Crabs in a Bucket

By Todd A. Smith


            Where did it all wrong?  An art form created in the Bronx in the 1970s initially united an entire generation.  Gangs who had been bitter rivals in the early 1970s united because of hip-hip culture and music.

            The hip-hop phenomenon began on the mean streets of New York, and quickly spread throughout the country in the 1980s.  People who had once settled their differences in the streets began squashing their beef on the dance floor or on the microphone.  Emcee and break dance battles quickly replaced violence as the measuring stick to determine the hardest cat on the block.

            What started as innocent competition, however, became deadly in the late 1990s with the senseless murders of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.  Rap battles started becoming extremely personal and eventually led to the demise of two hip-hop icons.

            The hate that exists among some of hip-hop’s brightest stars is reminiscent of the slavery era, when the division between African Americans gave birth to the crabs in a bucket mentality.  This theory stated that whenever an African American made it to the top another African American would pull him back down before he made it out of his current situation.

            Recently, Nashville-based rapper Young Buck allegedly assaulted an Atlanta deejay for playing a record by his nemesis The Game.

            According to, “Young Buck performed in Atlanta’s Club Nocturnal.  After his performance, Buck announced he had some business to handle with Hot 107.9 DJ Will, who was deejaying prior to Buck hitting the stage.  Although DJ Will stood up for himself, he was outnumbered by members of Buck’s entourage who jumped in.  As a result, Hot 107.9 program director Jerry Smokin’ B has banned Young Buck from the station’s play list.”

            Young Buck’s alleged assault led many deejays across the country to consider a ban of all of his music.

            Although rap music has always been highly competitive, many current rappers are unaware of the power that they have as role models, and choose to use their influence in destructive ways and not to uplift the Black community.  In past generations, African American youth emulated the preachers and the teachers.  However, in the 21st century, the next generation of Black leaders looks up to rappers and athletes for guidance and inspiration.

            After the sudden deaths of Tupac and Biggie, many rappers realized the power of words.  That generation of rappers understood the consequences of putting negativity on wax, and chose a more positive approach to settling differences.  However, after the 50 Cent and Ja Rule beef of 2003 became the talk of hip-hop, many rappers began seeing beef as a way to earn a quick dollar and destroy the career of an adversary in the process.

            Consequently, 50 Cent and his G Unit crewing began beefing with Fat Joe, Jadakiss, and Nas, for their affiliation with Ja Rule and The Inc. Records.  After 50’s protégé, The Game refused to participate in a battle with Nas and Jadakiss, 50 excommunicated Game from G Unit Records.

            Then 50 Cent went on a popular New York radio show to announce The Game’s dismissal from the G Unit camp.   After 50 Cent’s diss on the radio, Game’s entourage attempted to confront the G Unit entourage at the radio station.  The two crews exchanged gunfire, leaving a member of Game’s crew injured.

            After the New York radio incident The Game began exchanging countless insults with the entire G Unit roster, culminating in the November 26 incident in which Young Buck, a G Unit artist, allegedly assaulted a deejay for playing Game’s hit single “It’s Okay (One Blood).”

            When will rappers ever learn?  Hip-hop culture has grown into a worldwide multi-billion dollar phenomenon over the years, and there is plenty of success to go around for everyone.  Just because a fan buys a Game album does not mean he will not buy an album from a G Unit artist.

            Young Buck’s alleged assault in Atlanta has been a detriment to his career because of the ban of his records at many radio stations.  In attempt to bring down an old nemesis, he may have brought down his own career in the process.

            The beef that exists between rappers is the main reason the African American race has not been able to reach the potential that it has.  A people filled with all the talent in the world cannot reach the “promise land” that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about because of his jealousy and envy.

            When will rappers learn that they have the power to change the entire Black community for the better?  They have the power to teach young children that violence is not the way to solve a problem.  They have the power to teach the youth that there are more ways to be successful than selling drugs on the corner.

            Recently, New Orleans based rappers B.G. and Baby, put aside their beef after the tragic death of Baby’s sister.  Houston rappers Chamillionaire and Mike Jones also have squashed beefs and have even talked about working together in the near future.  Maybe the entire hip-hop nation can see that as the true way that Black men handle a negative situation.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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