We’re glad to see these Oakland hip-hop veterans weighing in on the serious issue of weapons violence in our communities!
Tajai, of the seminal rap group Souls of Mischief and active member of several other projects and crews including rap collective The Hieroglyphics, is no stranger to gun violence. Growing up with fellow group members in Oakland, California, one of the United States’ most notoriously dangerous cities, violent crime and urban warfare became an integral part of their developing social consciousness. In their latest video for the track “Gun Fever,” edited by group member Casual, The Hieroglyphics address America’s ongoing fetishization of violence, particularly the mainstream media’s current obsession with guns. Rife with images that juxtapose our government, elected officials and media reports against the violence perpetrated with guns at home and abroad, the video could not appear at a more relevant time in our larger cultural discourse, although that wasn’t necessarily the group’s original intention.
The track was originally “recorded in the summer of 2011, pre-Trayvon Martin, pre-Newtown” and was “expressing what was going on in our neighborhood,” Tajai recalls. Though he believes violent crime in general has decreased in Oakland and perhaps the rest of the country as well, Tajai acknowledges how his own personal relationship to a larger society that romanticizes guns, violence and destruction has changed over time. “I feel safer, but I’m grown,” he states. “As a kid, there was a lot of fear and fascination with violence…our national anthem is about bombs…the glorification of violence is par for the course in American culture.”
Indeed, social commentary has always been a critical aspect of The Hieroglyphics’ material, its members all having grown up in an era where early rap music was, as Tajai explains, “more reflective of an anti/countercultural point of view.” This is clearly evident in the “Gun Fever” video, the message of which Tajai acknowledges has become more politicized, poignant and provocative “because of the current climate of the country.” Arresting, engaging and thought-provoking subject matter continue to drive The Hieroglyphics to do what they do, and Tajai admits there’s no easy solution to this dangerous facet of our culture, “Pandora’s box is open…life is cheap now…I wish I could be a pacifist, but I’ve been raised in American society and Oakland society where violence is real.”
What did you think about the video and song? We definitely think Tajai and the Hiero crew should be commended on bringing more attention to this issue.
Buy the single on iTunes HERE