Stand for Something or Fall for Anything: Leadership in Hip-Hop

Leader and leadership are terms that can be used loosely. At first, I thought that everyone has the ability to be a leader but then I thought, maybe leadership is something that someone was born with. That sounded a lot better but I think it is a mix of both. I believe that everyone has the ability to be a leader just like everybody has the ability to be anything they want to be in life. I also believe that when you are born with leadership qualities, you are a force to be reckoned with, you move the culture forward and people hold you to a higher standard than most.

From this year in particular, there are three people that I would call a leader and have leadership qualities. Colin Kapernick, Meek Mill, and Nipsey Hussle. These people are good examples of “Stand for something or fall for anything” especially Colin Kapernick.

Colin Kapernick to me is so influential that he should be in history books from here on out. If you are not to familiar with Colin, he is a former football player for the San Francisco 49ers . In 2016, Colin made his stance to opt out and “sit” while the national anthem is being played as a protest against racial injustice and systematic oppression.  The reason why I call Colin a leader is because he was willing to risk his football career to stand for something he believed in and he did just that. Still to this day, Colin is no longer playing football, he is still boycotting the NFL and he is still protesting and being a advocate for police brutality, racial injustice and systematic oppression. I mean, if risking your whole career to be a social justice advocate doesn’t scream leader then I don’t know what does. To make support of the definition of leadership, Colin is influencing us regular folk, to boycott the NFL and sit during the national anthem. Not only us regular folk but other athletes from baseball, soccer, volleyball and basketball to prominent artists in hip-hop. That is the reason why I put Colin the the category of hip-hop culture because hip-hop culture is what moves Black culture and vice versus and hip-hop artists are the main influencers of Black people. Colin has the support of so many artist, influencers, athletes and activist like, Jay Z, Cardi B, YG, Angela Rye, Kevin Durant, Trey Songz, Kobe Bryant, Usher, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill and these are just a few. Colin Kapernick is a leader who is force to be reckoned with, moves the culture forward and others hold him to a higher standard than most.

Sometimes you have to go through some really bad experiences to change your life around for the better. This is what happened to Meek Mill and his life has definitely changed for the better. Meek Mill is a rapper from Philadelphia that has gotten into a lot of trouble with the law in the past.  Meek was sentenced to two years in prison for another probation violation on Nov. 6, 2017, he was released from prison on April 24th, 2018. This is when Meeks leadership came about. After Meeks release he has been striving to be a better person by quitting drugs, being a advocate for prison reform and being a  advocate for young people. Most people change after they come from prison but most people do not take their experience seriously to influence and teach those around them. I  trust and believe everything that Meek is standing for, by listening to his interviews it seems like he is genuine and serious about his advocacy work. Meek just put out a album called Champions which I believe is a album that summarizes everything he’s been through until now, his emotions, thought process, he’s beliefs and morals. The stand out tracks to me were “Trauma” and “What’s Free”, why? because he was saying some real shit of course. In “Trauma”, he was just rapping about some tough shit, some of the stuff  I had no relation too but I believed every single word and I felt every single word. I did understand some things like, PTSD. Some people think that PTSD only happens to war victims but it can happen to regular people in violent neighborhoods. He also talked about how the Black judge that was in charge of his case almost made him hate his own people. This is a really deep statement because you would think that someone that comes from the same place he comes from, and looks like you would understand the situation but if you kept up with his case you would find that this Black woman judge made things very difficult for Meek. For example, Mexicans has no problem sticking together, eating together, or standing for one another but when it comes to Black people it;s always a problem (but this is for a different conversation). In, “What’s Free” he talks about the price of freedom and what it means to be free since he has been locked up so much. The most popular verse was from Jay Z, Jay was spitting straight facts about Black people and of course boasting about himself. Jay said, “In the land of the free, where the Blacks enslaved. Three-fifths of a man, I believes the phrase” I mean…if you know, you know. Meek Mill is taking his experience and knowledge to make change by collaborating with Micheal Ruben in a initiative to get 1 million people out of the criminal justice system. That is leadership.

Nipsey Hussle is someone that I feel like I know and watched grow. I don’t know if it is because we are both from California and from the hood but, I feel like that for a lot of California artists. I started listening to Nipsey in 2014, so I’m sort of a new fan, sort of a old one. Whenever I listen to Nip, I get attached every time because of his content. Nip has always talked the same game since the beginning but now he has grown so much more it has made a bigger impact. The impact he has on his fans and new fans is enormous. People put him with Jay Z and Rick Ross when it comes to teaching about health, wealth, community and pure boss shit. Nipsey put out his first official album this year called, Victory Lap. I and my interviewees of my thesis project mentioned Nipsey and Victory Lap a lot as one of the most influential artist in hip-hop because of his content. What makes Nipsey a leader is that he never changed, he always gives back to his community and is still actively present. Having business and sharing it with your family so it can grow is a real boss move. Instead of being selfish and doing everything on his own, he opened his businesses like, The Marathon Store to his family so they all can share the wealth as family.  Nipsey also shares a lot of knowledge on investment. Financial literacy is a a big competent in the Black community that we need a lot of help with and Nipsey shared knowledge on cryptocurrency. Whenever I listen to to Nipsey rap or even talk, he always makes you want to hustle and gets you motivated (no pun intended). Nipsey is that leader that is not too far gone on his success that you can still reach and relate too. Being able still have a connection with the community, youth and fans without seeming too far gone in your wealth is a trait that a lot of leader do not have so that is a special leadership quality.


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