Chart-topping rapper The Game was an in-studio guest on The Howard Stern Show Monday and shared a story that depicted what sounded like a scene from another country. Perhaps those in Los Angeles take the multi-generational, intractable culture that is Compton as there to stay, but the matter-of-factness and rawness of the violence there was stunning and tragic to those who don’t live there.
The Game talked about his parents routinely preparing guns for gang warfare in front of their 15 children, the would-be-rapper among them. The family business was drug dealing- mom and dad, then passing it onto the next generation, where The Game and his brothers would sell anything anyone would buy. Indeed it was a drug deal gone bad that left The Game nearly dead of a handful of gunshots. He says he turned to rapping during his recovery which ultimately provided a road out of Compton, but sadly not all together out of the lifestyle. The Game has had gun fights with other rappers since becoming successful, but when you’re a second generation gangbanger and that world is all you know, the world you witness from birth when you parents blow their dope smoke into the crib, why be surprised? Knowing that The Game’s lyrics may shock, but ought not be surprising.
The Game’s grandmother tried her part. It was tender to hear that she’s the one who gave the rapper his stage name, because when he was just 7 or 8 years old she saw that he was an athlete, playing basketball and other games, and likely thought that held promise for him. But by 16 he was dealing drugs and in a gang.
Of course it’s not just Compton battling the toxic mix of poverty, crime and blight. Newark, N.J. has come a long way and today is home to the gleaming Prudential Center, where the Rolling Stones are performing this week and which was host to America’s Got Talent last year. At the same time Mayor Cory Booker is participating in a “food stamp challenge” eating mayonnaise and burnt canned sweet potatoes to raise public awareness about the program. Yet Newark’s seen over 70 murders and an increase in other violent crime this year. In Chicago so far this year, there have been more than 2,364 shootings and 487 homicides.
These cities are the classic cases of decades old, multi-generational story lines that feature you name it, poverty, teen births, drugs, gangs, school drop outs, political grandstanding, graft, empty promises , spite, stubbornness and more. And the beat goes on.
There are every day heroes helping individuals rise above, heal and learn, but if there were a solution for a broader community-wide transformation wouldn’t it have happened by now? Take Global Village, the latest ambitious reform efforts for Newark’s schools. Spearheaded by a local mom, supported by NYU parents get regular support, children are fed, and social workers even make home visits. But it’s already shut down once, are these good works sustainable?
The solution appears gloomily to be individual, and it’s to get out, to move. That’s what The Game did. He moved his wife and two children to Michigan, well away from the Compton scene and grooming a new generation with hopefully, nothing to do with the family’s prior business.