Rap and rappers are known for so many things, but their focus on "slavery references" rarely gets attention. I try to address that absence in my book Bad Men by discussing how rappers invoke slavery and famous former enslaved people such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and particularly Nat Turner.
Turner is the definitive insurrectionist. His willingness to use violence to liberate himself proves inspiring for rap artists. J. Cole, Black Thought, Tyler the Creator, Jay-Z, and many others have all cited Turner by name and fashioned themselves in the spirit of his rebelliousness.
In the process of rhyming, several rappers have played on the term "burner" (gun) and the last name Turner. M-1 from Dead Prez goes, "Call me Nat Turner with the burner." Killah Priest raps, "Nat Turner, gats will learn ya / Collapse with the burner."
When it comes to bad men, creativity, slavery, and rap, then Nat Turner remains a key figure.
This entry is part of a series--28 Days & Ways of Thinking about Bad Men & Vulnerable Black Boys.
Note: For a 30% discount, use the promo code 10FEB23 when and if purchasing the book on the University of Virginia Press site. (For February 2023 only).
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