Here at The Source, we take pride in giving you our unabated opinions, regardless of how wild they may be or if you even asked for them. Hip-hop is a community grounded in constant conversation, and whether we weigh in on something as pressing to our culture as this week’s Michael Dunn trial or the minutiae of whatever Oxymoron song just leaked is our choice. It’s what allows the 2Pac/Biggie debate to rage on; it’s what powers the social reforms of the Obama administration; and it’s what’s made our mag successful for the past 25 years and counting. We can blast rap writers and the American press at large for rumor mongering and SEO-desperate content, but at the end of the day, we still live in a country where anyone can report the truth, through any platform of their choosing. Don’t take that for granted.
As a journalism student in Chicago and an avid news reader, it’s shocking to think how the violations of Freedom of the Press and free expression overseas have gone underreported. We’ve heard much about Egypt’s sociopolitical struggles since Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were unseated in July. But have you been following the developments of the eight media members being tried for reporting governmental abuse and civil strife? With more than 1,000 people dead in the last seven months — the majority being Morsi supporters — internal warfare continues to take a grim toll in Egypt. Yet the interim government will try staffers from Al-Jazeera for doing their job. Reporting the increasing murder count has resulted in charges of conspiracy and collusion with the Brotherhood, and the journalists on trial have been locked up for 23 hours a day, unable to prepare a defense or even know of their trial date. Read up on the full, harrowing story here.
It of course doesn’t stop at one nation, or even one continent. At least 70 journalists around the world were killed last year, per the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Syria has proven to be the deadliest of all countries. The number of broadcasters murdered for simply covering the Syrian Uprising has risen to 63, while countless others face lengthy jail time for refusing to reveal sources.
What can we as a hip-hop community do about this? While efforts may seem relatively futile, the best thing we can do right now is just stay informed. If writers and broadcasters are facing life-threatening consequences for offering information, we make their efforts worth a helluva lot more by actually reading that information. A better-informed community becomes a more active community, and who knows what domestic campaigns our hip-hop culture can galvanize by staying up on what’s going on outside of our culture.
While media fetishizes the Chiraq movement and the responses to South Side violence, Damascus rappers have channeled their horrid conditions into socially-conscious music. Something like this is coming from the same basic place and catalyst as N.W.A or Public Enemy.
And we as journalists need to take care of our own. It’s an inherently competitive industry, but reading up on the sacrifices being made overseas makes the profession seem infinitely more admirable. Just last night, Vyacheslav Veremiy, a Ukranian reporter for the daily newspaper Vesti, was brutally attacked with baseball bats and Molotov cocktails, and died from a fatal gunshot to the chest, per the Committee to Protect Journalists. We at The Source salute the courage demonstrated overseas. We’re certainly not risking our lives the way troves of writers in Syria, Egypt, the Ukraine and many more countries are. The American press needs to do a better job of reporting the deaths of fellow press members.
Perhaps it’s a journalist’s pipedream, but I’d love to see a tribute song from a socially-conscious emcee. Method Man is famous for saying “eff a rap critic,” and hip-hop and the press have developed an even more contentious relationship over the past few weeks. We can only imagine how far an awareness-raising joint from someone like Talib Kweli or Killer Mike would go. Until then, go hit Twitter and the rest of social media. Voice your opinion on the massacres going on overseas, and remember that the issues that our music is founded on — government abuse, violence, and mistreatment of minorities — go well beyond a beat and bars.