Unlearn Everything

More stories from Sabrina Ftouhi

Unlearn Everything
November 1, 2023

Photo by Marisa Valdez

Content Warning: This article talks about gun violence and death

Ever since the summer of 2018, there has been a horrific trend of seeing young Black rappers get murdered over meaningless material things.

There has been at least one majorly influential rapper that is murdered each year, and that’s not counting the underground and up-and-coming rappers who’ve lost their lives too.

On Nov. 1, we lost a young legend. Kirshnik Khari Ball, professionally known as Takeoff, was one-third of the rap trio known as the Migos. 

The Migos, for those unaware, were the greatest trio to ever do it.

They’ve given us timeless hits such as “Bad and Boujee”, “Slippery”, “Versace”, “Hannah Montana” and countless other songs and features.

The news of Takeoff’s tragic passing has caused us all to appreciate and reflect on the impact the trio has made on the genre, and the music industry itself. 

The group recognized their own influence with a legendary album trilogy: Culture I, Culture II and Culture III.

They even invented the dance move known as the “dab.”

While it’s nice to see Takeoff receiving his flowers, his death also highlights a huge problem.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Black people are dehumanized in so many aspects of society, especially through the media.

Takeoff was shot and killed by a stray bullet, and in his final moments-some imbecile decided to pull out their phone and record everything.

Not long after his death, TMZ had the footage and decided nothing should be blurred or censored at all. 

Takeoff is seen in a pool of his own blood while Quavo is seen screaming and weeping over his nephew’s lifeless body.

Why anyone would want to intentionally see that footage is beyond me.

Whenever the police murder Black people, the footage of their death usually goes viral which traumatizes viewers.

Why would a Black celebrity’s violent death be any different?

Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of dismissive or joking attitudes towards young Black artists that have their life taken from them prematurely. 

When PnB Rock was murdered, someone in my life made a comment in which they suggested that all rappers do is kill each other.

There is so much to unpack there and I’m honestly too sleep-deprived to dive in, but I will say that PnB Rock was murdered over some jewelry while he was at a restaurant trying to enjoy a meal with his girlfriend.

If a Black man gets shot and killed, then that must mean he had it coming, right? 

Just a few days after Takeoff’s passing I found myself on the virtual wasteland that is Facebook and I noticed a mutual had shared something blatantly insensitive.

The post was captioned: “Long Live Takeoff” and attached was a picture of Whoopi Goldberg.

Since Takeoff is a man with locs, there is obviously a joke in there about all Black people looking the same. The person who shared this is white if that wasn’t already obvious. 

Forget about the racist joke for a second, I would just like to know where the empathy is. Let me know if I could buy some for y’all.

Aoki Lee Simmons went viral for calling out the white fanbase of the rap genre. She made the accurate observation that a lot of white listeners do not mourn these artists that they claim to love so much.

“The soundtrack to their (white fans’) lives is in this music. They are using it for everything, constantly. Headphones in their ear, parties, memorable moments, motivation — it’s the soundtrack to their life.” Simmons said.

The lack of empathy amongst the white fanbase is also inadvertently affecting another young Black artist by the name of NBA Youngboy.

Youngboy is more famous for having as many kids as he does fingers, but the man is about to go on tour after being on house arrest.

He is known for having a reckless mouth and never backing down from any beef or altercation, and his manager is taking advantage of that. 

Without getting into excruciating details, Chicago is supposedly a no-fly one for Youngboy, and plenty of rappers have warned him not to touch down there. It could cost him his life.

So, Youngboy’s white manager recently announced that Chicago will be their first stop on his welcome home tour.

While Youngboy has a reputation for being a demon, it is ultimately the manager’s job to prioritize the artist’s best interest; I bet his manager is going to get a really pretty check though.

If Youngboy’s management is going to be sticking beside him in the car, the late-night restaurants or the clubs then I’m wrong and this week’s edition can be thrown away.

But I just don’t think I am incorrect.

To the manager and some unsympathetic media consumers, all of this may just be fun and games, but if Youngboy loses his life before his tour really begins, blame it on the white boy who wanted to take the gamble. 

My friend Zee said it best, “Do you really love your favorite black artist? Or do you just like the entertainment that they create for you?”

If Mac Miller or Justin Bieber died in the same horrific way that these young Black men have, do you think people would get away with making any kind of ‘spicy’ joke about their death?

 Would they be encouraged to risk their life for the sake of a tour?

I don’t think so.


Ftouhi can be reached at [email protected]