Van Lathan hopes a new TV series he’s hosting will start a dialog about hip hop artists who have died too young – even if it sparks criticism about perpetuating a long dated stereotype about a connection to violence and the genre.
“Everyone who gets the culture knows that hip hop is not just violence,” Lathan told CNN in a recent interview.
“Is that happening in country music? Is that happening in pop music? Is that happening with rock stars,” Lathan said. “So, whether we like it or not, there’s something to talk about…there’s something to talk about and we have to discuss it.”
That discussion has come in the form of WEtv’s new series “Hip Hop Homicides,” which looks at the shooting deaths of hip hop artists including Pop Smoke, XXXTentacion and King Von.
“It’s beyond comprehension, the loss of life that people are dealing with,” Lathan said.
Producer, rapper and actor 50 Cent and Mona Scott Young are serving as executive producers on the series.
P.Frank Williams, the showrunner for “Hip Hop Homicides,” told CNN the project came together, in part, because of 50 Cent’s friendship with Pop Smoke before the young rapper was gunned down at the age of 20 during a home invasion in Hollywood Hills, California in 2020.
“That really broke [50 Cent’s] heart, obviously, because he had adopted [Pop Smoke] as a little brother, Williams said. “And he felt suspicious about some of the details about Pop’s murder.”
Williams told CNN it was important for the show to feature interviews with friends and family of the late artists.
“The main thing for me, as a person who’s been in the culture, [covering] hip hop for almost 30 years, is that these are three dimensional portraits of people that we’re trying to do here,” said Williams, who as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times covered the death of rapper Tupac Shakur and later produced the A&E docuseries “Who KIlled Tupac.”
Williams said their goal was to show these young artists as deeply missed “fathers and sons and loved ones.”
The show debuted two days after the tragic death of rapper Takeoff, who had found fame as a member of the group Migos, was shot and killed outside a private party in Houston, Texas.
“That was unexpected,” Lathan said. “Nobody’s trying to sell a show off the death of somebody so important.”
Ultimately, the aim of the series, Lathan said, is to foster understanding and break the cycle.
“I hope people see the fact that there are other ways, you know? I hope that the show does a good job of showing you that it’s literally the same situations that you’re looking at. And if we really attack a couple of things, then we might be able to have better outcomes for future generations.”
“Hip Hop Homicides” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on WEtv.