2020 has been a depressing year, to say the least. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, our country now has more on their plates than ever. With so much disheartening and overwhelming news, many people across the country have begun to feel helpless, often resorting to rash measures. In many cities, we see crime-rates skyrocketing, riots surrounding issues of racial justice, and newly found tensions between communities. One city in particular that has had a rough year is Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Baton Rouge has always had its problems but some think that the rise of their latest rap superstar, “Youngboy Never Broke Again,” has directly contributed to the perpetuation of said tensions.
Upon entrance into Baton Rouge, you now see a massive billboard that states, “BATON ROUGE 5TH DEADLIEST CITY IN U.S.” With Baton Rouge’s lack of good jobs, income disparity, and racial tensions, people are much more susceptible to influence from the few people that do successfully come up out of their city. NBA Youngboy is a prime example of one of the few artistic celebrities out of Baton Rouge that has made it to the superstar level. At the age of 20, NBA Youngboy explicitly and confidently raps about murdering people from his own community when he states, “Seven murders in my hometown tell them bitches I did that.” While this may not shock you coming from a rap song, it directly affects the younger generation in his community that look up to him. With so few role models in other fields, and the “stuck in Baton Rouge” feeling shared by many, it’s really no wonder Youngboy’s listeners are so susceptible to what he preaches. If you’re a young kid in Baton Rouge who likes rap music, chances are you frequently listen to NBA Youngboy.
While it may seem like I’m bashing the rap scene in Baton Rouge, that is not the case. I’m not trying to convince anyone that NBA Youngboy and Baton Rouge rappers alike single-handedly increase the murder rate in their city. However, after travelling to Baton Rouge and interviewing several people from different backgrounds in the city, it is evident that there is a commonly held belief that NBA Youngboy has specifically contributed to the town’s increased murder rate. Not only is that a commonly held notion, he literally explicitly states his killings in his songs, which when added up, comprise a significant percentage of the city’s annual murders.
Regardless of the situation, I do not believe that NBA Youngboy and Baton Rouge rappers alike can be held responsible for the issues their city currently faces. The current state of Baton Rouge is a result of years and years of a flawed system providing very little opportunity and hope to its inhabitants. Even the billboard, put up by the Baton Rouge police themselves, simply states the facts of the matter, but provides no explanation of what they are doing to fix the city’s problems. When young people see the people that are supposed to protect them expressing hopeless mindsets, it\’s no wonder they can’t dig themselves out of that hole. While NBA Youngboy is surely not the reason that his city faces so much hardship, there is something to be said for the perpetuation of “us versus them” ideologies being expressed through Baton Rouge trap music. This is visible everywhere across the U.S., but Baton Rouge differs in the sense that even their own police department seems to have given up. Until the city’s leadership puts their best foot forward in trying to change the city’s course, the cycle will continue, with art and music being one of the few ways out.