Why America Still Stands Its Ground Against Hip-Hop

Every generation has their “thug music” and it is the de facto soundtrack to getting harassed for being a young minority.

In November, Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis got into an argument at a Jacksonville gas station. Dunn was upset over the volume of what he called the “thug music” Davis and friends were playing in their Dodge Durango. Dunn fired six shots into the SUV after he claimed he saw Davis reach for a gun. No weapon was found in Davis’s vehicle but he died of his wounds. Dunn’s response after shooting up a stranger’s SUV was to get a hotel room with his girlfriend and order a pizza.

This weekend, Dunn was not convicted of murdering Davis. The jury could not come to a unanimous agreement as to whether Dunn should be held accountable for murdering Jordan Davis, on the strength of Florida’s infamous Stand Your Ground law. He will most likely spend the rest of his life in jail after being found guilty of several lesser, ancillary murder charges. But with George Zimmerman a free man, it’s hard not to think Dunn might have avoided jail time were he a better shot.

The “thug music” in question was Lil Reese, Lil Durk and Fredo Santana’s “Beef.” To the untrained ear, drill music sounds alienating. But one could say the same thing about Slayer; I doubt Dunn would have sprayed an SUV full of white teenagers pumping “Reign In Blood”.

In fact, the music itself is irrelevant. What mattered to Michael Dunn is that it was unfamiliar and coming from a car full of black teenagers. A decade ago, it might have been G-Unit or Three 6 Mafia. Go back further and it could have been Biggie or Master P, or Nas, NWA, LL Cool J, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Ray Charles, etc. Every generation has their “thug music” and it is the de facto soundtrack to getting harassed for being a young minority.

Hip-hop has filled that role since its inception three decade ago, and thus has a lot to say on the topic. In pretty much every case, those doing the harassing are the police. At this point, it's as much an element of hip-hop as breakdancing or graffiti. From NWA’s “Fuck the Police” to Too $hort’s “I Wanna Be Free” to KRS-One’s “Sound of the Police” to J. Dilla’s “Fuck the Police” to Chamillionaire’s “Ridin Dirty” to Murs’s “The Night Before”, the list of anti-cop rap songs is very long and transcends time and location. It’s one of the few constants in a genre that quickly adapts to new trends and ideas.Hip-hop’s anti-police sentiment is less explicitly about police than it is about how the law of the land does not provide equal protection to every American. In rap, cops are the blunt edge, the business end of institutional racism. Sure, myriad faceless suits in other cities are downgrading property values for Black neighborhoods and denying immigrants small-business loans. But it’s the local police that make that shit a daily operation, arresting squeaky clean rappers for being too successful, beating down bystanders caught up in poorly targeted gang task force operations, and unloading their clips into innocent civilians.

Michael Dunn was not a police officer and George Zimmerman only thought he was, but they both played the role perfectly. Even if Dunn dies in jail and Zimmerman is broke and living on the street, their trials set a precedent. The Stand Your Ground laws have essentially deputized any white person to carry out vigilante justice on any black teenager whose “thug music” threatens their sense of cultural superiority (as well as any other number of criminal acts).

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