Gangsta Rap Era Returns in Court Case, 'House of Lies,' Chief Keef's Instagram Page (Video)
Gunplay and braggadocio are still part of the genre, no matter how much it's entered mainstream culture.
Nearly two decades have passed since the shocking murders of rap titans Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (aka the Notorious B.I.G.) within six months of each other in 1996, but hip-hop continues to be obsessed with guns and violence.
The Twittersphere is abuzz about last weekend's episode of Showtime's House of Lies, in which a character played by rapper Tip "T.I." Harris, the drug-dealing half of a partnership in a Def Jam-styled clothing company called DollaHyde, is gunned down in his SUV at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard before aghast stars Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell in a horrifyingly explicit drive-by shooting.
Several outraged viewers pointed out the similarities to the killings of both Shakur (which took place on a busy Las Vegas street) and Biggie (who was gunned down on Wilshire Boulevard outside the Petersen Automotive Museum following an afterparty for the Soul Train Music Awards).
Lies executive producer David Walpert admitted to reporters after a screening of the episode that he "was not totally aware" the iconic Beverly Hills location of the shooting was less than three miles from where Biggie was shot.
In other signs of gangsta rap's continuing cultural impact, The New York Times published a story this morning about how rap lyrics are increasingly being used in court cases as evidence.
The latest instance involved the 2007 murders of a pair of Newport News, Va., youths, Christopher Horton, 16, and Brian Dean, 20, a case that had grown cold until a detective came across a YouTube video of Antwain Steward, a local rapper, with the stage name Twain Gotti, performing a song called "Ride Out."
Although the 22-year-old Steward denies any role in the killings, authorities believe the lyrics include a boast he was responsible, and charged him last July with the crimes. His case is one of more than three-dozen prosecutions in the past two years in which rap lyrics have played a major part. Others have argued that rap lyrics are merely fictional scenarios that have nothing to do with real life, akin to Johnny Cash singing about having "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die."
Finally, despite rappers having seen plenty of first-hand evidence of the damage caused by firearms, apparently no lessons have been learned. The latest to fall under the sway is 18-year-old rapper Chief Keef (Keith Cozart) who posted a picture of his cache of firearms, including an AK-47, on his Instagram page last Monday with the cryptic warning, "Another situation. Already," only to be spotted within the vicinity of a shooting in his hometown of Chicago early Wednesday morning, in which the victim was rushed to the ICU. Keef's lawyer insists his client wasn't the shooter, but only happened to be present when the shots went off. Still, if there's anything the history of rap has taught us, where there's smoke, there's eventually fire.