Unexpected death in the music industry is nothing out of the ordinary. For decades, we have seen an untold number of musicians die far before their time from a variety of ways. From Elvis Presley to Keith Moon, Buddy Holly to Janis Joplin, these names have now become martyrs to their art, and in some cases romanticised with artists such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse featured in the "27 Club", a list of artists that have all died at the age of 27. But in the world of hip-hop, the statistics are even grimmer as many rappers throughout the history of the genre haven't even made it that far.
It has recently been announced that film company Morgan Creek are planning to make a new biopic of the life of rapper Tupac Shakur called 'All Eyez On Me', a man famously gunned down back in 1996 at the age of just 25. While his killers were never found, it was believed to be linked to the rivalry between the East and West Coast rappers of the day. The cities of Los Angeles and New York were battling with their words to produce the greatest rappers on the scene, a war which ultimately turned violent and ended the life of Shakur, and in retaliation New York-based rapper Notorious B.I.G. some months later as well.
But while these two are no doubt a couple of the highest profile deaths in hip-hop, the genre itself has been plagued by violence ever since its conception. In a study released by The Conversation last year, it showed that the average life expectancy for an artist in the field of rap or hip-hop was roughly 30 years old. Now you can argue that with it being a relatively new genre (first emerging in the 1980s) that many of these artists have yet to die from natural causes to even out the statistics. But regardless of that, it is still devastatingly low. In fact, it found that the rate of homicides towards rappers is currently at 51% in the causes of death list. Far higher than the 6% national average of all musicians in the United States.
And this is not a trend that has gone away over time. Even big names like Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and 50 Cent have previously taken a bullet during their lives, showing that this violent trend is far from over. But what is most upsetting is that this genre is in fact a mostly seen as a way to peacefully air your opinions of another person, without resorting to violence. The infamous "rap battles" that are seen as a staple hazing process for young MCs to show their worth is the primary place where conflicts are resolved. The idea behind them is so that feuding rappers can come together and settle their differences with words, not weapons. And yet we still find ourselves in this never ending cycle of hurt and hate within the genre.
The obvious reason for this is a mix between America's lenient gun control laws and the culture of black oppression the country has adopted for centuries. Young black men and woman in America are far more likely to die at the hands of someone else, than use their weapon to commit suicide. A statistic that is actually the reverse when you apply it to white people. And while the Black Live Matter movement has gone someway to expose the culture of violence within and toward the black community, it has resulted in a far more threatened America, where the country has once again seen record gun sales this year.
And while the number of Hollywood biopics such as 2009's 'Notorious' and last year's 'Straight Outta Compton' have aimed to shed some light onto the behind the scenes world of two of the biggest names in hip-hop, Notorious B.I.G. and N.W.A. respectively, but failed to really highlight the war that was really going on. And while the upcoming Tupac biopic is still in post-production, we are hoping that this time around we are exposed to the forefront to the conflict that hip-hop created in the world. And as a result, show this generation that conflicts need to be settled with words and not the barrel of a gun.