When KRS-One wrote the song “Rappers R N Dainja” more than 20 years ago, he was talking about those who dared to challenge his self-proclaimed lyrical greatness. But the song’s title has taken on a new significance with what seems like a dizzying amount of gun violence in hip-hop that was lowlighted by the shooting deaths up-and-coming rappers XXXTentacion and Jimmy Wapo.
They were two of a dying breed, literally, as they shared the not-so-rare distinction of being young, Black men who were also rappers. You see, not only do young, Black males suffer more deaths at the hands of gun violence, but research has shown that among all performers across every musical genre, rappers have the shortest life projections and die from gun shots more than half of the time.
(Editor’s note: This article is not meant to come across as sympathetic to either rapper, who both had violent pasts. XXXTentacion in particular came under fire for being homophobic and allegedly physically abusing his ex-girlfriend, among other violent and non-violent crimes he was charged with and pleaded not guilty to. Spotify went so far as to remove his music from certain playlists because it violated the streaming service’s “hateful conduct public policy.” XXXTentacion died before his trial, which was scheduled for October.)
Another unfortunate similarity between the two rappers: XXXTentacion, 20, who was killed in suburban Miami, and Jimmy Wapo, 21, who died in his native Pittsburgh, were each sitting inside his respective vehicle before being ambushed by gunmen.
Wapo was set to sign “a big record deal,” according to reports, while XXXTentacion endured some serious legal problems to sign a $6 million contract less than a year ago, according to the Miami Herald.
But even without those damning factors, they were still targets, statistics show.
“Compared with white men, the researchers found that black men experienced 27 more firearm homicides per 100,000 people annually nationwide,” according to a study that CNN reported on in April.
To make matters worse, rappers die on average at around 27 years old, according to a study looking at how musical genres affect musicians’ life expectancies. But that’s not even the half of it, as more than 50 percent of rappers die from murder, the study also found. That was in comparison to just 6 percent of musicians who are victims of homicide.
To be sure, gun violence affects way more than just rappers, as shown by the torrid pace of mass shootings that have dotted the American map for much of this year alone. But if Black men are truly an endangered species, then those who also rap for a living, especially the young ones, were all but flirting with death.