Dear Culture

The Culture Loses Another Great

Episode 21
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Van Lathan joins Panama Jackson just hours after the death of Migos rapper Takeoff. Ironically Van is hosting a new series, “Hip Hop Homicides,” which takes a deep dive into the senseless violence plaguing the rap community. In part one of this two-part conversation, the men discuss why this type of show is so tragically necessary. 

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Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified. What’s going on, everybody? Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for by and about Black culture here at theGrio Black Podcast Network. I’m your host, Panama Jackson, and we have a special guest here today, somebody who if you listen to this show I’m fairly certain you listen to at least one of the many shows that this brother is a part of. But I’m gonna make sure I give him a proper introduction. From South Baton Rouge. South Baton Rouge, right? From the SSB. The SSB as I was taught by Boosie. Author, author of the recently released book Fat, Crazy and Tired Tales from the Trenches of Transformation, which I have right here podcast. I don’t know where you get the time to do all this, but I’m going to run down some of these. I listen to all of them. So higher learning with Rachel Lindsay, the Prestige podcast you do with Charles Holmes to talk about Atlanta, which we’re going to we’re going to get to something because I got to talk to you about that. The Midnight Boyz, as you also do with Charles Holmes, you had the weight on in the whole podcast about The Wire with Jemele Hill at one point. The Rewatchables. Every time there’s a Black movie, I’m always listening and you’re almost always there. So I listen to listen to all the other stuff, too. But I’m always specifically tuned into all the Black movies when your more famous moments, The Kanye Checker, that would be Kanye of Kanye West fame, who needs to know nothing more. And most recently, and part of the reason why we’re here today, unfortunately in timely fashion, is a show that you’re a part of the host of On WE TV called Hip Hop Homicides. Yeah. So, ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the one. The only Van Lathan Jr. official handclaps yeah. How you doing, brother?

Van Lathan [00:01:49] One of the best introductions I’ve ever got. I’m doing well, man, as well as can be expected. But thank you for having me today, sincerely.

Panama Jackson [00:01:56] Yeah, I’m glad to have you here. You’re somebody who. You’re a I’m a pop culture commentator. That’s literally what you are, what you do. That’s why we all know who you are, aside from assuming you’re a wonderful person. But I know you from all the pop culture stuff that you do. It’s like literally my bag, 100%. My bag is almost everything that you talk about. I was going to start somewhere else, but because of the unfortunate news that we all got this morning.

Chief Troy Finner [00:02:25] Once officers arrived they came upon a male who was deceased. That male has been identified as Kirshnik Ball better known as Takeoff.

Panama Jackson [00:02:39] When you heard about the news that Takeoff was senselessly killed this morning in Houston, Texas. I saw that this morning when I woke up. Like, what were your first thoughts?

Van Lathan [00:02:48] You know, I would love to say that my first thoughts were about Takeoff’s friends, his family, the people around him that would that would, you know, immediately and most directly feel his loss. But I was angry. I’m not sure how many people are feeling. These same set of emotions. But I was mad. I’m angry. I’m angry that a 28-year-old man is gone forever. And it seems to fit into this weird rhythm, this staccato rhythm, but very real. Every two, three months, every six months, we lose a human being that happens to be a rapper and we just have to deal with it. Takeoff, if you being a cultural critic, you know that Takeoff in the Migos, right. One of the biggest acts in the history of hip hop. They changed the sound, the rhythm of hip hop. These brothers were brothers that made it from, you know, North Atlanta to Mountain Dew ads to being the boys of the NBA Finals like they had. They had made it. They were out. They were golden.

Panama Jackson [00:04:18] They made it.

Van Lathan [00:04:19] They were it was it was finished. You had a feeling that the book on the Migos had been started from something ended up somewhere. And so so for this this pain and this violence to boomerang. And come back and meet people at the top of where they are. It makes it sometimes feel like we’re living in a Black hole where there’s no escaping some of the social ills that we thought that we could escape in the past. And it’s just a sobering reminder every time something like this happens.

Panama Jackson [00:04:52] Yeah. You know, I had to write an article about this this morning. First thing, soon as I know what happens, I get hit up like you got to write the article or you have any thoughts, which is code for you need to go write this article. Yeah. And one of the first things I did, I was like, man, they, they. Look, I’m I’m 43, so I grew up in the Tupac Biggie era, the 90 that the nineties is my golden era of hip hop from down south Atlantas home for me, not the north that way, but the west side that way. But, you know, they as much as much flack as I wanted to give them early on for, you know, the the current culture of hip hop. It isn’t like they made it, just like you said, they made it like culturally they were as significant as any group. They the their carpool karaoke episode is legend.

Offset [00:05:44] You know what $20,000 looks like in $1s? A hurricane.

Takeoff [00:05:47] It’s more like a flood, not like not a rain.

James Corden [00:05:49] And then you just, you know, a flood?

Panama Jackson [00:05:52] Like even though even though Takeoff wasn’t on the song Bad Boogie. Like, Bad Boogie was a cultural moment, you know, like they they had an album called Culture you know what I’m saying  like they literally had gotten to as far as you could get. So when I saw the news, it hit a little bit different for me. Then, then. Some other rappers because I’m more familiar with with Migos and other groups. Right. That are newer, you know what I mean? Like, I’m familiar. I know everybody’s name. I know who they’re married to, which is names, you know what I’m saying? They’re so essential to what we do now that it just like I don’t know that I was angry so much as I’m just, like, frustrated, like sad and frustrated that this is the kind of news I can wake up to. And I’m not surprised that I’m waking up to it. That it keeps happening. And like you said, even the people who reach the highest heights are still dealing with the exact same things that the folks that we think are are still way too connected to the streets. That’s the part that that bothers me the most is like like you said, if if you can’t get here and be insulated from this type of stuff. Where’s the hope? Like what exists for everybody else?

Van Lathan [00:07:01] Then there’s no path to, like, the American dream as people sort of express it. A lot of people has think it has to do with money. Whenever you hear somebody talk about the American dream, they talk about things that you can acquire. That puts you in proximity to it or give you and give you a white picket fence. What is like a white picket fence? I never know anybody that had one of those..

Panama Jackson [00:07:29] Never actually had yet. Most nobody, you know, has the white picket fence.

Van Lathan [00:07:33] The white picket fence just don’t have a fence. Right. This is very small. We could jump. Or anyway. So the home, the picket fence, all of those things, I never really view the American dream like that. I think that the American dream is about safety. It’s about having an existence in America where you feel unassailed. Where are all of that stuff? It’s economic safety. You live in a great neighborhood. It’s it’s actual physical environmental safety. It’s getting to a point in America because America is such an eternal capitalistic tug of war to where you’re no longer pulling at anything. You have a family. You’re taking care of them. You’re there. The dream is to no longer have to sort of beat yourself up to get to a place or sacrifice to get to a place. It’s something that you’ve now achieved. You get to have the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that the country says that you’re entitled to. Right. You’re now safe. You ride safety as an American. I think the thing that angers me is it seems like for a lot of us that that safety is inaccessible. It doesn’t matter. You’ll never get it. And I know that we know that. You know what I mean we know that. We know that. But I’m 42. Right. And getting to this point in life and realizing and being reminded every single time that you are unsafe, that that dream is, like, unachievable. That it doesn’t seem like you’ll ever be to a point. Because one of us is all of us. Right? So I don’t feel safe. If they feel Takeoff. I don’t feel safe if they kill FBG Duck. I don’t. I look in the mirror and I can’t. And maybe that’s the thing with me. I can’t not see myself in these brothers, but I feel the oneness with them. I feel the same. And maybe that’s. Maybe that’s on me. Maybe I’m just emotional. I got anxiety, all of that stuff. So when I see this happening, like I’m mad, I’m mad that a member of the family, I don’t know the details of this is still sketchy, right? It’s still sketchy. We don’t there are so many different stories coming out.

Panama Jackson [00:09:58] Right? There’s a lot coming out.

Van Lathan [00:10:00] There’s a lot coming out. But I know one thing already. It wasn’t worth it. I don’t need any more details or any I don’t need a forensic account of what happened. I don’t need the streets account of what happened. I don’t need eyewitness accounts of what happened. To know one thing. It wasn’t worth it.

Panama Jackson [00:10:24] Yeah.

Van Lathan [00:10:25] So that’s that. And now. Once again, we’re left to be in this R.I.P. culture. Where everyone gets to have a memory and everyone gets to have a thing and it’s on a Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks. I’m sick of it. I’m not trying to be holier than thou. I’m not trying to be Dr. King for y’all. Nothing. I’m just a mad 42 year old Black man.

Panama Jackson [00:10:52] You know, so, I mean, that kind of. That’s this Segways perfectly into the show that you’re hosting, right? Because the first episode on hip is called a Hip Hop Homicides. So there’s literally things you write in the path of exactly what you’re talking about, this R.I.P. Culture, right? I mean, you’re the first episode is about Pop Smoke.

Van Lathan [00:11:11] How many times do we have to see this in hip hop? If pop stars were being killed at this rate, there would be an uproar about it. They’d be at war.

Panama Jackson [00:11:20] Younger, brother, 20, even younger. Then, then Takeoff, who was 28. Sounds so young. I remember when I was like 16 or when Pac died. I think I was 16 and I thought 25 was old right. You get to 25, it’s like, well, I’m still a child. Yeah, 43 now and I’m looking at 28 like, Good God, how much life did you have? You know, if I died at 28, my daughter, my kids wouldn’t be here. You know what I mean? Like, none of the I wouldn’t have I wouldn’t be where I am today if 28 was the end of the line for me. So, you know, Pop smoke is 20. You know, he’s even younger than that. Yeah. Why do you think a show like this is important? I mean, and this throws you right back into having to think about this stuff all the time and delve into it. So, you know, for your own personal, like, state of mind and also just storytelling in what you’re doing like. Why is a show like this necessary?

Van Lathan [00:12:11] So. The show is 50 Cent and Mona Scott-Young I gotta shout out to them, Vanessa Sat and everybody that came up with the idea for the show, when the. We’ve been talking about doing the show for a long time, I remember we first had meetings about the show 2019. So, you know, things were things were different than they even are now. We were talking about doing like a 2019. I think the show for me is important because of the common threads in all of these stories. I think it’s important to talk about problems as if they are solvable.

Panama Jackson [00:12:44] Okay.

Van Lathan [00:12:45] It says what we tend to believe as human beings. And I think that it’s it’s something that we do to protect ourselves, is that we start to believe things as these eternal intractable. Ever present never moving problems that you just have to live with, that you just have to deal with. It’s just a part of the daily existence. We think about many things like this. We think about, you know, as to be a part of the American system. You have to look at income inequality like that. Well, you know that there’s going to be Jeff Bezos and there’s got to be somebody sleeping on the street. Well, the reality is it doesn’t have to be either. You know that’s true.

Panama Jackson [00:13:30] That’s a fact.

Van Lathan [00:13:32] There doesn’t have to be either. Right. There’s a different way to do this where nobody has to sleep on the street. When I say nobody, I mean nobody who doesn’t want to do it. But that takes that it takes somebody to get you out of that, to arrest you out of that. And when you look at the show, Hip Hop Homicides, you see such a commonality between all of these stories. And that was one of the things that really fascinated about fascinated me about it when I started looking at it was that. These are these are stories that spanned decades from different places, but they’re common mistakes that were made. The common themes in all of them. And that to me means that there’s something that can be done about it. And I’m not just talking about as it relates to rappers, I’m talking about as it relates to the people, that there are no murals for that there are no songs written about that. There are no Reddit forums about. And it also just reminded me that and it’s going to remind a lot of people, I think, that there’s an entire generation of Black men who are living in war zones and we’re pretending like it doesn’t exist. Like we visited and we didn’t we didn’t give you guys a thousand mile view of this wherever this stuff was happening. We were there. We were on old block. We’re on 63rd. We’re in Lauderhill. Right. We were in New Orleans. In the Ninth Ward. In the Third Ward. Right. We were in Canarsie, where Pop Smoke is from. We’re in Compton South Side, Chicago, Inglewood, wherever it was, wherever these things were, we we we put ourself on the ground there and gave people a lay of the land. And when you see it, you don’t want to ignore it. Not only do you not want to ignore, you don’t want anybody else to ignore it either. Hip Hop Homicides for me started off as a show that was a true crime show in a genre that’s exploding, obviously, but it ended up being an examination of cultural dysfunction and ended up being interviews with mothers that were crying and never going to get sons and daughters back with children who don’t have fathers and don’t have mothers. Ended up being tales of communities that lost people that don’t know how to move on. It ended up being unheard victims, unheard families by people who didn’t get a say in this. It ended up being something that was really very meaningful to me and really changed me in a lot of ways. So I’m excited that people will get a chance to see it, but I hope that they hear me like I sincerely hope that they are they care. And I hope that one day this show gets canceled. It’s the only job I’ve ever worked on that I hope one day we don’t have enough of these situations for us to do anything else about it. For us to do.

Panama Jackson [00:16:39] It a hell of a prespective.

Van Lathan [00:16:41] Like I hope is the only show I’ve ever worked on that I hope one day we don’t have to do it anymore.

Panama Jackson [00:16:46] We’ve got a lot more to cover with Van Lathan, including his infamous Kanye West encounter, who now goes by Ye. Plus, a sneak peek from the new show Hip Hop Homicide. Join us next week on Dear Culture. Dear Culture is an original production of the Real Black Podcast Network. I’m Panama Jackson. My producer, Sasha Armstrong and Regina Griffin is our managing editor of Podcasts podcast. Van Lathan. Thank you, brother appreciates you. Appreciate all you do. Keep working. I don’t know how you get the time but keep doing it so myself. Here for theGrio. I’m Panama Jackson. Have a Black one.