Up to now a number of years, there’s been an alarming quantity of rappers killed because of gun violence, whether or not by theft or disagreement. Takeoff, PnB Rock, Younger Dolph, King Von, Pop Smoke, Nipsey Hussle, XXXTentacion — numerous recognizable and well-known up to date rappers have been killed, becoming a member of an sadly lengthy listing of different rappers each well-known and never of the previous and current who’ve additionally been victims of gun violence. A few of these deaths converse to the difficult dynamics at play whenever you’re each a rapper and somebody who was (and nonetheless is perhaps) a part of a avenue tradition the place they arrive from. Others converse to the hazards of movie star and fame, the place it’s much less about your associations to somebody or one thing, and what you personal that may be taken. The commonality between each is how unlucky they’re, leaving household, followers, and mates to course of what has occurred, whereas questioning why it occurred within the first place. Hip Hop Homicides, which premieres tonight (November 3) on WE television, goals to discover these unlucky circumstances and what comes with them, and, as a synopsis for the collection declares, “uncover the reality behind these crimes.”
Government-produced by 50 Cent and Mona Scott-Younger and hosted by Van Lathan, Hip Hop Homicides is making its debut with an episode centered on the late Pop Smoke. From there, the collection will then discover the deaths of King Von and Magnolia Shorty in episodes two and three, respectively, earlier than occurring to XXXTentacion, Soulja Slim, and others. In an interview with Scott-Younger and Lathan, the previous revealed that the thought for the present got here a couple of year-and-a-half in the past when 50 first pitched it to her.
“He stated, ‘We must always actually do a present about useless rappers. We have to work out how one can inform their tales,’” Mona-Scott stated. “‘We have to go on the market. If no one else desires to analyze, if no one else desires solutions, then we’ve obtained to do it. We’ve obtained to not solely preserve their names alive, however now we have to strive to determine no matter we are able to to assist put these circumstances to mattress.’ And that was the start of an evolution of the idea.”
In conceptualizing the present, 50 and Mona-Scott additionally determined that the rappers highlighted wouldn’t simply be the larger names or these in present headlines, however previous ones who had gained a notable native and regional following, too. The pair needed to relay to viewers that every one the lives of those rappers — whether or not they had been mainstream stars or native heroes — matter, utilizing their tales to additionally converse to the hip-hop scenes they had been part of, in addition to the components that result in the violence they expertise of their respective elements of the US.
The top consequence are episodes like its collection premiere, which makes use of Pop Smoke’s dying to talk to a number of related subjects (the rise of NY drill, gang affiliations, and social media and the way it components not solely into how crimes could also be dedicated however the conspiracy theories that get shared within the course of, too), whereas attempting to reply the query of if the incident was a theft gone mistaken or focused hit.
When you’ve watched any true crime media (notably documentaries or docuseries), you understand how integral sure figures are. You normally have a police officer or detective who’s been investigating the incident; a criminal offense skilled who can present some further background context; and some individuals instantly impacted by the particular person murdered — dad and mom, mates, and witnesses. It’s that final one the place most true crime documentaries and docuseries are likely to get murky, with these figures having to revisit some of the traumatic occasions to ever occur to them. That is obvious in a handful of the interviews performed within the Pop Smoke episode, particularly with the late rapper’s mom, Audrey Jackson, his shut buddy Mike Dee, and a girl who was with Smoke the night time of his homicide, Amelia Rose. Each Dee and Rose’s appearances are notable in that they each have been accused of being concerned in Smoke’s dying, which solely provides to the importance of their participation within the episode.
“Getting plenty of the interviews for the reveals had been about making individuals really feel protected and telling their tales,” Lathan stated. “Tales that they actually needed to inform, however they only don’t really feel protected speaking about it. They don’t really feel protected speaking about it. And that’s one thing that everyone that was on the street actually did their half in ensuring that it occurred.”
For Lathan, that didn’t solely imply constructing a rapport with a few of these figures beforehand (as an illustration, he recalled having to be round Dee for a whole day so he’d be snug filming) but additionally navigating sudden adjustments when considered one of them not needed to speak. The episode nearly didn’t have Smoke’s mom, who takes a while within the episode to share how she’d like for her son to be remembered, in addition to converse on a few of the theories surrounding his dying.
“With Pop’s mom, she got here to the location the place we had been going to be taking pictures, after which she didn’t wish to do the interview,” he stated. “I went and sat along with her in a automobile for… I’m undecided how lengthy, it might need been an hour, two hours, perhaps even longer than that. And we simply talked and the tears flowed. I had simply misplaced my father. And we simply had a dialog about what it meant to have such a void in your life after so lengthy. And it was no cameras, no mics, no nothing. We simply talked.
“And I let her know after I sat down that if she determined that she didn’t wish to do that interview, it was OK with me. They had been going to pay me anyway,” he continued. “But when there’s something that she needed to say about her son or if there was something she needed individuals to learn about her son and learn about how she’s been feeling since she misplaced her son, that she wouldn’t have a greater alternative to inform that than the chance that she was going to be getting proper at this very second.”
However simply as integral because the sources are for Hip Hop Homicides, so is the narrative it’s attempting to inform. Some of the fascinating elements of Smoke’s episode is how social media performed an element in it, whether or not that be posts probably used as proof or to discover a potential supply, or unsubstantiated theories that started to achieve traction. Each are harmful in their very own regard (moreso the latter). Though the previous can assist in piecing issues collectively, we’ve additionally seen how police departments and prosecutors use social media posts as a way of criminalizing rappers (as has been the case with Younger Thug and his Younger Slime Life group). For the latter, it distorts the reality and places these closest to the incident in harms approach, which is what occurred when social media sleuths started to theorize that Dee and Rose performed an element in Smoke’s dying (and what we’ve witnessed just lately with PnB Rock’s girlfriend being blamed for his dying).
On there former, Scott-Younger referred to it as a “double edged sword” that may be “used to bear witness,” however has additionally “been used to harm us, to desensitize us, to get us to this place the place we not worth issues like human life and to place up a few of the photographs that we see individuals placing up.”
“I simply suppose that there’s a sense of accountability that comes with having a software like social media at our disposal that now we have simply not been correctly geared up to make the most of,” she added. “We’re on this place the place now we have dehumanized ourselves and different individuals by the usage of social media.”
Lathan agreed with Scott-Younger’s sentiment, earlier than providing his personal tackle social media’s half within the violence that we’re seeing in hip-hop.
“I obtained to be sincere with you, doing this present was the primary time I ever critically requested myself whether or not or not the web was a foul concept,” he stated, noting the whole lot from how social media appears to present anybody some type of immortality that stops individuals from truly processing they’re gone, to the usually inflammatory conversations and pictures which are being shared on these platforms in the case of hip-hop.
“I don’t wish to re-litigate hip-hop and do all of that stuff. That is going to make individuals say, ‘You previous. Get off my yard, Van.’ However man, it’s nuts out right here. And everyone is throwing up their arms. They don’t see a approach out of it,” he stated. “…This can be a deep and layered query, and one which we didn’t even know we had been going to should reply throughout making this present.
“I might ask individuals each single time, ‘What do you suppose is occurring?’ And folks could be like, ‘Man, I’m going to be sincere with you, plenty of is social media,’” he added. “And by the fourth or fifth time I heard that, I used to be like, ‘Yo, are you aware that was informed to me in Atlanta, Chicago, Jersey, Queens, South Florida. Everyone. I don’t know. It’s simply plenty of it’s social media.”
This why it was necessary to have individuals like Dee and Rose featured within the episode. Certain, there’s the unique attract of getting these figures to speak on digital camera in regards to the incident. Nevertheless it’s additionally about attempting to get to the reality and, on the very least, serving to to take away them from the theories surrounding Smoke’s dying, one thing Lathan does do by the top episode when he says he believes that neither had been concerned.
“We had been intentional about that,” Scott-Younger stated. “About getting in and debunking a few of these rumors, as a result of once more, we discuss in regards to the amplification of data on social media. That info is usually taken as truth. There’s no one saying, ‘Is there a doubt right here? Do we all know this for a truth?’ Folks hear issues on social media and unexpectedly it turns into legislation… we went in there and deliberately tried to unravel and get to the reality merely for the sake of clearing somebody’s identify, as a result of it’s nearly like social media’s a a method avenue. No person bothers to undo the injury after it’s been achieved.”
With Hip Hop Homicides being such a highly-promoted and visual TV docuseries that intersects hip-hop and true crime, the dialog ended on if the pair thinks that this intersection will proceed, and if we’ll see extra media like this. Though Scott-Younger does see the collection as a real crime present, she additionally thinks it’s rather more than that.
“I feel it’s half investigative present, it’s half tribute, it’s half biography. So, I feel the way in which we’ve approached this present is far totally different than what we’re seeing,” she stated. “However as lengthy as these deaths proceed to occur, they’re going to be tales round how they occurred, why they occurred, and attempting to unravel who did it.”