by Liane Membis
Lil Wayne was just released from his stay at Riker’s Island. T.I. is on his way back to jail for violating his probation. Wiz Khalifa might be on his way to the slammer too. And it’s all your fault, says Russell Simmons.
Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records, says it’s his fault and society’s fault that our favorite rappers are making poor decisions. In a recent interview with Atlanta’s V-103 radio station, Simmons said that the glorification of crime in hip-hop has made bad behavior “more acceptable.”
He bases his claims on the idea that society consists of consumers who have control over the market, and that the albums we buy speak to not only what we want to hear but also what we expect and accept in our community. If consumers stopped purchasing hip-hop filled with lyrics about domestic abuse and gun violence, a shift would occur. The market would be reassessed and when rappers look at album sales and see that the public is no longer buying into the gangster rap and paying their super hefty paychecks, the music will change. It’s pure economics. Stop demanding the supply, and they’ll stop supplying the demand.
“We got these images out of the streets,” Russell said to V-103. “The violence, the things they talk about are topics we chose.”
Not all the rappers are bad people, Simmons said. They have the ability to inact positive decisions in members of our community as well. Rapper T.I., who recently received an 11-month prison sentence for drug possession, recently talked down a man from jumping off a building in Atlanta. He also hosted a show on MTV in February of 2009, “Road to Redemption,” in which he helped mentor seven teenagers away from a life of crime and violence before his first sentencing.
“T.I is very insightful. He’s a good person,” Simmons said. “These guys are learning their lesson in front of the world. And it’s a good thing they’re growing up before us. Otherwise, they might not have grown up at all.”