Rapping Out about Rap's Dirty Little Secret

January 07, 1993|By GREGORY P. KANE

"Cop Killer,'' that invidious record by that mediocre rap star,Ice T, continues to cause controversy. A recent appearance by Ice T at College Park brought out the usual band of police, their families and supporters to protest the rap musician's effete effort at social commentary. Though he didn't perform ''Cop Killer,'' Ice T did excoriate the police for protesting ''when they should be out catching criminals.'' Ice T would probably look genuinely confused if someone were to suggest that police officers have the same rights of free speech he seems to think belong exclusively to rap musicians.

It's a pity that ''Cop Killer'' and Ice T have drawn attention away from a truly superb sound by rap musicians who form the group Arrested Development. The song, ''People Everyday,'' indulges in no phillipics against white racism or police brutality, It contains no lyrics of misogyny, nor is it one of those sexist tunes that have become so standard in rap music, in which male rappers flaunt their sexuality against a background of jiggling, semi-nude women.

''People Everyday'' tells a simple tale of what happens between some people -- in this case, some black men -- every day. A young black man and his girlfriend are strolling along when they come across some other young black men who are ''holding their crotches and being obscene.'' The song's protagonist at first overlooks the ignoramuses because:

. . . I know the type.

They got drugs.

They get drunk.

And then they want to fight.

Then they see a young couple having a time that's good.

Then their egos want to test a brother's manhood.

There's a wealth of social commentary in those lines that surpasses by light years the psychotic ramblings of Ice T in ''Cop Killer.'' Arrested Development has broached a subject that most other rap musicians dare not touch: the terrifying violence against black American men inflicted by other black American men.

Indeed, Arrested Development has gone one step further and pointed the finger of blame for this revolting state of affairs exactly where it should be pointed: at those black men who refuse to raise their conduct up to even a minimally civilized level.

The Ice Ts, the Public Enemies and the NWAs of the rap world surely know that black men inflict more violence on each other in one day than police officers do in any given year. My son, 17 years old, has been stopped by police for routine frisking twice. He has been the victim of assault and robbery no fewer than four times. In each case the perpetrators were black youths. Every time he leaves the house I fear for his life. And it's not the cops I fear will do him harm.

The main source of menace for young black men is other young black men. But for those rap musicians who have flailed the police-brutality horse to admit such would be to indict the culture of macho that fuels the rap-music machine. They would have to (( admit that -- horror of horrors -- black people just might be responsible for some of our own problems, and that the culture of macho among black men just might be our greatest one.

Is teen-age pregnancy among black girls the result of racism and poverty or the result of a mindset among young black men that exalts the seduction of as many women as possible? Is the homicide rate among the nation's young black men caused by equally sinister portions of drugs, crime, racism and poverty or by those egos described so eloquently for us by Arrested Development? Whatever the answer, the members of Arrested Development are to be commended, at least for raising the question. ''People Everyday'' is a welcome respite from the ''blame whitey'' litany that has chorused through the nation's black community for years and has become a virtual leitmotif for much of today's rap music.

Black on black violence is, in this particular black Zeitgeist, caused by drugs (brought in by the white man); guns (made and sold to us by the white man); and self-hate (taught to us by the white man). I heard one particularly inspired race advocate go so far as to claim that when one black person shoots another that ''a white finger is on the trigger.''

Blacks, having no responsibility, reasoning powers or self-control, simply react to the environment in which they've been so callously thrust -- such is the typical explanation given for the carnage going on among today's black men. If the argument sounds distressingly familiar, it's because the same logic was used to justify slavery.

Arrested Development has, we should hope, begun the process that will bring an end to this cycle of nonsense. At the beginning of ''People Everyday,'' one group member tells us the song is about ''life, death and the struggles of our ancestors.'' He sounds like a young man who has had enough black history to know that the struggles of our ancestors sometimes are a struggle of us versus us.

Gregory P. Kane is a Baltimore free lance.

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