Snoop Dogg and T.I. joined Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler and others on the “No Guns Allowed” panel Saturday to discuss ways of ending gun warfare for the 2013 BET Experience.
The panelists expressed personal opinions for how gun violence has escalated in urban communities, recalling their own accounts and the experiences of those close to them to a packed audience at L.A. Live.
From whence it came, hip-hop’s provocateurs charged the crowd to push the controversy in a new direction.
“We’re the only ones that speak the language of those with guns in their hand,” Snoop explains to theGrio. “They don’t listen to y’all, they only listen to us. So hip-hop is a main factor in ending this because we’re the ones who started this.”
Change within the mind
The West Coast rap icon says the root of the gun problem lies in a general lack of understanding of the cyclical story of violence.
In his past, Snoop served time for dealing drugs, and was an active member of the Rollin’ 20s Crips of Long Beach. Yet he managed to outmaneuver street life by pursuing a career that has since surpassed most others in the rap game.
Accordingly, his experiences have made him an advocate for creating change in America’s forgotten communities.
“We’re brainwashed,” he points out. “Not knowing the results and the consequences of gun violence, we’re always quick to pick [the gun] up, but when we do what we do with it, then we get remorseful and sad. We don’t think. The train of thought is never put into effect until after the fact.”
Snoop’s reggae turn as Snoop Lion, and hit single “No Guns Allowed,” serve to further his initiative as role model and educator by creating alternate routes toward progress.
‘Change the conversation’
Dr. Rob “Biko” Baker, Executive Director of the League of Young Voters, assembled the “No Guns Allowed” panel, which also included Congresswoman Maxine Waters and community activists Brandon Jones and Melvin Hayward Jr.
It was part of a weekend of events in honor of the annual BET Awards ceremony.
Each speaker addressed their ideas and thoughts as to how gun violence continues to intensify throughout the nation.
T.I. talked about his time spent in jail and the difficulty in separating himself from the source of his problems.
Later, reformed gangbangers-turned-homeowners from Watts came out and testified to the ability for rectification.
“We just want to change the conversation,” Baker explains. “We want to push common sense down legislation, and we want to make sure that young people will see themselves as heroes in the anti-violence movement. If we can do more than pick up guns and rap about violence, we can change our communities.”
As both Waters and Coogler pointed out during the panel, the government’s lack of commitment to this issue combined with society’s failure to recognize the entire person behind the problem contributes to misunderstanding.
Without knowing why people are arrested and who they are, without looking behind the smoke and bloodshed, the blast penetrates deeply. Baker blames poverty.
“Our communities are broken,” he remarked. “There are systematic, structural problems but we can solve them. We haven’t always been violent.”
Addressing the Aaron Hernandez story
Even for the elite, they who live by the sword often succumb to its blade.
The story of Aaron Hernandez, the former tight end for the New England Patriots now charged with first-degree murder and five gun-related charges, provides a stark reminder that sometimes the mind seeks routine behavior.
Snoop suspects Hernandez is “still brainwashed” by his former life.
“We’re mis-fed information,” the rapper said. “They don’t understand that once you’ve become successful, you don’t need a gun anymore. You don’t need to live that lifestyle. You’re put into a position of success because you no longer have to live that life. But what we fail to realize a lot of times is that when we become successful, nobody trains us on what to do with our money or how to live our lives so we become an example, as opposed to knowing what to do.”
Baker agreed, noting ignorance deals a mighty hand to the young.
“We’re not doing enough to really teach our young men about living anti-violent lives,” he noted. “We need to teach conflict resolution and we need to be able to look to positive examples. I feel that I don’t know what the situation is but I’m praying for all the parties involved.”
‘No Guns Allowed’
Listening to the song “No Guns Allowed” and related discourse on the panel, it appears peace begins by replacing the need for guns with the desire for real and progressive dialogue.
Knowing the game and trajectory of its constituency, Snoop doesn’t necessarily believe in outlawing guns, but rather in tightening gun control.
It’s about providing enough layers to preclude those who don’t deserve the liberty from reaching it.
“You shouldn’t be able to just jump into a gun, you should have steps and boundaries that are put up before you,” he stated. “If we put parameters to where you need to have certain things before you have the right to get the gun, it will help the situation…I want to stop them from having these types of incidents by stepping up and doing what I do.”
Follow Courtney Garcia on Twitter at @courtgarcia