One of the great arguments against rappers who claim that they're just reporting what goes on, and against conservatives who think "hip-hop" can tell you something about the performance of black boys in schools, is the music itself. It's amazing that when we were at our lowest, in the early 90s, the music was its most diverse. Not to act like it's all gravy now, but the most violent years for black men, in recent memory, were the late 80s and early 90s. And yet, when you listen to the music, the gun element, is an element, but not a dominant one.
In fact, the popularity of gangsta rap has an inverse relationship to the actual conditions in the streets. After steadily increasing throughout the 80s, the murder rate among African-American males peaked at 50.4 per 100,000 in 1991. That was a lovely and diverse year for hip-hop. Then the murder rate declined until it was 25.6 per 100,000 in 2000. By then, gangsta rap was the dominant genre in the music.
It's weird to think about that, and surfing I came across this gem, made right about the time I was in Baltimore, and the city was going crazy. This, I assure you, is not a love ballad. But it is a beautiful song.