The Rap Legends Breathing New Life Into The ‘Stop The Violence’ Movement

krs-one-special-ed-kid-capri-RS-1800 - Credit: Johnny Nunez/WireImage; Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW
krs-one-special-ed-kid-capri-RS-1800 - Credit: Johnny Nunez/WireImage; Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW

In 1988, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. & Rakim, Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, and Biz Markie were in the middle of the Dope Jam Tour when an altercation broke out during a stop at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Concertgoer Julio Fuentes, 19, was stabbed once in the chest amid an apparent robbery attempt mere minutes after he entered the venue. He died 30 minutes later at Nassau County Medical Center. Coupled with the murder of DJ Scott La Rock—a founding member of Boogie Down Productions who’d been fatally shot while attempting to break up an argument just months earlier—the climate around hip-hop in the city at the time was dark. The deadly concert stabbing proved to be KRS-One’s tipping point.

Fed up with the violence littering the rap community and the media’s often skewed portrayal of the genre, he founded the Stop The Violence Movement. With the assistance of journalist Nelson George and Jive/RCA executive Ann Carli, KRS-One recruited an all-star roster of MCs to contribute to the 1989 single “Self-Destruction.” Produced by D-Nice and The Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee, the track boasted a formidable list of artists, including KRS-One, Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O, Public Enemy, Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D, Just-Ice, MC Lyte and Kool Moe Dee. The song debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart, remaining for 10 consecutive weeks. Proceeds from the track—which ultimately totaled more than $100,000—were donated to the National Urban League. An accompanying VHS cassette, Overcoming Self-Destruction: The Making of the Self-Destruction Video, gave fans a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the song.

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Unfortunately, violence remains an issue in the rap community. Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Big L , Nipsey Hussle, and Jam Master Jay are among the many who’ve lost their lives to gun violence since the release of “Self-Destruction.” In 2021 alone, more than two dozen rappers — both on the national and local level — were either fatally stabbed or shot, including Young Dolph, Drakeo The Ruler, and Slim 400. The internet has made it much more apparent, with countless videos of violence being uploaded to various platforms daily.

As a result, Hip-Hop Alliance (HHA) Chairman and Temple of Hip-Hop founder KRS-One has decided to revive the Stop The Violence Movement and recruit several of his fellow Hip-Hop pioneers to help bolster the cause. Former Profile Records artist Special Ed — widely known for his 1989 single “I Got It Made”—got involved following a sobering phone call with Tha Dogg Pound rapper Kurupt who was familiar with the Hip-Hop Alliance’s work.

“Kurupt, my little homie, mentioned they wanted to bring some attention to stopping the violence that’s been going on,” Special Ed explains to Rolling Stone. “I said, ‘Yeah, you know what? We have to do it, because otherwise, it’s not going to get done. Nobody’s saying anything.’ So I reached out to KRS-One and Kurtis Blow. I joined the table and brought up the fact that listen, ‘We need to do something about the violence going on. Artists are coming out under the notion that this is the climate and the behavior—and that’s not acceptable.”

He says they all agreed and decided to start scheduling calls to bring members of the hip-hop community together in order to tackle the issue. “We have participants from the East Coast, West Coast, South, Midwest—all over the country—even some from overseas,” he said. “They see the need and see what’s happening to us as a culture. It seems as if it’s being magnified by most of the hip-hop community, so we have to address this.”

Kid Capri, another legendary New York City-bred artist contributing to the cause, has been tasked with uniting a roster of artists for another Stop The Violence project. “KRS-One asked me to be a part of it, and I was honored,” he recalls. “I produced the beat, sent it in and they loved it. I know KRS-One and Special Ed are on it, but they’re putting together older rappers and newer rappers. I gave them two tracks for the album so far. It’s a project that will coincide with the Hip-Hop Alliance. It all goes together.”

“The music is simply a catalyst to the message across that this is not right by any means. We’re being driven in the wrong direction, mentally, spiritually and otherwise, and we hold ourselves accountable for our actions, our families and our loved ones,” Special Ed adds. “We want to go out here with a conscious behavior.”

As Kid Capri pointed out, the Stop The Violence Movement and Hip-Hop Alliance are intertwined, however, they do have separate objectives. The Hip-Hop Alliance is a labor force organization intent on promoting and securing fair wages, fair royalties, and strong health and retirement benefits for all creators in the Hip-Hop and R&B community. The Stop The Violence Movement is focused on spreading a message of nonviolence as it did in the ‘80s.

“The Stop the Violence Movement was a powerful Movement that brought attention to the impact of violence in our society and urged us to make a change,” Kurtis Blow, founder, and executive director of the Hip-Hop Alliance, says. “We need that same energy—not just as a symbol of our past but also as a call to action for our future. We also need to come together and use our voices to promote peace, unity, and positivity in the culture. Hip-Hop is not violence!”

Kid Capri can’t stress enough the importance of the Stop The Violence project. “Direction needs to be out here. Hip-Hop runs the whole music industry, and it’s one of the biggest influences on kids,” he says. “They look at artists like superheroes. A lot of kids don’t have fathers, so the streets become their fathers. We gotta reverse the violence and calm it down.”

As far as the steps the Stop The Violence Movement is taking to gain momentum, Special Ed and his co-masterminds have an evolving laundry list of ideas “We are putting operating procedures in place in terms of how we handle things, what the message is, and how we’re going out and delivering that message. But in addition, we have programs in place to educate,” he explains. “The first thing to stop violence is information and knowledge. Ignorance is a major cause of violence, so we have many opportunities and areas of interest for people to educate themselves. We have knowledge ciphers, where we have an open forum and free education for all. So that’s one thing we do at SEAL and in conjunction with the HHA.”

It’s a slow, uphill climb to show young rappers caught up in street culture that there’s another way. Tales of violence — including robberies and murders — are all too common. Not to say it wasn’t present in the late 1980s and ‘90s when West Coast gangsta rap was making its ascent, but the OGs learned the hard way and are hoping to impart some wisdom on the current generation.

“Be yourself,” Special Ed advises. “Whatever else you perpetrate that’s not you will seek you. So attract whatever’s in you — your goodness, spirit, energy — and put that into your music. Don’t worry about what someone else sounds like or how many records they sold. Make some art based on the message you want to send to the world.”

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