop Aesthetic: A Manifesto for the Hip Hop Arts Movement" and, importantly, M.K. Asante Jr's chapter "Old White Men (Or, Who Owns Hip Hop?)" from It's Bigger Than Hip Hop provide for us a concluding analysis of where Hip Hop has come from, how it has grown and its present state.  This is not a dissection which rapper is the "Greatest Of All Time" but are far more serious quest to identify Hip Hop's Collective Consciousness.

First, Rha Goddess defines Poverty Consciousness as psychological fear of lacking material items and denial of self worth.  It is oft romanticized belief that this mental condition and material state is beneficial to artistic process.  For example, while it is an oversimplification, we often correlate oppressive conditions with creative (Black) output.  Think how we connect Jim Crow era oppression begetting the blues or urban strife in our America' northern cities creating the sound of jazz.  Or the people in the South Bronx birthed Hip Hop culture in the face of post industrial peril.

Hip Hop began under the conditions of poverty and lack of RESOURCES: access to quality housing, education, job opportunity, health care, and civil order. Simply put, right or wrong, we believe Poverty Consciousness breeds creativity.

It is true Hip Hop culture did begin under the conditions of poverty and lack of resources. Hip Hop theater producer Danny Hoch calls them the “traditional aesthetics” of Hip Hop like the devices of metaphor or illusion.  

What has emerged as Hip Hop culture grew and its identity formed is a recognizable “Collective Consciousness.” (CC) Hip Hop's CC is its the understanding of identity, history, money, competition of survival, scarcity of resources, and feelings of exploitation (real or imagined).

Similar to “traditional aesthetics” of Rock n Roll (automobiles, girlfriends and growing up), Hip Hop music refers to themes of poverty as metaphor for a collective “struggle”.

This album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothing.  To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustling in front of that called the police on me when I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter.  And all the ni**as in the struggle – Notorious B.I.G. “Juicy

Mobb Deep's "Hell On Earth" itemizes these real fears and imagines them to be something even worse:

Further, Hip Hop was more “pure” in the Golden Era or “real” in the 1990s Modern EraContemporary rap must measure up to its past.

“I grew up to Em, B.I.G. and ‘Pac, b*tch, and got ruined / So until I got the same crib B.I.G. had in that ‘Juicy’ vid / B*tch, I can't mother**kin' stop movin”' - Big Sean, “Control

Watch the similarities in attitudes, messaging and marketing in this interview with NWA in 1988 and Odd Future in 2012

While not absolute, fully flexible and contextual, an identifiable culture and identity can be discussed as Hip Hop “Collective Consciousness”. Hip Hop's Collective Consciousness (CC) is the practitioners, listeners, media and operatives’ “COMMON sense” 

It is a fluid but key ingredient in the interactions of Hip Hop culture. Hip Hop CC revolve around the understanding of personal and collective identity, history, economy, competition of survival, scarcity of resources, and feelings of exploitation (real or imagined). It at once a collective sense and a highly individualized concept of self.

Big K.R.I.T., Ludadcris and Bun B. simply call it "Country Sh*t". Luda: "I might not be shit to you but my mamma thinks I made it"

Listen, people be askin' me all the time,"Yo, Mos, what's gettin' ready to happen with Hip Hop? Where do you think Hip Hop is goin?” I tell 'em, "You know what's gonna happen with Hip Hop?
Whatever's happening with us" – Mos Def, “Fear Not of Man


Streets Is Watchin'

Rap music is a defiant celebration of the struggle;  going from rags to the RICHES, the transformation and triumph are hallmarks of the rap song form. Thus, rapper must "pay their dues" as a "starving artist" to establish credibility and validity.  Game and 50 Cent make this clear in "Hate or Love It":

Or Meek or Rick Ross in "Off the Corner":

In Houston Hip Hop culture, the "Slabs" and "Swangas" elements of regional car culture directly reflect the values of espoused in the music and vise versa:

Hip Hop CC holds that poverty and struggle breeds creativity. American popular culture and Hip Hop romanticizes the struggle of being rags to RICHES, transformation and triumph. From Horatio Alger to Jay-Z, American values maintain that those “who work hard enough” will succeed. This emphasizes the victory of individual will vs. social challenges of family history, doubting peers, institutional poverty, societal wrongs and misfortune.
Alger’s stories of rags to riches were popular in the late 1800s.  Titles such as “From Farm to Fortune,” “Do and Dare” or “Helping Himself” summarized a particular American ethos
Jay-Z on the roof of his Brooklyn “stash spot” at 560 State St., overseeing the arena for the NBA team of which he was a minority owner

T.D.E.'s Jay Rock follows a similar path as Hov, using his struggles to secure a record contract

Rappers who obtain credibility and validity define themselves in lyrics, images or symbols as possessing or experiencing any or all of the following:

• In touch
• On the pulse
• Original
• Innovative
• Pioneering
• Courageous
• Crucifixion earns “extra props”

If an rap artist has not struggled to obtain this, they are “commercial”, "pop" or “sellOUTS.” Paradoxically, credibility is diminished by SUCCESS.  (This was especially true during Hip Hop's Golden Era from 1987 to 1993).  What is the incentive to be anything else other than a "starving artist"? You must maintain the appearance of struggle even while succeeding.


Crack Music”

“Industry rule number 4080 / record company people are shady...”
A Tribe Called Quest “Check the Rhime

But since the mid 1990s, making money off of Hip Hop has not only been accepted but it has all but become its singular focus.  So why are rap artists today still "starving"? Answer: bad business practices.

Often in rap music (and perhaps other popular art forms), this "struggling" Collective Consciousness creates a trend of bad business management and poor business decisions.

Follow how a rapper's path to success takes shape in this narrative:
• Artist as victim.  Faces lack of recognition, resources and stability.
• Organized money and institutions are the primary culprits along with fellow artists and unsupportive family and friends.
• Artists don't know how to do business and they are victims of labels, lawyers and finicky fans.

or conversely when a Hip Hop artist succeeds:
• Friends, family and community treat you differently
• Rappers feel uneasy and guilty about success
• Worse, they feel unsafe and about success (“watch your back”)

What develops is a “scarcity of success”; thus, the Hip Hop industry is:
• fiercely competitive
• artists hoard information and work in isolation
• record labels marketing "gimmicks" are actual lived experiences. This ensures a rapper's authenticity and artistic dominance

Despite all his success- or perhaps because of his success- Boosie Badazz is basically singing the blues:

Consider how the following "real life" situations are exploited by labels, media and / or the artist themselves.  For rappers especially, the line between "real life" and entertainment is blurred purposely.  This is nothing new to Hip Hop (or pop music) as the public criminal lives of Buskwick Bill, Slick Rick and Tupac all fueled record marketing strategies.

*Artist / Marketed Struggles and Events*
- Eminem / White, Addiction, Kim, Haley, Mom
- 50 Cent / Shot nine times
- Kanye / Car accident, Mom died, dumped by girlfriend
- Jay Z / Life of poverty, jail record, death of Auto-Tune
- Diddy / Biggie's death

The rapper Supa Sport is clear what trade gives him credibility as a rapper

If an artist commits to having credibility they accept being under acknowledged and underpaid because society doesn't “value” art with integrity. Thus, rappers who choose financial success often adopt “dumbed down” strategies. 

“Hustlers and boosters embrace me and the music I be makin / I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars / They criticized me for it yet they all yell "HOLLA!" - Jay Z “Moment of Clarity"

While Jay-Z might have said that in 2003, ironically, as Jay-Z  career continues his elevated and celebrated status allows him the privilege of purusing Hip Hop that he  purposely identifies as "art". In the following video, he dances, raps and rubs elbows with some the most elite and renowned fine art painters and performers of our time:

Jay-Z might have established this "common sense" of scarcity and exploitation but he has left it behind in order to climb to higher heights. 

Perhaps there are limits to Rha Goddess' idea that success breeds failure in Hip Hop. To those interviewed in this mini-doc "Ice Cold: The Promise of Hip Hop Jewelry", flashing and flossing is precisely a sign of their success.

But the question the next section asks is what do rappers truly own and control in the Hip Hop culture industry?

It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop

This Hip Hop Consciousness does not empower rappers and producers as their "artistic" practice is consumed by the machine of the music business.  A sampling of the forms of companies, services and careers the Hip Hop and Rap Music Industry is comprised of:

• Entities that seek to profit from the marketing and sales of rap music and its ancillary products.
• Record companies
• Music publishers
• Radio stations
• Record Stores
• Music video shows/channels
• Recording Studios (Owners, Engineers, Mixers)
• Performance Venues
• Booking Agents
• Promoters
• Managers, Accountants, Lawyers
• Disc Jockeys
• Music Publications
• Music/Entertainment Websites

What are some organizations or methods used to indirectly seek profit from Hip Hop?

The Hip Hop Industry is largely owned and operated by “elites” and not people of color. The “Big Four” Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI Group, Warner Music Group account for 82% of US Music Market and 90% of the retail market in the 21st century’s first decade. There are no Black Americans in the top executive positions of these companies.  Rap record labels and “black entrepreneurs” like Diddy, Russell Simmons, Jay Z are actually “owned” by their Big Four “parent” company. 

Diddy, Simmons and others employ “perception management” to create the illusion of control over the content of the music.  Ultimately, these entrepreneurs make more money from clothing, liquor sales, car parts, etc. and other business ventures than they do from Hip Hop music and culture. Watch Lil' Flip's "struggle" to manage all the trappings of stardom.

The state of the Hip Hop Industry largely parallels the economic inequality African Americans face at in society at large; or as stated in the article by Jeff Smith, Hip Hop culture is "as broke as the communities that produced it."  With the synergistic relationship Hip Hop and R&B have had in the last 25 years, these “black” genre labels have re-categorized under the euphemism of “Urban Music” to make marketing of this product more palatable for "mainstream" tastes.  

“Subliminal hypnotism and colonialism / leaves most niggaz dead or in prison”
- Jeru da Damaja “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers

Neo-colonialism: Forcing countries to consume what they do not produce and produce what they do not consume.  If the largest records and ancillary companies had but even a peripheral interest in the poor and the Black and Latino population rap music supposedly represents, then why would this rap "culture" be so overwhelming negative and self destructive?

Perhaps main stream rap's biggest audience is not even Black at all: According to Asante's referenced Forbes study: 45 million Hip Hop consumers between the ages of 13 and 34. 80% are White and have $1 trillion in spending power.

To quote Jay Z, truth be told, major label rappers have little to no ownership in this distribution, marketing and ultimate profit from their product.  The “Big Four” Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, EMI Group, Warner Music Group account for 82% of US Music Market and 90% of the retail market. There are no Black Americans in the top executive positions of these companies. Rap record labels and “black entrepreneurs” like Diddy, Russell Simmons, Jay Z give an illusion that the Hip Hop industry is "black owned" but the Big Four are really “parent” companies of the most prolific Hip Hop success stories. 

So the following questions must be clearly answered if we are to think that Hip Hop music is something more than disposable entertainment:

Who sponsors rap?
Who buys the most rap?
Who promotes death and violence?
Who backs ignorance?
Who exploits Hip Hop artists?
Who profits from “Black on Black” violence?
Who owns “urban” radio stations, television stations, print publications?

Mos Def's "freestyle" cut "The Rape Over" asks the same:

And, yet, Dame Dash and Cam'ron are held responsible in this interview:

“Commercial” Hip Hop is programmed by corporations that have little to no Black or ethnic representation despite peddling a product that purports to be “Black.” As a result the music:
• Has lost its edge
• Sense of rebellion and Black improvement
• The founding principles of artistry and empowerment

After the platinum successes of the low budget investments artists of the Golden Era, signed artists whose political agenda was in direct conflict with a record label's bottom line were dropped. The “Cop Killer” controversy accelerated this trend; the 2 Live Crew First Amendment “victory” certified that misogyny and Black on Black violence was a selling point.

“If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be / lyrically, Talib Kweli /
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / But I did five mill' 
- I ain't been rhymin like Common since”
- Jay Z “Moment of Clarity"

A trend of “corporate censorship” has developed where politically charged artists are marginalized by the label's “choice” on how to distribute the product.

Restriction of socio-poltical Hip Hop artistry can take the form of:
• Intimidation
• Budget Cutting
• Refusing to advertise or allow airtime
• Dropping “questionable” songs from final product
• Repackaging of artwork

Large record labels are practicing a policy of that seeks to make money off Hip Hop art and culture as long as it does not challenge the status quo in tone or content.

Plain and simple, Hip Hop artists do not own their music because they do not own the channels of production. Ownership of the music, distribution of the music and the final manufactured product are largely beyond a Hip Hop artist's control. Thus, the feeling of alienation is sustained in Hip Hop's collective consciousness.

The widespread dysfunctional reaction of rappers to seemingly all forms of marginalization is a dominate Hip Hop musical narrative that outlines mass consumption of material items, drugs, guns and women as some sort of defiant stance. There is no spiritual base or sense of peace or accomplishment as the Hip Hop artist is seeking internal serenity but only acquires external satisfaction.

Hip Hop music at it best is "Edutainment," food for thought over sublime beats. But its capacity to subvert norms and revolution communication and pop cultural expression so readily realized in the 1970s, 80s and 90s have been stunted.  Hip Hop "artists" and its audience may one day desire more than material success and it express themselves accordingly.  But likely, we won't call it Hip Hop anymore.


Same Difference: East Coast vs. West Coast Hip Hop

- South Bronx's KRS-ONE
- Oakland's Souls Of Mischief

Not only was a first of its kind, Brian Cross’ ethnography of the West Coast Hip Hop scene “It's Not About a Salary...” also provides insight into why Hip Hop originating from across the country differs in content and style in many ways.  Further, when we use Simon Frith's methodology of identifying technique and technology to identify genres of popular music, we discover why West Coast Hip Hop may sound different than East Coast but ultimately its music structure is similar. 

Differences in props:
Jam Master Jay holds a box...
To begin, Cross analyzes Run DMC’s “Peter Piper” and the World Class Wrecking Cru’s “The Cabbage Patch,” using the differences between the two records to illustrate variations between the East Coast and West Coast approach to hip hop.

...Dr. Dre (left) carries a stethoscope
Cross purposely contrasted two songs from the same era that employing the same sample source, Bob James' "Take Me the Madri Gras." What is difference? Cross likens “The Cabbage Patch” to a big-band sound as compared to “Peter Piper's" stripped down funk.” Cross generalizes that from 1982 to 1987, most West Coast Hip Hop releases tended to lack originality or complexity in rhythm or lyrics.  The music was largely derivative and did not gain as much critical or commercial recognition.

Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" is often cited as
the "first" rap song heard on the West Coast
There is informal evidence that DJing, rapping, breakdancing and graffiti had its West Coast counterparts as early as the late 1970s.  But considering that recorded Hip Hop music did not originate out West, Cross' opinion is not surprising. West Coast techniques were being shaped by what technologies are immediately available or in this case, unavailable.  The regional beginnings of this culture relied on imported Hip Hop from New York City in the early 1980s, primarily rap music's biggest hits.  

Too "underground" to make it
across the country
Cross indicates that the stylistically varied East Coast Hip Hop of the early 1980s was difficult to locate in CA.  Another speculation cites that records like electro-funk sound of “Planet Rock” were more enthusiastically embraced than the “underground” East Coast sound.  Thus, Cross states “more commercial aspects of the music seemed dominant in LA.”  While the community reflected the some of the same forms of structural marginalization of education and job opportunity- Cross contends the “cutting edge of the music seemed to have been lost, in crossing the country, to commercialism.”  The World Class Wreckin Cru look and sound more influenced by Prince than Run DMC in this early Dr. Dre video "Surgery":

Uncle Jamm's Army
We also learn that much like Bronx Hip Hop in the 1970s, the West Coast scene began with a nomadic sound system, Uncle Jamm’s Army.  Local DJs and MCs also made mix tapes and pressed their own records in the first half of the 80s, soon aided by radio and a dedicated club scene.

While this is not an absolute, one can also generalize that West Coast DJs favored the spacey George Clinton P-Funk sound, while East Coast DJs preferred the sparse, tough funk of the JBs.  Roughly from 1987 to the "Industrial Era of Hip Hop" in 1997, this difference in inspiration and source material would characterize the musical difference between the two coasts.

However, both the sharp contrast in urban culture and leisure practices of LA to NYC proved to be the West Coast’s literal selling point.  In New York, since warm weather was seasonal, dark stuffy hip hop clubs were the norm. Crowded buildings and streets, cluttered skylines, and an aggressive but distant attitude characterized New York.

Whereas Los Angeles was favored by the sun year around, by sprawling suburbs and a laid back demeanor. While LA is as distinct and awesome as NYC, the rest of America, especially the nameless suburbs, have more in common with this characterization of LA than they do with the architecture of New York. Playing with such ideas, Snoop stars in this gangbanger sitcom "Homeboy Alone":

Perhaps the pace of the West Coast may be more appealing to a broader mainstream American sensibility. But perhaps far more influential on the content of West Coast rap music was the proliferation of crack cocaine, automatic weapons and gang warfare that became to characterize California's most troubled communities such as Compton, Watts and Oakland.

Further, as Compton drug dealer turned rapper Eazy E bankrolled NWA recordings or Crenshaw's Ice-T flaunted gang connections, the criminal underworld and Hip Hop's rebellious spirit became linked.  This desire to explicitly make money via Hip Hop music compelled West Coast hip hop crews to take artistic or political risks their East Coast brethren simply did not conceive.  With its blunt emphasis on gang violence, drug dealing, and pimpology, West Coast Hip Hop music was seemingly all the more dangerous and alluring to outsiders curious enough to know how the other half lived.

Ice T immediate makes clear how addictive and dangerous his brand of rap is:

For those within the culture who understood Hip Hop’s theatrical raps of exaggerated claims of supremacy and cruel disses, “gangsta rap” as the critics called it, simply signaled a new era of Hip Hop MCs.  Through the success of Ice T, NWA, and Too Short most notably, by the end of the 80s the metaphoric base of MCs boasts now included graphic depictions of sex, abuse of women, detailed accounts of black on black violence, rebelling against police, and selling crack cocaine.

NWA's "Fuck the Police" earned the group a warning from the FBI. In this interview, the crew appears to be lead by Ice Cube's premeditated outrage, followed by Ren's aggressive defiance and ending with Dr. Dre's emphatic cash grab.

In "Express Yourself" NWA's equates the self expression of rap artists will result in incarceration, peril and death:

One of Dr. Dre's first production projects outside of NWA came in the form of Above the Law. Their debut video was banned from MTV. It's lyrical content simply confirmed West Coast Hip Hop culture's lyrical intent: "Here's a murder rap to keep you dancing..."

While a group like NWA and the like were heralded as street reporters, the careless violence of their lyrics was intended as a selling point like a Hollywood action film rather than a carefully considered protest of injustice.

Too Short's "Freak Tales" were ribald limericks set to heavy Oakland bass peppered with pimp imagery:

Same Differences

At the turn of the decade, East Coast and West Coast rap artists, using common mediums- album releases, YO! MTV Raps, concert tours, growing journalistic press- evoked Chuck D's claim that "Rap music was Black Amercia's CNN." The following video illustrates this idea as rappers from across the country piece together Hip Hop history.

Low End Theorists
In hindsight, stark contrasts in conception and intention of making rap music is clear when examining music and media content of the early 1990s.  When reading Source's interviews of Too Short and A Tribe Called Quest, it is clear both sets of performers are at odds with the recording industry but both have different means on how to cope.  For Todd Shaw, his Too Short is a business persona created for the convenience to manage a business enterprise.  For Q-Tip, Ali and Phife, beats and rhymes are their life, their identities as MCs and producers inseparable.   Too Short looks to move units, Tribe Called Quest seem intent on preserving the integrity of their art.

Pimpin' Ain't Easy
Two videos released the same month, October 1991, reflect similar sentiments expressed visually and lyrical different.  ATCQ's "Check the Rhime" champions the craft of battle rapping, celebrates the Jamaica Queens community they represent and questions the credibility of pop rappers and the intentions of the record industry.  Ice Cube's "True To the Game" not only indicts rappers going mainstream but any Black Americans from the 'hood who tries to conform to a white America either where they dwell or where they work.  Cube's smooth flow is stark and menacing; Phife and Tip are conversationl but nuanced and referential.

From William Cobb's, To The Break of Dawn, pg. 56: “The MCs of West Coast were generally looked down upon their eastern counterparts; their tendency toward languid, head throbbing cadence was taken as an absence of lyrical ability. [The East Coast MC’s] were overstuffing their bars with syllables, labyrinths of alliterations, and clever verbal effects to illustrate their dexterity of tongue.”

Quest confirms their authenticity by actually performing a concert in their neighborhood during the shooting of their video.  In contrast, at no point in the video does Ice Cube even rap into the camera, his lyrics secondary to his overall theme of unflinching, uncompromising black urban masculinity.  While the music plays in the background, Cube is scripted to attack "sellouts", kidnapping them at gun point and racially re-programming them via the Nation of Islam.  Lyrics are so important to A Tribe Called Quest, however, they scroll in the background of their video, lest the viewer forget the literary nature of their craft.

It is these similar differences that begin to create a divide between the two coasts most highly prolific and successful Hip Hop recording artists. 

California Love Hate Relationship

The East Coast / West Coast “War” was a legitimate rivalry on record having its beginnings in the early 1990s with Tim Dog barking, “Fuck Compton." The West Coast's growing profile did not sit well with tough South Bronx purists:

Nas' debut secures the
coveted 5 mic rating
The Chronic is "snubbed"
with a 4.5 mic rating
As Hip Hop culture emerged in new forms via new mediums, exposure in television, films and in print began newly contested grounds to obtain respectThe Source Magazine, the self proclaimed "Hip Hop Bible" became a hotbed of controversy, debate and acrimony erupted over coverage and album reviews in particular.  While the West Coast was gaining greater record sales, East Coast Hip Hop tended to garner more attention of music critics.  Increased competition between East and West Coast crews seemingly at first only forced MCs and DJs to up the creative ante; the reverence paid to Dre’s 1992 The Chronic or Wu Tang’s 1993 36 Chambers confirms this idea.

But by the mid 90s, with the lines between drug dealing and music making blurred, the competitiveness of hip hop culture turned fatal with the September 1996 shooting of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas and March 1997 shooting of Christopher Wallace in Los Angeles.

The "beef" began after Tupac Shakur’s initial 1995 shooting in New York seemed to implicate the Bad Boy camp or at least somebody from an East Coast crew.  Rivalries on record between Bad Boy and Death Row turned from competitive to threatening as in Tupac’s “Hit ‘em Up” or Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?”. From the bio-pic Notorious, the movie imagines the hostility when Biggie performs this song as Tupac is recovering in the hospital. 'Pac was having none of it...

Did the music itself create conditions that lead to the killing of Big and 'Pac? Antagonistic rivalries have always been a component of Hip Hop traditions.  A “dis” record or “beef” between MCs is nothing new.  See the Juice Crew’s “The Bridge” vs. Boogie Down Productions’ “South Bronx.” Even George Clinton told James Brown, “Let’s take it to the stage, sucka,” rivaling each other as to who owned the title of “Godfather of funk.”

What was new to this still relatively young Hip Hop record business were the criminal backgrounds of its producers and promoters.  Suge Knight’s openly stated connection to the Mob Piru Blood Gang and Sean Combs' history overseeing a fatal concert event created an atmosphere in which controversy was a business practice and tragedy was quick to be capitalized upon. 

Here the tensions erupt at award shows, interviews and the press, resulting in hurt feelings, gun fire and ultimately death:

Newspapers and television journalists immediately declared a “Rap War” between West and East Coast hip hop crews; ignoring any of the traditions of rivalry within Hip Hop music, news reports instead emphasized the troubled pasts of Tupac and Biggie as if their deaths were inevitable.  Any larger social context in which the more violent nature of rap music portrayed was being ignored in favor of highlighting the tragic story of its fallen stars.  Yet, to this day neither murders have been solved and the direct or indirect involvement of the LAPD and LVPD remains a distinct possibility.

It should be noted that Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam were instrumental in conducting a “peace summit” in Chicago between high profile East and West Coast rap artists. “Beefs” between the Coasts or artists have been generally confined to the recording booth since the loss of two of hip hop most charismatic, talented, and troubled MCs.