“One gun is all that we need, to put you to restPump pump, put 2 slugs dead in your chestNow you dead then a motherfucker, creepin’ and sleepin’6 feet deep in, fuckin’ with the Pound is suicide.”
The lyrics in Serial Killa, a track on Snoop Dogg’s breakthrough album, Doggystyle, are emblematic of the violence associated with the former gangsta rapper from California. The main message of the song: if anyone insulted him, he would shoot to kill.
More than twenty years after the release of his premiere album, Snoop Dogg, now known as Snoop Lion, is an outspoken voice in the ongoing campaign to end gun violence.
“We are the voices that the youth listen to; they respect us. So, we are the ones who can put a half pause on the gun violence when we speak as one — as a whole rap community,” he said during a “No Guns Allowed” event last Thursday. During a time when gun violence is projected to kill more people than car accidents, and violent lyrics used to criminalize people of color, Snoop’s call for no more guns is both timely and necessary.
The title of the event was inspired by Snoop’s entrance into anti-gun advocacy two years ago. After re-branding himself in 2012 — by changing his name to Snoop Lion and releasing the reggae album Resurrection — his song No Guns Allowed became a hit single. In it, the rapper-turned-singer croons, “Let the music play, me don’t want no more gunplay. When the bodies hit the ground, there’s nothing left to say, ay, ay. Me don’t want to see no more innocent blood shed. Me don’t want to see no more youth dead. Come hear me now.”
Gone were the days of Serial Killa.
Last week, Snoop described his transition from gun proponent to anti-gun advocate, explaining, “I have kids and I understand the effects of the power of the position that I’ve been given, so I try to use it in a positive manner as opposed to just loosely throwing it out there.” You can watch the video here:
The connection between hip hop and gun violence is not a new concept, and the rapper’s personal evolution from gangster rapper to reggae artist is discussed at great length. But can a man infamous for smoking weed — a lot — and aggressively misogynistic lyrics be taken seriously?
Yes, because Snoop’s identity makes him a valuable player in the anti-gun movement.
First, there’s his race. As an influential black figure, Snoop can lend his voice to a community that is disproportionately plagued by gun violence. The majority of people involved in gun violence — as both perpetrators and victims — are African American men. Indeed, of all the gun-related deaths in 2010, 65 percent of victims between 15 and 24 years old were black.
Then there’s his history of gun use. Unlike most politicians, Snoop Dogg has been in the thick of gun violence and learned about its costs firsthand. Therefore, he has the platform — and credibility — that people can appreciate and relate to. He truly understands the devastation caused by guns, and can relay an honest message in a way that other leaders simply cannot.
But most importantly, Snoop has the cultural capital that most policymakers lack. He’s a musician and an actor. Although some people argue that celebrities should stick to the entertainment industry and not delve into social justice, we cannot deny the fact that pop culture impacts our social norms and values. Scientific research shows that pop culture changes our perceptions of minority groups on a neurological level. Snoop was one of the first rappers to glorify the gangster persona and promote a new strain of hip hop, so he’s arguably THE best person to deconstruct it.
In short, Snoop built a brand on gangster rap, and can create a new one built on no guns allowed.