Blood MoneyChicago’s rap scene continues to be rooted in violence, as Chief Keef’s newly signed cousin, Blood Money, is shot dead and Lil Reese takes to Twitter to talk about his gunplay.  Meanwhile, The Game and 40 Glocc tweet threats to each other and Migos were recently bragging about a shootout they were involved in.  

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While the rap game is largely over-saturated in the age of the Internet–where anyone and everyone can be a rapper, DJ, or producer–the rappers of Chicago are becoming a dying breed, with Chief Keef’s cousin, Blood Money, becoming the latest victim.


Blood Money, real name Mario Hess, had just signed a deal with Interscope records, receiving a $50,000 advance.  His dreams–and his life–were cut short when he was gunned down on Chicago’s South side.

He was only thirty three years old.

Renaldo Reuben Hess, his manager and cousin, said it was his cousin’s dream to get off the streets.

“This was his dream and he finally got his foot in the door,” Renaldo Hess said. “But that’s how it goes in Chicago. He really wanted to get off the streets.”

While some want to get off the streets, there are those who prefer to take it to the streets, like the Atlanta based rap trio, Migos, who were involved in a shootout in Miami at the end of the March.  A van pulled up next to them and opened fire, with them returning fire.  One of their bodyguards was shot.

Meanwhile, at the same damn time, back in Chicago, Chief Keef was being questioned (again) in yet another shooting.  He’s now been questioned multiple times about various shootings, including one resulting in the 2012 murder of another slain Chicago rapper, Lil JoJo.

He’s previously bragged that his project Bang 3 would “raise the murder rates.”

This culture that Chief Keef and the new school rap conglomerate represent has long troubled many, from politicians to other hip hop artists, including Lupe Fiasco, who notoriously said “Chief Keef scares me. Not him specifically, but just the culture that he represents.”

Just today, Chief Keef affiliate Lil Reese, who’s had his own run ins with the law and became instantly infamous after footage of him beating up a young woman went viral, took to it to the tweets to tell Migos that they weren’t “on [his] level with this gunplay sh-t.”

Also today, The Game posted an Instagram photo that looked suspiciously like a subliminal message directed towards 40 Glocc–a message that implied Game had a “green light,” or hit, out.

We can’t mention the recent rash of purported gun violence without mentioning Benzino, who was shot by his own nephew a few days ago.

Although you would think that labels have by now learned that violence means lost profits–Interscope has a $6 million dollar investment in Chief Keef that I’m sure they’d love to see a return on one day, and dead men don’t pay bills; dead presidents are another story–social responsibility in rap has been largely lacking.

“If you want to understand the youth,” Nas said, “Listen to the music.”

The old(er) school has grown up.

Russell Simmons does yoga.  Styles P has a juice bar and you’ll find him poppin’ bottles of juiced kale before you find him blowing stacks on Belvedere.  Jay Z has gone from rapping about gun wars to Warhols.  Nas’ Illmatic is seeing its twentieth anniversary this year, and the issues he raps about–loss, misogyny, the drug culture, the prison industrial complex, the struggle for black self-definition and the function of literacy in the quest for self-awareness and spiritual and moral evolution–are still relevant today, which is largely why Nas enjoys the intergenerational appeal that few emcees of his era or the next have managed to master.

The millennials who grew up listening to them have grown up as well.  As adults, it’s up to us to teach the babies.  It’s up to us to educate the next brain surgeons, doctors, lawyers, politicians–as well as entertainers.

There’s no education without honesty–and before hip hop was about bling, women, and cars, it was about authenticity and honesty.

Honesty isn’t always trendy.  It requires courage and true vulnerability–which will leave you open to the kind of attacks that the 9 millimeter tucked in your waistband can’t protect you from.

“I don’t see enough MCs who are brave enough to be honest,” he said during a talk with Michael Eric Dyson, university professor at Georgetown. “There’s a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad in rap.”

“The socially conscious stuff can come off as preachy,” he explained. “ … some people stay away from that. It’s not their bag, but they still have some kind of artistic responsibility to do more than what’s the latest trend.”

Although studies claim that violent crime is down, the romanticization of violence–and our fascination with it (WorldStar has a ridiculous number of hits for a reason)–leave much to be desired, and it’s evident in today’s hip hop, which values jewels on the neck over the gems of the heart.

Those who were amongst the survivors, like Jay and Nas, had the opportunity to grow up and become men; they were able to make better choices, and their music reflected it.

The Chief Keefs of the world, like Blood Money, may not get that opportunity to grow, mature, and evolve.

There are a lot of stories to be told, and a lot of dialogue to be had.

There’s a lot of healing that can happen in our communities, and what better medium than hip hop to do it?

Each of these stories have hidden within missed opportunities to talk about the things plaguing our communities.

It’s been said that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword–but it’s been rapped that the pen is mightier than the sword.

I’m hoping that the new generation of artists becomes more willing to put down the guns and pick up the pens.

The Source would like to send our condolences to the families of Mario Hess and Chief Keef during this difficult time.  May your loved one rest in peace, and may there be peace on the streets of Chicago and elsewhere.  

April Dawn (@scarlettsinatra)

About The Author

The revolution will not be will be blogged.

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  • Álax Alves says:

    Morning Ms. Sinatra,
    A 16 yrs old opinion – I’ve read your article and simply loved and agreed with your thoughts, rap music used to be more intelligent and now it’s just about drugs, explicit sex, gunplay and purple dranks. I’m a big fan of new and old school but recent songs are making me drag away from new school, and I think this is how everyone else that is concerned about what is going on with rap music. Not to mention the frequent quoting and praising of illuminati. Hope you answer me back. Love from Brasília,Brazil.

    • April Dawn says:

      Thanks for reading Alax. Appreciate you showing love to all the way from Brazil! Keep your love for that real hip hop, and continue schooling people what hip hop is really about! 😉

  • leo dester says:

    Violence in chicago its so bad , i like very chicago music and the real hip hop

    Pass the god message for the world peoples
    And not speak bulshit like a chief keff stop the violence in the chirak city !
    Sorry but my inglish its so bad much peace and love for all peoples of the
    Source magazine pass the best information for us .
    One hugh for all and come to Brazil mett the great place
    Léo dester from Rio de Janeiro Brasil !!!

  • ... says:

    Chicago’s rap scene does not even come close to representing the genre. The only rapper on Chicago’s scene that is even remotely mainstream is Chief Keef. Mainstream rap is mostly southern rappers and has very little violence in it.