The Making Of The Self-Destruction Video Shows The Power Of Hip-Hop Unity
In the late 1980s, Rap music had a problem. At the time the genre was exploding with national and overseas tours, incidents were taking place at some of those concerts that were smearing the reputation of the Hip-Hop culture. As the safety of show-goers was a significant concern, mainstream media spread the news about the dangers of the lifestyle around this music.
There were several fatal incidents and riots at events headlined by the rap’s biggest stars. Forty people were treated for injuries after violence in the crowd canceled Run-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell Tour stop in Long Beach, California. That same weekend at Monster Jam ’86 in Brooklyn, David Drummond, a 14-year-old boy was killed after a gunshot to the head. Two years later there were several publicized melees at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Queens, New York which caused a ban on further Rap concerts at the venue. One fatal stabbing took place during an Eric B. & Rakim, Doug E. Fresh, and Kool Moe Dee concert. Multiple stabbings were reported weeks earlier, at a Run-D.M.C. Tougher Than Leather show at the venue.
In response to these events, Boogie Down Productions co-founder KRS-One organized a song with renowned author and journalist Nelson George and Jive Records executive Ann Carli for rappers to come together and restore order in the streets where Hip-Hop lived, especially within the Black community. The song “Self Destruction” and the organization’s title Stop The Violence Movement was an extension of BDP’s By All Means Necessary track of the same name.
The video for “Self Destruction” was directed by rap video pioneer and Video Music Box creator/host Ralph McDaniels and his partner Lionel “Vid Kid” Martin. After the song’s release on Martin Luther King’s birthday in January 1989, the video was shot in Harlem that same month. The song’s proceeds for the song were given to National Urban League.
The following month, McDaniels aired a one-hour long documentary about the genesis of the song and video on Video Music Box. It featured in-depth interviews with George, who was an assault victim at the Nassau Coliseum concert. There is also commentary from the music video’s participants including Delite of Stetsasonic, Kool Moe Dee, MC Lyte, Heavy D, Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy and Kool DJ Red Alert. Additionally, there are speeches from Delite, Chuck D, Carli and former EVP of the National Urban League Frank Lomax, III.
McDaniels recently uploaded the video for all to enjoy. The words hold power 30 years later. “This particular project here ‘Self Destruction’ is dealing with specifically black-on-black violence,” KRS said about the song and video at the 28:30 mark.
The song’s most memorable lyric of the song is from Kool Moe Dee’s verse, which is third before the second chorus: “I never had to run from the Ku Klux Klan / And I shouldn’t have to run from a Black man.” “Like the guys that are stealing and robbing are not even looking at it as a Black-on-Black thing,” Moe Dee explains about his lyric at the 29:00 mark in the documentary. “They’re just going for theirs like, ‘I’m going to get as much jewelry or as much as I can, ‘and they’re not looking at what they’re doing to the race as a whole.”
KRS tapped BDP’s D-Nice to produce the track. He recalls a sleeplessly compartmentalizing each rapper’s shine for their respective audiences. “It took me two days to mix it…” D-Nice says at 16:24. “I stayed in the studio for about 36 hours straight just to make sure that everybody on the record could have their own spotlight even though they were already established artists,” says the artist who later enjoy a Jive solo career. “But I wanted to make it seem more than just everybody’s rapping on this one record, so I’d switched the beat under…like if Public Enemy was rapping, I’d put [James Brown’s] ‘Funky Drummer’ [sample] because they’re known for using ‘Funky Drummer.’ I put ‘Talking All That Jazz’ [in] while Stet’ was rhyming, and the same thing goes for Lyte and Heavy D.”
Nelson George revealed the outpouring of support from young assault victims for the organization’s initiative. Before airing the finished product, George discussed the macrocosm of violence commercialized in Hollywood and American pop culture. “The idea of Stop The Violence, Self-Destruction, putting those ideas out in a world where kids are confronted by Rambo and images of violence is celebrated, not by Black media but the mainstream of Hollywood, and try and give them something else to deal with,” he said at 45:40. “When you talk about violence, when you see a rapper in a video with a gun, he doesn’t have a gun necessarily because the dope-man has a gun. He has a gun because everything in American culture tells him that to be a man is to have a gun. That to be Sly [Stallone], that to be Arnold [Schwarzenegger], to be even Eddie Murphy, to be any of these icons of the culture, to be John Wayne, Don Johnson, is to have a gun and to force your will through violence.” George continued, “That’s the kind of mentality we’re fighting. We’re not just fighting a ghetto mentality, at all. We’re fighting a cultural mentality that’s celebrated every Saturday night in this country.”
This documentary revisits leaders in Hip-Hop coming together with great intentions, and change on their mind. As the cause remains relevant, many can learn from this example of positivity, and defending our culture from peril.
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