As the local rap community — and much of the rest of Memphis — seeks to find its balance after the fatal shooting of popular Memphis rapper Young Dolph, veteran rappers Frank Gotti and Al Kapone weighed in on gun violence and what to do about it.
Gotti recently waited in line at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church as the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission held the third in a series of forums on gun violence.
Time ran out before he got a chance to tell the forum audience what he sees happening in the streets.
Talking later to The New Tri-State Defender, Gotti said, “It is really sad. … These kids are growing up without the guidance of mothers and fathers. Many fathers are not in the home with their children and mothers are working two jobs, many times. They don’t know what their kids are getting in to.”
Gotti, a former gang member turned social activist, said the city needs to open up more community centers, with mentors and tutors, as places where children can feel like they matter.
“That will take these kids off the streets,” said Gotti. “And Memphis rappers need to get together and unite to give more positive messages in their music. ‘Ride around with 30 rounds,’ ‘Don’t trust nobody’ – kids look up to rappers. They want to emulate them.
“How about the city opening up studios for kids to record music and learn about the process? That would give our children something to reach for.”
Kapone, whose name is Alphonso Bailey, sees the solution as tackling the issue on multiple fronts.
“Things have changed for rap. Technology has made it very easy to record a rap song and shoot a video. All this street violence has produced a generation of young people who have grown immune to all the shootings,” said Kapone.
“Their mindset shifted, and there is a high tolerance for this level of violence.”
City officials must address the mindset of young people, who do not see themselves living past the age of 30, he said.
“Now, don’t get me wrong,” said Bailey, who is currently promoting “Covid Blues,” his latest album. “Back when I started rapping, it was kill or be killed. I, too, never thought I would live past the age of 30. Battling has been an aspect of hip-hop from the very beginning. But it was kept in the realm of music.
“Rappers today take things personally. When you talk about taking somebody’s life, that’s battling on a whole other level. This is not normal.”
Bailey agrees that more positive messages may help.
“Also, we must begin early with guiding kids,” said Bailey. “We need more fathers and father figures involved in raising our children. Two things must be addressed when it comes to young kids. Discipline has been taken away, so that there is no respect for authority, or consequences for their actions.
“The other thing is peer pressure. Kids want to fit in. But if the mentoring element is strong, children can effectively combat peer pressure.”
Stevie Moore, founder of Freedom From Unnecessary Negatives (FFUN), served as moderator for the Crime Commission forums.
Focusing on young teens who talk about being gang members, Moore said, “They are just some children who need their butts beat. That’s all they are.
“And, we need to hold parents more accountable for their children’s actions. We should know what our children are doing. That’s our responsibility.”
Gotti said exposure to video games that encourage the development of skills to steal cars and shoot people down may not be the best choices for young people.
Regarding the killing of Young Dolph, Kapone spoke of the possibility of dangerous situations.
“Peoples’ emotions are involved. That’s not good.”