Once again this contains a massive amount of material, pick and choose what you need.
THE INDEX FOR THIS PAGE - Click On Text Below To View:
1. The Politician vs the Rap Artists
2. Controversy and Youth Culture
3. The UK Gun Culture Facts
4. The Reasons
5. Some Solutions
6. Rap Music and Gun Culture
7. The Christian Response
8. Changed Hearts
The Politician vs the Rap Artists | Top
A British government minister once said: "For years I've been very worried about the hateful lyrics that these boasting macho idiots come out with from these rappers and so on, it is a big cultural problem."
Ms Dynamite (the UK Garage Artiste who has said she wants to stand as an MP) said, 'Garage is a young scene in London. That's why people in power are afraid of us and try everything to shut us down.'
So Solid's PR added about So Solid Crew, 'They are out there trying to make a positive difference in British black culture.'
Romeo, of So Solid Crew (but an artist in his own right) said to Radio 1: "Violence follows any type of music regardless - rap, jungle, garage, opera. Violence controls everywhere man, it's about and it's happening."
Radio 1's Trevor Nelson said, 'I think it's a warning, it's a reflection of what's actually going on. These people are actually warning you that this is happening on the streets. I think it's an easy swipe, the music business, it always is.'
Garage act Heartless Crew told BBC Radio 4, 'There is no evidence to say violence is connected to music. It is a general problem in society.'
So what is the truth behind the hip hop culture and is it as simple as these guys are saying??
Controversy and Youth Culture | Top
The 60s is generally seen as the time that so-called 'youth culture' began to emerge. Despite what some say, youth culture is alive and kicking today.
However, in and since the 60s, young people have been in constant conflict with adults and parents. The reasons for the conflict have been different - buying records, wearing make-up, staying out late, boyfriends and girlfriends, drugs, violence, clothing, hair, piercings and tattoos, the list is endless.
Increasingly attention is turning to the gang and gun culture that is no doubt pervading the streets on Britain's inner-cities. (I see Northern Ireland as slightly different and don't include that here).
So, is gun culture the latest in this line of youthful rebellion or is it something deeper?
QUESTION - Why do so many lads and lasses on the streets choose to belong to gangs? Ask the question.. what are the answers?
Here's some answers... They feel safe; they don't have a proper family so find it on the streets; don't have fathers so look to gang members and dealers who they see as successful;
others do so they do, they choose to join tribes dependent on music, they see artists in gangs/groups, they want to look hard, they want to intimidate or dominate, they want to feel they belong, they want to feel accepted, they have low self-esteem, they have no real family, they enjoy it etc.
The UK Gun Culture Facts | Top
Facts taken from 2001 - 2011:
Provisional figures show that 6,285 firearm offences were recorded by the police in the year to September 2011, accounting for 0.2% of all recorded crime. There was a 19% fall in firearm offences in the year to September 2011, compared to the previous year. (There were 7,362 gun crimes in 2000-01 - nearly 10,000 in 2002. Gun crime has declined since 2004-2005).
Contrary to public perception, the overall level of gun crime in England and Wales is very low – less than 0.3% of all crime recorded by the police. (Guns were used in 11,227 offences)
- 9.3% of all homicides committed during 2010/11in England and Wales involved the use of a firearm, the highest proportion since 2001/02. By contrast 2.2% of Scottish homicides involved the use of a firearm.
- In England and Wales handguns were the most commonly used firearm, with the weapon accounting for 44% of non-air weapon firearm offences recorded. Imitation weapons were used in 23%, shotguns in 9% and rifles in 1% of such offences.
- In England and Wales there were 388 firearm offences in which there was a fatal or serious injury, 13% lower than in 2009/10. The number of offences resulting in slight injury in 2010/11 was 5% lower than the number recorded in the previous year. In almost 80% of firearms offences no injury occurred.
- In England and Wales, in 2010/11, there were on average 13 non-air weapon firearms offences per 100,000 population. The rate was highest in London (35 per 1,000 population), and West Midlands (34). The lowest rate was recorded in Lincolnshire (2.4). Of the alleged firearms offences in Scotland in 2010/11 the majority (56%) were recorded by Grampian police.
- Firearms offences are geographically concentrated in London, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.
- The number of reported crimes involving imitation guns effectively held steady
- At the same time young people are disproportionately the victims of gun crime: 15 to 29-year-olds comprise 20 per cent of the population but were victims in 45 per cent of firearms offences (excluding air weapons) in 2010/11.
- The maximum penalty for committing a firearms offence under Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968, which includes “supply” and “possession” but not “possession with intent to supply” is 10 years’ imprisonment. The mandatory minimum sentence for those aged 18 and over is five years’ imprisonment, and three years for those aged 16-17 years.
- Under Section 16 of the 1968 Act it is an offence to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
- In 2004-2005, 34 per cent of recorded gun crime occurred in London, at a rate of 50 offences per 100,000 people.
- Between April 2001 and October 2005, 63 per cent of victims of murder and attempted murder involving firearms in London were black.
- “Gun crime is mainly committed by young men aged 16-25. Offenders and victims are getting younger and a disproportionate number are African Caribbeans,” according to the Metropolitan Police.
- 0.1 per cent of all recorded crime involves guns
- 757 people convicted of firearms offences in 2001
- 131 received an immediate custodial sentence
- 18 months was the average prison sentence
- a number of police forces in England and Wales have set up special units.
- The Metropolitan Police says that to date more than 200 people have been arrested and charged with murder, firearms and drug offences.
- 2000-01, there were 7,362 recorded crimes in which firearms other than air weapons were used. That compares with 4,903 firearms incidents in 1997-98.
- In 2002 - 757 people were for convicted for possessing or distributing banned weapons, of whom 131 were given an immediate prison sentence
- Scotland Yard says 75% of guns seized last year were deactivated or replica weapons
- In 2002 West Midlands police arrested 57 people for gun-related offences and seized 92 illegal firearms
Some national firearm-related deaths, per 100,000: (source: Wikipedia, accessed 21 July 2013)
Note these only include just some nations where this has been fully measured and identified.
Colombia - 28.14
South Africa - 21.51
USA - 10.3 (Year 2011)
France - 3.01
Canada - 2.38
United Kingdom - 0.25 (Year 2010)
You'll see that the UK firearm deaths is very low - within the bottom 12 of 75 countries listed
The Reasons | Top
1. Many have weapons for protection, particularly around drug dealing, and some for revenge in gang warfare. DJ Iyare who used to work on BBC 1Xtra said members of So Solid Crew carried guns to protect themselves.. 'Rightly or wrongly, they feel threatened and need to protect themselves. They are kids from council estates and are targets for those making a beeline for them.'
2. Many see carrying a gun as a means of getting respect. Dianne Abbott (MP) said, "In areas such as Aston and Handsworth where there are disaffected estates, it's about status."
3. In some areas, guns have become a kind of fashion accessory - a 'male jewellery' as one person put it. (This trend started around 5 years ago in the US)
4. It's quite easy to get firearms, with many small arms coming in from the Balkans.
5. People are much more likely to use firearms in disagreements, over drugs, territory, respect or being dissed.
6. Dianne Abbott (MP) also blames social factors such as poor education. Many young people, often (but not exclusively) from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds combine many factors such as social exclusion, lack of success, poor opportunities in their area, low expectations and difficulties in the home. They see the ability to make it, to get a flash car, to be someone.. trouble is for those in this lifestyle, the life expectancy is 35.
7. Replica guns are fairly easy and cheap to convert to fire. Home ammo can be easily made.
Some Solutions | Top
1. Ban On Replicas?
Simon Baseley of the Shooting Sports Trust says real airguns and rifles account for only 20% of the replica market. People increasingly want realistic guns, adverts are aimed at young people to be realistic. The government has now banned carrying replica firearms in public.
However, we have some of the tightest gun laws in the world. There have been bans and restrictions but they haven't worked. Many guns used are banned or reconditioned.
In New York replica toy guns must be made of brightly-coloured, transparent materials but criminals have stained or taped them to appear like the real thing.
2. Stopping the imports and tightening the laws?
Getting the guns off the streets is essential. Many people think weapons have been smuggled in from the Balkans. The Home Office is also looking at the possibility of making it an offence to carry a replica gun in public.
It is also easy to convert some air pistols to fire bullets. One estimate is that in many inner-cities, it takes a couple of hours and around £100 for this to be done.
3. Working with the communities
Many communities have become disenfranchised and disengaged from society and the police. Rebuilding trust, empowering communities to take back their territory is going to be a key weapon.
In London, Operation Trident (targeting so-called 'black-on-black' crime) has tried to break down barriers in communities where many are suspicious of the police.
As someone said, talking of the Aston, Birmingham shootings "The fear in the community, the fear of reprisal means the police are going to have a very difficult job unless the public are willing to come forward."
Jack Straw has also said he will work with community leaders to tackle the culture of "deep anger" which gave rise to gang violence. He said there were problems around, the lack of 'adequate male role models', better education and more opportunities.
Many people living in these areas are afraid to walk the streets so there need to be schemes to re-claim the streets like the 'Gangstop' scheme in Manchester.
Said one Aston resident, 'Unless we find a way to make them feel included, they will continue to kill and maim - because they have no value system other than brand names.'
4. Prison Sentencing
- The latest government plan is for a minimum sentence of five years for the illegal possession of firearms.
- An ex Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, supported the move for mandatory prison sentences for firearms offences.
5. Black Rights
A Commission for Racial Equality rep and Labour Group member Trevor Phillips called hip hop a 'gold chain, no brain' culture. He makes the point that 2 thirds of lower income black families in the UK are brought up by a single mum. He states that black father's have abdicated responsibility for their kids. This inevitably has an impact on young lives.
Within the black community voices are now being raised to fight the problem together. Too many community leaders, they say, are just there for recognition and to claim racism is the answer. Many black women are saying the solution is deeper and is about responsibility, reclaiming the streets and starting to parent properly.
Many people in the black community have been accused of not coming forward to report crimes. Many black on black murders remain unsolved, hence a specialist Met Police unit to try to combat this and the general distrust of the police.
People also point to massive government failings in areas like Peckham, Brixton and Aston/Handsworth where money promised hasn't materialised or is way too cumbersome to access. This is a government problem and in my view they should do less talking and more action. Too many so-called politicians are failing our young people, especially in ethnic areas and they should be totally ashamed.
Tithe government should spend less time achieving pointless targets and bombing Iraq - and start looking at home to spend money on loving, supporting and caring for people.
Rap music and gun culture | Top
NB - I've been into rap music since the mid-90s with various albums and compilations since then, and have reviewed / listened to 100s of albums and tracks, performing on a limited scale
Rap. Hip-hop. Two words that seem inter-changeable but they're not really. Rap is the music, the lyrics. It comes from 'rhapsodizing' which is kind of like talking about something in an ecstatic and clever way. Hip-hop is the culture. It includes turntablism, scratching, break dancing, graffiti, the way you look, the way you speak.
Rap is now a massive industry from its humble beginnings in the 70s-80s, with huge commercial success worldwide. Rap music by Eminem and Nelly topped US music sales in 2002, 50 Cent in 2003. Hip-hop is now the music and sound of the streets, defining clothing, slang and attitude. This rap culture dominates the lifestyle of many 'urban' young people in our inner-cities especially - along with other urban music like r&b, drum'n'bass and UK Garage.
The gang violence and gangsta rap that NWA, Public NME, Cypress Hill, Ice T and other gangsta rappers blared out in the 90s came to a head in media eyes with the shootings of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious BIG, although last year, Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay was shot dead in New York, a pconsequence of on-going feuds. Other rappers have be charged with gun offences this year. However, for the most part, the 80s-90s kind of gangsta rap has moved on. Or has it..
Modern day artists do have swearing and abusive, aggressive lyrics in but many artists regularly talk about deprivation, isolation, war, family troubles and alienation.
Today there are many strands of rap music. The big selling stuff is Eminem, Nelly, Jay Z, Obie Trice, 50 Cent, Dre etc. Much of this is a new form gangsta rap of artists (50 Cent), bringing gangsta rap back into fashion as artists seek to increasingly push the boundaries in terms of violence reflecting the streets. ICE-T is back, bringing his own new breed of gangsta-style rapping all about greed and sex.
Other artists have a more underground sound, not gangsta style in the most part but more deep, even spiritual stuff (sometimes called 'conscious hip hop') - like Mos Def, Dilated Peoples, even The Spooks etc. In the 90s, artists such as De La Soul, Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest pioneered rap music that had more of a softer, (often jazzy) chilled out edge. Islam has also played a part in the music, especially in the 90s.
There are other styles from the underground, UK hip-hop (Black Twang, Jhest among others). There is a dirty south style - as it suggests it's from the southern US States and has its own style with a deep pulsating bass line, often minimalist instrumental sounds. You can find all kinds of other genres from all kinds of places and emcees.
Rap artists such as Missy Elliot (and the UK's Ms Dynamite) have actively spoken out against violence, as well as about social troubles and the alienation felt by the black community.
However, big commercial artists such as Nelly, Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, Ja Rule, 50 Cent and even P Diddy and Kanye West have all been associated with violence, have/had abusive lyrics or have been allegedly connected to violent incidents. Many more are guilty of fronting - pretending to be hard. To sell more CDs, many of these artists sell censored/clean versions of their CDs - but you often know what did go in an edited section!
Other problems caused by gangsta rap are the stereotyping of black people and even of black America. These worries are reflected by black journalists and community leaders who worry that white people may see black people only through the eyes of rap stars in videos - such as 50 Cent. Within the black community, there is a high degree of absent fathers and other factors such as poverty and racism, that have fuelled trouble.
In the UK, the old rap crew So Solid Crew famously had 3 members in trouble for alleged gun crimes, with reports of guns being carried at gigs by both the group and by people in the audience.
According to a 2003 Dispatches Channel 4 survey, 53% of black young people believe that violent lyrics in rap music do impact them towards violence. Rap artists often serve as the role model for black young people, instead of absent fathers.
The on-going argument is whether rap reflects street life or whether it encourages it.. you just have to listen to MTV or Tim Westwood on Radio 1 to see how many words are bleeped out! But I do think some people need to understand how rap music has defined and been a real expression for the life, difficulties, frustrations and talents of especially the black community in the US and across the world. Today, rap culture is spread across all sections of many communities.
'Problems' and worrying trends in rap music (and in r&b, garage etc) that are more widespread than simple gangsta lyrics (and are often found in lots of music forms!) are: very, unbelievably overtly sexual lyrics, selfishness, materialism, the use of bad language, dissing of women, making money, of dissing other rappers and people, of opting out of the political process, of rebellion, of claiming the (mainly US) government are the real thugs, not the people, that they are the best rapper and they'll slap anyone who messes with them and so on..
A previous Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur criticised the UK Grime music industry for not doing more to combat gun culture. He said, 'Only Ms Dynamite has agreed to front a police anti-gun campaign.'
A DJ on BBC 1Xtra said he did not believe any such (anti-gun) campaign would work. 'They tried it in the States with loads of stars releasing a charity record.. but it didn't work.' My comment is maybe if it was tried and funded for the long term in partnership with other schemes it would help.
There are many rappers who have had their lives changed by Jesus (T-Bone for example). There are loads of Christian rapper alternatives to the secular stuff, both in the US and here in the UK. I think rap music is a wicked way to communicate with young people - they like it, it's cool and you can address real life issues from the perspective of the life changing God in heaven - as well as doing more commercial or 'non-Christian' tracks.
What about bringing Christian rappers in to local schools, youth clubs and making a stand for Christ. What about getting Christian young people who are into this to do songs and empower them to do something. You can bring in bands like LZ7, Crossfya and many more who specifically reach out to young people. I've seen both LZ7 and Crossfya in action and they love God and cause the place to go absolutely crazy with their message, tunes, skills and beats! And there are many others in the UK like them!!
We need relevant and real urban Christian music - so many young people are into this. Yet we often persist with 'worship music' (which I love!!) yet with only the occasional nod to urban music (outside of inner-city churches) and yet so many young peple don't listen to this kind of 'contemporary worship' style.. Why aren't more Christians using urban music? Young people need caring, real, relevant, Godly Christians coming at them through Christian lyrics and quality urban music.
The Christian Response | Top
At the bottom of this is the S-word, 'SIN'. As with all the events in the world, sin is to blame, we as humans are to blame. It may manifest itself through racism, oppression, alienation in communities created by actions of the past, or whatever else..
To simply blame rap or UK Garage music is way too simplistic. To say that music doesn't have some impact is also irresponsible. There is no doubt that many young people aspire to be gangstas, to carry guns, to have respect, to have flash goods. The question is why.
Why is it that young people choose to belong to a gang? It's about belonging, a place of identity, it's the thrill of doing bad stuff, the buzz and so on.. as churches we have to re-engage with our communities, be at the centre of the community.
As youth workers we're called to help empower young people, make them feel valued, loved and cared for. We have to help create positive opportunities, be positive role models and model Jesus. We are called to stand out, to stand up and be salt and light. We must intercede, work with local agencies, offer alternatives, show unconditional but often tough love to all in the community.
Changed Hearts | Top
One factor few people consider is that making a lasting change involves the changing of the heart. Only Jesus can do this. People argue we should legalize drugs to force drug dealers out of business. But drug dealers will simply target new, more profitable avenues of illegal money making. We can ban handguns but people use decommissioned guns. We can ban them but the illegal trade will increase.
Where evil people determine to do evil, they will find a way. So as Christians, we have the only real solution - Jesus, the only one who changes hearts and minds forever. Our problem is actually getting out there and doing it.
One group doing something in Handsworth, Birmingham are 'Men to Men Mission' - a group of men based at Pilgrim Church in Handsworth, who once lived the 'ghetto life' - now delivered from the street and the guns and drugs, where they had once been risking their lives.
'It's an issue that has to be addressed. It's all about changing what's in a man's heart' said The Rev Michael Ekwulugo. Another one of the team admitted, "Men to Men is about those that everyone has given up on. It's about touching the untouchables, the ones who have been told: 'There's no hope for you'. But there was hope for me and there is hope for them."
Here is one place where the church is making an impact, unlike many churches who keep a 'healthy distance'. This is one example of where lives have been changed, the church is there and confronting and engaging with the issues directly and practically.
One word from one of the mission team reveals one key factor that many have identified. In Malachi 4.6 it says, 'God will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.' One of the key battlegrounds for us is that of delinquent and absent fathers. Males need to re-claim ground.
Many problems on our streets with both lads and girls are a direct result of fathers abdicating responsibility. There is a need to address this and turn this around. Never underestimate the power of a good male (or female) role model.
Last word from one of the 'Men to Men Mission' team: "I can show my son.. but a lot of kids don't have a father to do that for them. At Men to Men we try to be a father to those youngsters who need one. We have to make a change because I want to know that my children can grow up and walk the streets without fear."