FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hip Hop and the Crack Generation

by BRENT WOODIE

I was born into the crack era.  Although not old enough to take part in the crack game, it did not leave me immune to the detrimental effects the drug had on my community.  Growing up in the Bronx, I was surrounded by crack users, drug sellers and poverty.   I first took notice of the crack epidemic while playing basketball with friends, when I complained of all the crack vials surrounding the concrete.  Eventually, it was not out of the ordinary to see my cousin – and others –strung out on crack or relatives locked up for selling crack.

These stories are nothing new to those living in the 80s and it played as the backdrop to the VH1documentary, “Planet Rock: The Story of Hip-Hop and the Crack Generation,” which aired on Sunday, September, 18.  The VH-1 Roc Doc focused on the impact the crack epidemic had on hip-hop and vice versa.  It was a balanced portrayal of the crack epidemic – without being too educational or dumbed down — that showed the harms of crack, and how the response by the media and elected officials added to the ruin of the inner city.  Narrated by executive producer, Ice-T, Planet Rock also got insights from rappers Snoop Dogg, Raekwon and Rza about the impact crack had on their lives and musical careers.

The documentary skillfully explained the story of how the drug sellers of the 80s were the new stars of the decade.  Their flashy cars and fast money excited the youth, who were bogged down by an economic recession.  With few opportunities to work, people gravitated to the drug trade to earn money.  By adding commentary by former real life drug kingpins, Azie Faison and “Freeway” Ricky Ross, the film became more authentic, explaining how the dealers became the model for up and coming rappers.

As the status of the drug sellers rose, rappers imitated the style and swagger the dealers.  The big gold chain became a status symbol of success.  Designer labels like Gucci, Fendi and Versace were now accessible through tailors like Dapper Dan.  Also, the lyrics of rappers began to reflect the lives of drug dealers.  Thanks to the stories of Snoop and Rza, the documentary was more intriguing — taking us through the thought process of why these artists rapped about the drug trade.

The movie not only talked about the link between crack and hip-hop, Planet Rock dug deeper into the personal stories and larger effects of the drug war, giving a more comprehensive view of what was going on at the time.

It put a spotlight on how the media overstated the crack explosion.  Every news broadcast, newspaper and magazine was saturated with stories of the crack epidemic.  A telling scene is when the film showed a commercial with Clint Eastwood, Nancy Reagan and Pee-Wee Herman — of all people — denouncing drug use.  It all leads to politicians — on both sides of the political spectrum — trying to out do each other in punishing crack dealers and users.  Possession of crack was punished way more harshly than cocaine.  The infamous 100 to 1 crack powder disparity became law and a mere five grams of crack resulted in an automatic five-year prison sentence. However, it took a whopping 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger that same sentence. As a result, people of color filled up jails and the prison population skyrocketed. Experts on the drug war gave valuable insights into these policies and further exposed the allegations of the C.I.A smuggling drugs into urban communities and how the drug war changed the relationship between police and the community. (See Cockburn and St. Clair’s Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press.)

At the end of the film, I was reminded of the importance the crack epidemic and hip-hop had on my life.  The film provided great prospective.  Although crack longer dominates inner city life – thanks in part to the negative connotation of being a “crack head” – drugs are still around.  I’m fortunate to have survived in such a troubled time, but today is no different.  We are in the same predicament in 2011.  We are in a recession.   The drug game is still in effect.  Plus, rappers are still in the business of glorifying the drug dealer lifestyle.

VH-1 should be commended for highlighting the impact the drug trade had on Hip-Hop.  If you are a fan of hip-hop you should definitely try and see“Planet Rock: The Story of Hip-Hop and the Crack Generation.”

Brent Woodie is a freelance journalist and an intern with the Drug Policy Alliance’s media department (www.drugpolicy.org).

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail