This past week, a video of a distraught mother launching into a tirade against a rap song's lyrics went viral, unwittingly propelling the woman to internet infamy. The mother of four, who did not identify herself, took issue with the explicit, vivid lyrics in Vince Staples' "Norf Norf" and expressed her indignation in an 11 minute-long video in which she broke down several times.
In the video, the woman said she usually listens to Christian music, but had happened to be tuned in to a different radio station that day.
"This rap song comes on. Guys, I could not believe what I was hearing. This is on our local radio station. This crap is being played," she said, shaking in anger. "I couldn't even believe the words that I was listening to. As a mom, it infuriated me."
She goes on to read the lyrics of the song out loud, particularly taking issue with the line about running from the police. "Let's just encourage kids to run from the police because that's OK, right?" she said. "We wonder why this society is so messed up — just listen to the music."
The video spread like wildfire on social media, and many people mocked and criticized for her what they deemed as an overreaction with racist undertones. It gained such traction that it was only a matter of time before Staples himself weighed in on the video.
And his response — measured, respectful, and contemplating — came as a shock to many. Instead of ridiculing or dismissing the woman's concerns, Staples defended her right to her opinion in a series of tweets that have been widely lauded.
Jonah Engel Bromwich at the New York Times reached out to David Dennis Jr., a journalism professor at Morehouse University whose area of expertise is hip hop in the online sphere, for his thoughts. Dennis told the newspaper:
Twitter is 140 characters of quick reactions and not a lot of nuance whatsoever. There are brilliant people who, when they get on Twitter, they sort of become the lowest common denominators of themselves. ... As a famous rapper, he sort of knows how Twitter mob mentality works. Through the lens of somebody who goes viral a lot, I think that empathy is something he learned.