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The Mouse That Roared

"Mouse Trap is an independent, anti-gun violence poetry short film directed by Cliff Notez and written and performed by poet and performing artist Shane Romero," Evelyn Wang reports for The Chicago Bureau.

"Inspired by the rhymes of a 14-year-old Chicago rapper named Li'l Mouse, the film focuses on the South Side of Chicago and Brooklyn and was released online [this week]."

Here it is:


From the interview:

Chicago Bureau: Tell us about your short film, Mouse Trap.

Romero: Mouse Trap is a poetry short film and the main focus of the poem and film is to stop gun violence, particularly here in the brown and black communities. The target of the film is South Side Chicago and my neighborhood of Brooklyn, and the poem that narrates the short film is directly addressed to a 14-year-old rapper named Li'l Mouse.

Chicago Bureau: Why address the film to Li'l Mouse in particular?

Romero: Li'l Mouse is an up-and-coming rapper from South Side Chicago. He is getting fame through World Star Hip Hop and other media online, and all of his raps are glorifying gun violence. He talks about him shooting people, all of his friends being shooters, misogyny upon women.

Chicago Bureau: What else inspired you to make the film?

Romero: I've had to deal with a bunch of friends and family members being murdered. I'm surrounded by it [gun violence], especially in my neighborhood. Brooklyn is the most bloody borough in all of New York City and so the amount of gun violence that we have here, particularly in my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods, is just overwhelming. That was a major inspiration to address all of us in these communities that are being plagued by the . . . gun violence.

This is a brilliantly executed work by a real talent. I recommend it. However, I do take issue with some of Romero's assertions.

Chicago Bureau: Why focus on Chicago?

Romero: Well, Chicago being the murder capital of the United States, I just feel that so many people have given up on the gun violence problem there in Chicago that they don't know how to fix it.

First, Chicago is not the murder capital of the United States. I can forgive Romero for thinking otherwise, given the media saturation of the meme, but it simply is not true.

Second, I wouldn't say people have given up on the gun violence problem here that does exist, murder capital or no. I would say that there is no political will to truly recognize, understand and alleviate root causes, but otherwise millions of dollars continue to be (mis)spent on solving gun violence.

Chicago Bureau: Why do you think these two cities (Brooklyn and Chicago) in particular are so violent?

Romero: With Chicago, they had knocked down all the projects and the city's forcing everybody to the South Side neighborhoods, so you have mixtures of gangs going to the South Side of Chicago who are against each other and they're now living across the street from each other. And it's so easy to get guns in Chicago. That's the main reason here.

The destruction of Chicago's public housing projects without a viable plan - or any plan, really - for resettling residents has indeed wreaked havoc on thousands of lives. Gang rivalries were indeed exacerbated; there was no safe passage program for residents who got in the way.

But the hierarchical, corporate-style gang structures of those rivalries have largely been eroded with the federal takedown of those gangs' leaders. Block-by-block cliques now fuel a significant volume of the violence echoing through the city.

I'm also not so sure it's as easy to get guns in Chicago as everyone seems to think. At the least, I doubt it's become easier to get guns in Chicago in recent years; it's probably become more difficult as law enforcement increasingly focuses on the issue.


Romero: What's coming out of Chicago's rap scene right now is all glorifying the gun violence going on there.

I have a mixed view of this. In relation to another article addressing this very topic, I sent this e-mail to a friend this morning:

I would say that while the videos may inspire some kids in some small way to the lifestyle, the videos actually describe what is taking place, like when Public Enemy was called the Black CNN. But yes, beefs get supercharged on social media and songs. But the beefs exist and would exist without the music.

That, by the way, was in regard to Chicago's Gun-Toting Gang Girl: 'Lil Snoop,' which I also recommend. But here was the rest of that e-mail:

Mixed feelings about this story. On one hand, really good reporting that actually tells us, supposedly, what happened. On the other, headline and photos are obviously sensationalized to exploit tragedy for clicks.

Just like this treatment by the Sun-Times was designed to sell newspapers.

Kid's got a voice of his own, y'know.


From Lil Mouse's own mouth:

My life in Chicago is crazy 'cause we safe in like a dangerous environment. I guess it's hard like, growing up this way. Basically what I'm rapping about - the stuff I see that goes on in my neighborhood - is what I witnessed that day. Trapping, people out there grinding, like really getting money out there living life. The violence. Like, it's over here [points] then it's over there [points]. It's crazy. It's just, crazy.


[T]hat's why I'm trying to do what I'm doing. I'm trying to get my family out of the hood.

It may be the only route he and his family have. And he's supremely talented; if it was okay for Derrick Rose to cheat his way out of Englewood, is it okay for Lil Mouse to rap his way out of Roseland?

For godsakes, he just appeared at SXSW.


On Sway:

"Chicago's Lil' Mouse is known for his viral hit, 'Get Smoked,' which was later remixed by Lil' Wayne who dropped a verse on the track. In the first part of this addition of Sway in the Morning, Lil' Mouse talks about being home-schooled, offers from major labels and groups like Cash Money Records and also fills citizens in on his rap conglomerate, Hella Bandz."


A sampling of the man-boy, the music and the videos:

Get Smoked.


R.I.P. Yummy.


100 Bars.


Disclaimer: I write a weely column called "ICYMI: The Week In Juvenile Justice" for the Chicago Bureau.


Comments welcome.


Posted on April 30, 2014

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BOOKS - Why Chimps Don't Hold Elections.

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