Art imitating life, or life imitating art? Rap and Hip-Hop Culture in Chicago

Written by Marcus Brown

For years rap and hip-hop culture has been heavily associated with the crime and murder rates in the inner-city streets of America. Specifically, rap music is often littered with incriminating chants and lyrics about robbing, killing and fornication.

The intensity of these discourses varies from generation to generation. The same rap tunes we heard in the 90’s are not the same rap tunes people are presented with today. There are actually subgenres to modern rap music that distinguish one kind of rap artist from another. The two most prevalent and dangerous subgenres of rap music today are “Trap Music” and “Drill Music”.

Trap Music glorifies the life of the local drug dealer. Some consider it “a hustler’s theme music”. It embellishes everything one can experience as a drug dealer from buying & preparing controlled substances to redistribution, making a profit and living a lavish lifestyle. The term “The Trap” originated from Atlanta, GA and was a slang term referring to the drug-game, more specifically the drug-houses where it was not uncommon for dealers to be robbed, raided and/or killed by rival gangs or by the police.

“United Parcel Service and the people at the Post Office didn’t call you back because you had cloudy piss, so now you back in the trap — just that, trapped.”

Outkast – “Spottieottiedopaliscious”.

Initially the trap was not an honorable mention. This changed gradually as more new rappers began to embrace the trap in their music and image as current or former drug dealers. Over the years “Trap Music” has had an indefinite impact on the rap community and has been considered a subgenre ever since.

Drill Music glorifies armed robbery and murder.  The term “Drill Music” originated in Chicago, IL. “Drill” is a more recent slang term that is used as both a verb and an adjective for anything extreme.

Example: “We’re about to do a drill tonight.” or “Those shoes are drillin’”. Both “Trap” and “Drill” music glorify gang activity, partying, selling and using drugs.

Many of the artists as well as the listeners of trap & drill music utilize social media sites to publicize their activities. It is often interpreted as a means of validation.

Chicago has become the topic of many media sources across the country. Many people have been seriously injured and killed over rap-beefs. It is not uncommon for one rapper taunting another rapper through lyrics to result in a murder, or worse – a gang war!

Lil Marc Murder Scene 300 E. 51st Street Chicago, IL

On Friday March 28th 2014 Chicago Rapper “Lil Marc” was pronounced dead after being shot in the head while standing near a bus stop. Just three days prior to his murder, Lil Marc released a music video for his song entitled “No Competition”. In the song he openly dissed the BD (Black Disciples) street gang. Later in the song Lil’ Marc also takes shots at other rappers by making an insolent reference to deceased OTF (Only The Family) affiliate “J Money”.

“Mask up n**ga guns go click clack/

 F**k P-Street I ain’t with that chit chat/

BDK I’m with that, hollow tips yeah they’ll knock off the fitted cap.”

“Mask up, young n**gas on dummy/

 Catch you in broad day leave em like J Money.”

Lil’ Marc’s death is only one of many tragic events revolving around Chicago’s drill-rappers. Other deceased rappers include L’A Capone, Lil Jeff, and Lil Jo Jo.

L’A Capone
Lil Jeff
Lil Jo Jo
Lil Jo Jo







With so much violence and misconduct taking place in this new generation of rap-culture, the question has become “Trap & Drill Music: Art imitating life, or life imitating art?” Both perhaps? With Drill-Rap being so glorified in Chicago, it is expected that many young aspiring rappers will incorporate drill-rap into their artistry, even while knowing it may come with a deadly cost. If a rapper (solely as an entertainer) glorifies trapping and drilling then he will be tested in the streets and pressured validate his lyrical claims. In retrospect, if a current or former-gang member/drug dealer uses music as a means to make an honest living as an entertainer, then he will be haunted and taunted by the very same streets he once was a part of. Both scenarios are sticky situations to be in.

I would like to present two possible solutions for trap/drill-rappers that each individual can apply to their own lives, one person at a time. If art imitates life, then rappers should change their lives first and follow through with changing their music. We often see successful rappers who still hold on to the struggles that they’ve overcome. This remarkable transition may be seen but not heard. No rapper should still rap about killing and drug dealing in every song if that is a thing of his/her past. Rappers will often contradict themselves when asked about their music; they will say something along the lines of “I do this for the hood” or “I do this for all of the people that didn’t live to tell their stories themselves”.

I say if you are blessed to see any form of success from something as toxic as trap/drill music, then you should have an obligation to show some growth and maturity as a human being. This is how you “do something for the hood” by showing the world where you came from and where you are going moving forward. In not doing so, a rapper is effectively doing a disservice to his followers, essentially conveying the message that talks of genocide, drug dealing and drug abuse on a consistent basis is what will get you ahead in rap-culture.

In conclusion, we must be mindful that words are powerful. What you focus on expands and each individual has the ability to speak his/her existence into reality.

My message to local rappers: Live by the sword, die by the sword. Please be careful and utilize your talents wisely.

Peace & Love

Marcus A. Brown

MAB Pic 1Marcus Allen Brown is the poster-child for one who can handle any challenge life has to offer. Known for his controversial posts on the internet regarding his personal life’s challenges, and documenting his process of overcoming them, Marcus uses his music, photography and videography as a means to express ideas, entertain, and educate his audience. He specializes in presenting socially aware audio and visual messages that easily transcends all languages and nationalities.

In the spring of 2006 Marcus attended Harold Washington College of Chicago for digital multimedia and audio/visual engineering. After completing a year of college, he decided to change fields and instead, attended Tractor-Trailer Training at Olive Harvey College in 2007. At the age of 22, Marcus graduated first in his class from Olive Harvey Truck Driving School, obtaining a CDL-A license with additional Tankers, Passengers, Double-And-Triple-Trailer, and Hazardous Materials endorsements.

Later in spring of 2011, Marcus returned to Olive Harvey College and became a State-Certified Emergency Medical Technician. Marcus has always had a passion to acquire multiple certifications and enjoys gaining experience by working in different industries. He has continued to work in the transportation industry while advancing in the fields of Emergency Medical Services, Music, Photography, and more recently, Acting and Filmmaking.

With a diverse base of experiences, skills and knowledge, contact Marcus to learn how The MAB Experience can help your business bring socially aware audio and visual content to inspire and ignite connectivity within your community.


Art imitating life, or life imitating art? Rap and Hip-Hop Culture in Chicago

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