Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

C-Murder: Rapper Lives His Lyrics

The Music of the 'Hood

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana

Once confined almost exclusively to inner-city culture, rap/hip hop is now just as likely to be heard blasting through the open windows of a white teenager's Mustang in a well-heeled, gated suburban subdivision. Just as raucous black artists like Little Richard, James Brown, Larry Williams, Hank Ballard, Screamin' Jay Hawkins [DMS1] and others were embraced and welcomed into the culture of a generation of white post-war teens, much to the chagrin of their parents, black rap artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are the idols and role models of white, as well as black, youth.

Little Richard
Little Richard

In few places in the United States is this more evident than in New Orleans, Louisiana. Prior to the devastation caused in August and September 2005 by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the city was 65% African American, with a sizable percentage of them living in public housing projects. Each of the city's 7,000 public housing units were occupied by an average of three to five people, making for a very overcrowded living environment. And even those who didn't live in public housing were often jammed into densely populated neighborhoods where a combination of sociological factors, many of which dated back over 200 years, kept them at the bottom of the feeding chain.

It was a culture largely made up of welfare mothers stretching back two or three generations. A culture of absentee fathers, many of whom had children by a multitude of mothers, none of whom they were married to. A culture in which alcoholism and drug addiction was pandemic. A culture of violence, where the sound of bullets being fired was a familiar refrain. A culture with a high dropout rate and low expectations. A culture of despair and desperation.

Lou Rawls
Lou Rawls

Not surprisingly, a culture of this type would be reflected in the music emanating from its core. But, unlike the Lou Rawls classic "Dead End Street," which both captures the harsh realities of ghetto life and expresses an upbeat determination to rise above it, the rap music of the late 20th and early 21st centuries offers little of that hope for its fans. Instead, it largely glorifies the subhuman conditions that prevail and gloats about it. Strutting urban warriors boasting about their female conquests, threatening violence against anyone foolish enough to get in their way. Including the authorities.

Against this backdrop, it isn't surprising that a number of rap music's primary artists would find themselves on the opposite side of the law, exemplifying the lifestyles they rap about in staccato monotones. One of them was Corey Miller. Performing under the stage name of C-Murder, he did more than just "see murder" in the eyes of a jury in Jefferson Parish (county), Louisiana. He was convicted of committing one and accused of attempting another. How he got into this situation is the tragic end product of a phenomenal success story that turned sour.

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