There’s a thin line between revealing a reality of violence and promoting it as culture.
Ja Morant is willing to risk it all for an image. And “all” means an NBA contract worth $194 million and multiple endorsement deals worth millions. On May 14, a video emerged on Instagram Live which featured Morant and a friend listening to the song “1.5” from NBA YoungBoy’s latest album, “Richest Opp.”
While rapping the lyrics Morant flashed a gun as his friend attempted to cover the camera. However, Morant’s actions was already recorded and it soon went viral. The NBA and his team, Memphis Grizzlies, took notice and the Grizzlies suspended Morant for all team activities.
A few months ago, Morant was suspended for eight games after he was on Instagram Live holding a gun while at strip club. Following the incident, Morant said that he received counseling and learned from his mistakes. His off the court behavior likely caused him to lose $39 million by missing an All-NBA team selection. Voters were probably turned off by his indiscretions.
However, there appears to be issues deeper than what can be fixed in a few sessions of counseling. It’s likely that he’s dealing with something much deeper and he’s using bravado as a shield. Morant is engulfed by negative aspects of hip-hop culture. At 23, he doesn’t seem mature enough to handle the violent themes of hip-hop without feeling the need to reenact or live vicariously through rap.
For Morant, the lyrics of gun violence, crime, drugs, and sex have influenced him to the point where he is unable to make proper decisions. Or, he’s making the decisions to prove a point.
So if an athlete who is nearly worth a quarter of a billion dollars is unable to experience negative aspects of rap without being influenced, imagine how it’s impacting those who have less to lose.
Hip-hop culture is one of the most powerful forms of art to ever be created. In it’s 50th year, hip-hop culture has reshaped American society in terms of music, style, dance, and language. Major corporations and powerful political figures have used hip-hop as a way to reach the masses.
Prominent fashion brands have gravitated to hip-hop style that can be seen on the runways in Paris. And the language inspired by hip-hop culture has inspired dialogue in Hollywood scripts and most of the memes that have gone viral on social media.
But while the positive aspects of hip-hop has changed the world in many ways, the negative aspects are just as powerful.
When artists rap lyrics that contain violence, sex, and drug use, there are impressionable listeners who feel a need to follow the words of their favorite artists and turn those words into action.
It’s important for artists to have the freedom to express the harsh realities of life. But there’s a thin line between revealing a reality of violence and promoting it as culture.
Morant feels as if he belongs to the culture when holding guns and presenting himself with thug bravado. He wasn’t raised in dire circumstances where he was forced to take on a life of crime for survival. Those who are actually committing crimes for survival would trade places with Morant without thinking twice.
Morant is in a position to become the face of the NBA and change his family’s predicament for generations to come. Even after this ordeal blows over, he’ll likely bounce back and have a successful career.
But for those who are not as fortunate to be worth $294 million, emulating the negative aspects of hip-hop culture will not end with the same support or second chances.
Hip-hop culture is powerful art, but there are negative elements that no one should practice what is preached.