It is not a surprise that hip-hop has been the voice of rebellion and revolution. It is often used by those who feel the attitudes towards them are unfair and unjust. Hip-hop is a medium suited to promote change. Although, many times, those who rebel do it in numerous forms, therefore I acknowledge that their music can accompany violent behavior and illegal activities. However, I believe that the faction of their work categorized as a traditional art form like music becomes ammunition against them for actual legal proceedings. Law enforcement believes the art is part of the crime when, in reality, expressions themselves are harmless.

The era of social media has made the barrier to influence others almost disappear, acting in tandem with artists’ musical importance. Broadcasting your voice and ideas no longer requires status or power. Social media has allowed artists to gather loyal supporters that will benefit them beyond music consumption. The attention affects how law enforcement pursues and prosecutes them if they warrant such actions in response to artists’ behavior. Prosecutors feel threatened by the artists’ influence and potential opposing ideals resulting in a hunting dynamic. The artists might not be the most high-profile criminal, but they get treated as if they are due to their societal authority. Artists then feel targeted and put in more effort to fight their case, portraying an increased level of guilt that displays their character poorly. The system aims to connect their work to their crime when most people’s profession is usually irrelevant. I would also like to recognize that the music can seem consistent with their behavior, but it is still ultimately the emotional expression(s) of their life.

A recent example is a 21-year-old artist named Kentrell DeSean Gaulden, known professionally as YoungBoy NeverBrokeAgain. He has had prior troubles with the law, but he was recently arrested again for violating his probation with a firearm. The arrest had direct involvement in an FBI investigation entitled “Operation Never Free Again.” The operation is a blatant and gross reference to his artistic denomination. It displays their knowledge of his art, but the crime has no ties to his music. Hip-hop artists, also usually degraded to “rappers,” are not their art. The alleged and potential crimes they commit should be limited to legal evidence and disregard any bias their work might suggest. Music is frequently too nuanced and complex to try to derive real-life intent or details.

I believe this is a sad use of resources, knowing artists in this position usually promote kindness and help out their communities and supporters. They understand the reality of their life but are aware enough to influence people towards the opposite and spur growth and change. Overly prosecuting these people is unjust and pathetic since many are around the age of Kentrell and younger. It might be a tough reform which the system needs a lot of, but there needs to be a more accurate categorization of criminals, so people are not better catches for law enforcement only due to fame.

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Jake Brubaker

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