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Video Thu Aug 09 2012
Lil Mouse is a 13-year-old rapper from the Wild 100s. He's already recorded several videos, the first when he was still 12. His latest track, "Get Smoked," has attracted attention for its glorification of popping pills, selling drugs, having sex, shooting people and other activities not usually associated with barely teenaged kids.
"This warrants an investigation," said Che "Rhymefest" Smith, a Chicago rapper who ran a spirited but unsuccessful campaign for alderman in the 20th Ward. "This has clearly crossed over into child pornography when you have a 13-year-old child rapping about sex and about violence and drug selling. They are probably already under investigation."
Whether it's child pornography or not is debatable (there are no explicit acts performed in the video, only allusions to sex), but it is rather disconcerting seeing a kid whose voice hasn't changed yet rapping about these topics. Kris Kross this is not. However, is it really all that surprising when one of the biggest sensations in Chicago hip hop is Chief Keef, who raps about the same material at 16? Surely Keith Cozart was coming up with his rhymes three years ago -- he just didn't have the media attention yet. Now that it's here for Chief Keef and his crew, it makes sense that some of the younger members of the scene would get noticed, too.
Mitchell blames the trend on record labels "exploiting the violence," but as far as I can determine Lil Mouse is not yet signed -- and the whole scene has grown up and made it big not through label promotion but through artists self-releasing videos on YouTube.
Smith is trying to turn the tide with "The Pledge Mixtape," a collaboration with the Black Youth Project and Power of Purpose. The album, to be produced by Smith, is a 13-song compilation album of songs from various local hip hop artists "taking back their communal power through music." I'm not sure how much a mixtape that specifically excludes songs with violent imagery will make a difference, but giving opportunities to more positive musicians can't hurt. Investing in schools and extracurricular activities in the Wild 100s, Lawndale and other impoverished neighborhoods would help a lot more.
Meanwhile, the surest way for the pubescent rapper trend to come to an end (or, really, go back underground) is for another city's hip hop scene to rise to prominence. This is Chicago's minute, but the clock is ticking.