Dear Rappers, Can You Tell The Truth?: An Open Letter from a Hip-Hop Dad

Nelly, Sean "Diddy" Combs, & Jay Z

Dear Rappers,

I’m in dire need of your help. I know that I should be making this plea to fathers, pastors, teachers, community leaders, and politicians, but apparently you have trumped them all. There seems to be no one more influential in our children’s lives than he who can so eloquently poeticize ignorant shit and that’s you. You yourself must agree that the complexity of your influence is egregious. Rappers have become “he to aspire to be like.” I guess that’s better than our children dying to become drug dealers. But strangely enough, now even our kingpins want to become rappers, so it’s still a conundrum.

Whatever the case may be, I’m in dire need of your help. Help me convey to my children that the majority of you are not being completely honest in your lyrics. Help me to inform my students that you all aren’t rich. Aren’t many of the cars and lavish homes in your videos leased and rented? Aren’t the majority of the scantily clad women in your videos hired “models”? Don’t most of the people you know who sold drugs and bang guns end up either dead or in prison and not top tier emcee’s? Can’t you only count on one or maybe two hands, the number of artists who have had success and longevity as rappers? Isn’t rap similar to the mob in the sense that most people don’t retire from it in the fashion of Meyer Lansky? Am I crazy for encouraging students to pursue another career?

As satirical as I may sound, rappers I’m in dire need of your help. Admittedly, I’m not as cool as you are. I can not compete. My students see me driving a rimless Dodge Charger and not a leased foreign whip. My students observe me telling time from a real Bulova and not a fake Rolex. My stories about playing a year of college baseball can not compare to your stories of selling tons of dope in the hood. My scar on my knee is from a torn ACL and the two on my stomach come from additional surgery: gallbladder and hernia. I wasn’t shot, shot at nor stabbed. I ain’t shot nobody, to my student’s I’m a nobody and I don’t know nobody. By all accounts, apparently my story is not as appeasing and colorful as yours. I can’t afford to make it rain in nobody’s club. My students know that I don’t make enough money to throw it in the air. Hell, I presently owe two dollars to one of the hall monitors because I wanted to get something from the vending machine for lunch on Friday. I recently told one of my students that I got my sweater that I was wearing from Forman Mills and he laughed his ass off. When I inquired “where should we be shopping from” he said Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth, and Tyson’s Corner. Rappers, I need your help.

Our children believe everything you say. Not just mainstream rappers, but also including the local “dope” boys who are dressing up in their finest attire that they purchased from either Neiman Marcus, Saks or Tyson’s Corner (let them tell it), video recording a performance of their whack ass songs and posting them on youtube or “hip hop” oriented sites. Now understand that I’m not against artistry or anyone pursuing their dreams. But isn’t artistry honesty?

Rappers I need your help. You’ll make my job as an educator a lot more easier. All I need you to do is rap your truth. Tell our children that you are not invincible and that you do get scared. Tell our children that you’re really not from the hood and didn’t have a record until you made a record. Tell our children that you were never a “big time” drug dealer because all of the “big time” drug dealers that you know are either dead, in jail or on their way there. Tell our children that everything that they see in the videos aren’t actually real. Tell our children that for the most part, you’re just creating a fantastic fantasy. They need to hear the truth from you because apparently I’m just not cool enough to convince them otherwise. You can personally reach me by email.

Thank you Rappers.


Cornell Dews