In the groove: Does being a rap/hip hop artiste spell doom?

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In South Africa, another rapper/hip hop artiste, Ricky Rick  who founded the Cotton Fest also died this year on February 23 after hanging himself in his home.

By Fred Zindi

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to rap is to strike (a hard surface) with a series of rapid audible blows, especially in order to attract attention. Other meanings include the words:  hit, blow, thump, bang, hammer, batter and pound. All these words show signs of violence.

In the USA, the word rap has taken a different meaning. It is used in popular music of black origin in which words are recited rapidly and rhythmically over an instrumental backing.

It is sometimes referred to as hip-hop.

Hip hop music is a music genre consisting of a stylised rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rhythmic and rhyming lyrics.

The term hip hop music is sometimes used synonymously with the term rap music.

The first American artistes to be associated with hip hop music were bands such as Africa Bambaata, Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and Rappers’ Delight. It is believed that Keith Cowboy, lead singer with Grandmaster Flash created the term hip hop while teasing a friend who had just joined the US Army by scat singing the words: ‘hip hop- hip hop’ to mimic the rhythmic cadence of soldiers marching and it became part of his stage performance.

The hip hop culture  eventually spread to artistes like M.C. Hammer, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg and later 50 Cent and Kanye West.

There is something mysterious about the rap/hip hop culture which I fail to understand up to now.  Most of the rap artistes I know have died before they reach the age of 40. Either one gets murdered, commits suicide or dies in a car accident. To me it seems like the rap or hip hop culture often spells doom.

Zimbabwe’s rap king contender Cal Vin (real name Calvin Nhliziyo) died in October last year at the age of 35. The Zikhupan hit-maker, died after he was involved in a hit and run car accident near his home in Luveve 5, Bulawayo. It has not been confirmed whether he was deliberately hit by music rivals or his enemies.

In South Africa, another rapper/hip hop artiste, Ricky Rick  who founded the Cotton Fest also died this year on February 23 after hanging himself in his home.

Speculation that he suffered from depression is rife.

The Cotton Fest founder and manager was slowly losing his game and relevance in the music industry .

This, coupled by social media attacks on him and his wife could be reason enough to support unfounded claims that he committed suicide because the criticism of him on social media was too much to bear.

Social media came after him for allegedly abusing his wife with whom he always posted videos looking unhappy.

He started his career at an early age, working with the likes of Brenda Fassie.

He released his debut album Family Values back in 2014 and this saw his rise to fame.

He would later jump on the South African contemporary hip hop sounds before releasing his all time hit song Amantombazane.

He later started his own label, Cotton Club. This is the club responsible for the launch and success of Cotton Fest, an MTV sponsored festival.

Ricky exposed himself as a family man on social media.

One would then wonder why and how he would allegedly take his own life in his home where his family was.

In the case of Ricky Rick, he killed himself, but many hip hop artistes end up being murdered. I wonder if there is a culture of murder in the hip hop  lifestyle?

Also early this year in the United States,  Rapper J. Stash – (real name Justin Joseph) – died on January 1, 2022, in an apparent murder-suicide. He was 28.

Cops heard a report of domestic violence on New Year’s Day, and when deputies arrived they found the bodies of Joseph and Jeanette Gallegos at the scene, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that. Joseph had reportedly had an argument with Gallegos, who he had been dating for around a year, and locked the pair in the master bedroom.  What happened there is still unknown but it is believed Joseph killed Gallegos and shot himself after.

A 2015 study concluded that murder was the cause of 51.5% of US hip hop musician deaths. The study noted that this figure refers primarily to premature deaths as most hip hop musicians have not yet lived long enough to fall into the highest-risk ages for heart- and liver-related illnesses. The following is a list of notable hip hop musicians who have been murdered:

West Coast rapper Drakeo the Ruler — (real name Darrell Caldwell)  — died on December 19, 2021, after being fatally stabbed in an altercation backstage at a Los Angeles music festival, where he had been scheduled to perform. He was 28.

His publicist, Scott Jawson, confirmed his death.  Drakeo released I am Mr. Mosely in 2015. He was known for his laid-back rapping style, and slang. However, his career kept being impacted by legal troubles. He was arrested in 2017 on a weapons charge, and again in 2018, in relation to the murder of a 24-year-old man. He was held at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County for several years, even releasing the album Thank You for Using GTL from behind bars. He released several more mix-tapes after being released from jail, including The Truth Hurts.

Drakeo the Ruler

Rapper Slim 400 was shot and killed on December 9, 2021, in Inglewood. Many reported that he was 33 at time of death, but cops later said he was 34.

The shooting occurred on the 8600 block of 7th Avenue at around 7:50 p.m., and the Inglewood Police Department identified the victim as Slim 400 – (real name Vincent Cohran). Paramedics treated the rapper on site before the L.A. County Fire Department took him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Slim 400 released his debut single Turn Up in 2013, after he was discovered by the Pu$haz Ink label, which is now defunct. He collaborated with late rapper Young Dolph on the 2019 single Shake Back. Just hours before the shooting, Slim 400 had dropped a music video for his song Caviar Gold.

Slim 400 had previously been shot in Compton in 2019. He had surgery to survive the attack.

Young Dolph died in a shooting in Memphis, Tennessee on November 17, 2021. He was 36.

A representative from APA Agency (Agency for Performing Arts) said in a statement: “All of us at APA are shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of our dear friend and client, Young Dolph. The world has lost an icon, a great man and beloved artiste who has been taken too soon.

“His dedication, drive, hard work, and loyalty to all those around him always came first and he will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this most difficult time.”

The shooting took place at Makeda’s Homemade Cookies in South Memphis. The store owner said Young Dolph walked in to buy cookies when someone drove up, shot, and killed him around 1 p.m.  This was the second attempt. The rapper had previously been shot in September 2017, outside of a store in Hollywood.

Way back, on the  13th September, 1996, Tupac Shakur a hip hop artiste of note was murdered aged 25. Tupac Amaru Shakur, better known by his stage name 2Pac and later by his alias Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. Considered one of the most influential rappers of all time, Shakur is among the best-selling music artists, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide.

He was followed by Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known by his stage names; the Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or simply Biggie, an American rapper and songwriter. Rooted in the New York rap scene and gangsta rap traditions, he is widely considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. During 1996, while recording his second album, Wallace became ensnarled in the escalating East Coast- West Coast feud. Following Tupac Shakur’s death in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in September 1996, speculations of involvement in Shakur’s murder by criminal elements orbiting the Bad Boy circle circulated as a result of Wallace’s public feud with Shakur. On March 9, 1997, six months after Shakur’s death, Wallace was murdered in a drive-by shooting while visiting Los Angeles. The assailant remains unidentified.   The Notorious B.I.G. died  on March 9, 1997,  aged 24 .

Other hip hop artistes all aged below 30 who were shot and killed in the United States include: Scott La Rock aged 25, Yaki Kaddaffi aged 19, Charisma aged 20, Fat Pat aged 27, Blade Icewood, aged 27, Aidan Zappata, aged 21, Depzman, aged 20, Camouflage, aged 21, Smoke Dawg aged 21 and Paul C aged 24. They all died before reaching the peak of their fame. I wonder if there is a  culture of murder in the hip hop  tradition.

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