OPINION: Are Hood DVDs Criminal Minstrel Shows?

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Recently, a DVD called “Thuggin It And Lovin It” has caused controversy in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area. The DVD profiles several neighborhoods in Baton Rouge and various criminals who inhabit the area. The video shows a number of young Black men showing off their guns and bragging about violence and drug dealing.

Though the package says “performed by actors-this DVD is for entertainment use only,” it seems pretty clear that the people on the DVD are very real. If these characters are actors, where did they get their guns? I could imagine it would be harder to get a fake AK-47 in Baton Rouge than a real one. There is no plot or story line to the DVD and it seems doubtful that there was a script. What other projects have these “actors” been in?

The creators claim that the DVD is a way to promote the careers of various rappers, but there is little rapping to be found on the DVD.

Police have been investigating people involved in the DVD and it has even attracted the attention of Baton Rouge’s district attorney and mayor. News clips about the controversy the DVD has caused have been circulating outside of Baton Rouge via the Internet.

On the DVD, men with rags covering their faces, show off and recklessly shoot handguns and high-powered assault rifles. Web sites have even compared the DVD to an Al Qaida propaganda video.

In some ways, the DVD is a wake up call. Guns and drug dealing are big problems in Black neighborhoods that need to be addressed. Still, police should be investigating how these guns get into the hands of inner city African-Americans, rather than just profiling people who appear on the DVD.

While the DVD does seem to glorify and promote violence and drug dealing, it is far from the first DVD to do that. QD3′s “Beef” had 50 Cent pulling out a handgun and making threats to Ja Rule. “Beef” also showed a rapper, by the name of True Life, bragging about robbing members of another rap group, while one of his associates shot a gun in the air.

Since then, other DVDs have been promoting hip-hop related criminal activity. DVDs like “Smack,” “Cocaine City” and “Sub Zero,” all have rappers and their associates shouting out their gang affiliations, bragging about illegally earned money, showing off guns and making threats to other rappers.

Footage from these DVDs is released on the Internet, through sites such as Worldstarhiphop, Vladtv and YouTube, creating a reality TV world for criminals and rappers that anyone with a computer could see.

Its pretty clear that law enforcement is closely following these DVDs. The upside for rappers and criminals looking for notoriety is that it gives them a lot of exposure; the down side is that it exposes them to the police. After the Black Mafia Family (BMF) appeared on several DVDs, 65 members were indicted on criminal conspiracy charges.

The rise of these DVDs signifies a change in Hip Hop. Now a rapper’s street credibility, money made illegally, guns and propensity towards violence are more important than his talent as a rapper. These DVDs promote materialism, misogyny, gang violence and gun use. They have taken the rap out of “gangsta rap” and now seem to only promote gangsters.

Rather than giving an accurate depiction of the negativity that guns and drugs have in the Black community, these DVDs glamorize criminals and criminal activity, without taking a real look at the negative effects that they have on the community.

These DVDs are a problem in the community. Still, they are not the cause, but a symptom of larger problems. The causes for these DVDs are the drugs, guns and lack of opportunity in the community. Other causes for these DVDs are record labels, radio stations, websites and other companies that reward rappers who act like criminals with record deals, media coverage and endorsements.

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