GREENSBORO, N.C.— While leaders at North Carolina A&T State University consider a replacement for a controversial rapper with gang ties, his possible appearance at the homecoming concert has sparked debate among students at the historically Black college.
The News and Record of Greensboro reports that the discussion centers on rapper Gucci Mane— his real name is Radric Davis — and an appearance scheduled for Oct. 31 at North Carolina A&T’s homecoming concert.
Debate began shortly after students returned to school last month. They objected to Mane, who celebrates his ties to the Bloods street gang on songs like “Blood in Blood Out” and “Same Red Rag.”
Chancellor Harold Martin said the school does not want to censor any artist, but gang activity and drug dealing are not the things that should be showcased when welcoming alumni and celebrating the university.
A Web search lists Mane as CEO of So Icey Entertainment. No one at the company could be reached for comment.
Bryon Turman is an A&T alumnus who now teaches courses on hip-hop at both A&T and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He said money, drugs and violence have been prevalent themes in rap since its earliest days.
But with albums that celebrate crack dealing and gang life, Turman said Gucci Mane represents a type of “dope rap” that forgets why those things were discussed in early hip-hop.
“For a lot of poor inner-city kids, drugs, violence and gangs are a common experience, almost like a rite of passage,” Turman said. “So in early rap like Melle Mel’s ‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’ you have drug references, but even though he had a very serious drug problem, he’s preaching against it.”
Turman said the same can be said of everything from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s inner-city rap “The Message” to Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt,” an album about the artist dealing drugs to finance a way out of the ghetto.
Gucci Mane has played up his affiliation with the Bloods street gang in recent years, Turman said — a move common when rappers become successful but want to retain credibility on the street.
“Even on his early albums he rapped about crack dealing and violence,” Turman said. “But then here recently you get albums more replete with explicit gang references.”
Syene Jasmin, A&T’s student government association president, publicly apologized for the booking of Gucci Mane in a local television interview last month.
The SGA’s executive board helped choose acts for the concert in association with the production company producing the event. Students were supposed to be surveyed on who they would like to see, but questions over Facebook— sent between May and August— were the only poll taken this year.
Jasmin’s statement brought criticism from students who said he should not have aired the school’s dirty laundry in public. But Martin and other prominent Aggies commended Jasmin for speaking out.
Turman said since the concert’s move to the Greensboro Coliseum 15 years ago, the show has become about making the most money, a motivation that can lead to booking an act to draw large crowds, whatever the content of the music.
More than 6,000 tickets have been sold.