This is the second piece in a series of discussions with artists about role of hip hop in social movements and communities.
“If the government isn’t letting us exercise our First Amendment right; if the cops are tear gassing our peaceful protests; what makes you think your neighborhood is safe?”
T-Dubb-O, a local rapper from Missouri who grew up watching his older cousins freestyle in the basement, has always found a home in Hip-Hop. Today, he is a passionate lyricist who raises awareness for the social injustices that plague colored neighborhoods. Born and bred in the racially tense city of St.Louis, he is no stranger to the overlooked wrongdoings of local officials and “protectors.” Unable to find solace in any powerful grassroots organizations, T-Dubb-O learned from some of the world’s most influential activists: Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and Martin Luther King Jr. He studied their ideas, read their words; all the while creating a foundation for his own humanitarian effort.
Long embedded in Missouri’s underground battle culture, T-Dubbo has since expanded his fan base with the 2011 release of his first solo project Mobstar Maniac Vol. 1”, its follow-up “Mobstar Maniac 2 Over Yo Head” and this year’s “Mobstar Maniac 3 The Transition.” His street credibility and matching intellect has touched the lives of others who can relate to the pain and struggle laced in his angry verses. Most of his tracks mention the crimes that many hopeless, desperate and impoverished teens struggle with: robbery, murder, and drug dealing. But he doesn’t encourage young minorities to pursue these ignorant methods of ensuring quick cash. T-Dubb-O emphasizes the inescapable consequences and repercussions of such acts. In “Ignorance of Adolescence” he raps:
We just did some stupid s**t just for some cash for sneaks/
Thought we were scot free, that freedom ain’t last a week.
In “Kilo” he admits to crimes committed in pursuit of material goods, asking God to forgive his sins:
Started with a quarter pound of reggie/
1.5 sacked up in a Chevy/
Double to a trade, and I moved to a 7 on the highway to heaven/
And it was all for a kilo, all for a kilo/
No, I ain’t tryna be a hero
Many of his tracks finish with a short monologue that communicates his intended message. As a rapper, he doesn’t glorify the street life. He influences his listeners to take another path; to find a way out of the struggle.
T-Dubb-O has been working closely with Pico National Network, a culmination of community-led organizations that “increase healthcare access, improve public schools, make neighborhoods safer, and revitalize democracy.” Pico National bases in Oakland, D.C., and St. Louis have given the rapper-activist a platform to target the city’s issues. The movement works for legitimate responses to help the community. T-Dubb-O says:
“Michael Brown is one of the cases we want to win. But we’re fighting for something bigger. It’s about getting Congress to pass bills–to stop racial profiling, to raise the $7.50 minimum wage, to increase the average family income, to improve our education. Some of our schools, receiving little to no funds, are forced to close down. They can’t afford buses. Students can’t get to class.”
Recently, on Friday, November 21, T-Dubb-O, with the help of activists Rae and Rika Tyler, performed a mock lynching across the street from Missouri’s Old Courthouse (the site of two Dred Scott case trials in 1847 and 1850). The courthouse was also known at the time for housing slaves in the building’s basement. The demonstration was meant to symbolize the similarities between past and present discriminatory practices. According to T-Dubb-O, a person of color in this country is either assaulted or killed by an officer every 28 hours, which is almost equivalent to the frequency of lynchings during slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Pico National Network helped gather media attention to better assist the protest’s impact. Only consisting of a few individuals, T-Dubb-O says the point was not to create a massive upheaval, but rather to communicate a symbolic message:
“Michael Brown was left in the middle of the street for four and a half hours. That was modern-day lynching. His body was left on display as a reminder of who’s in power.”
The movement’s efforts will continue with the hopes of bringing communities together to combat social injustices. In regards to the Michael Brown case, the St. Louis rapper reveals that people in Missouri are now on edge because they’re tired of being tired. They’re fed up with their tax dollars going nowhere beneficial. Though a struggle rooted in race relations, T-Dubb-O says that this has become bigger than a white on black conflict:
“This is about the people who swear to protect and serve us; about them being the most threatening and dangerous ones. It’s a warning to Chinese America, to Latino America–you’re next.”