People like to complain, especially in the wake of tragedies like the murder of south-side rapper Joseph “Lil JoJo” Coleman, that rap music glorifies violence and criminality. And they’re absolutely right—it does. Where they’re wrong is in thinking this phenomenon is any way unique to hip-hop, or that this is somehow a new development. Glamorizing, romanticizing, and otherwise embellishing behavior outside societal norms in order to present it as entertainment for people who live within those norms is pretty much a constant in Western art. Pop music has been selling us on criminals since at least the days of the Child Ballads.
There are maybe two ways in which hip-hop sets itself apart from the criminally minded pop music of the past: by being so explicit about it and by being so black.