“The devil grows inside the hearts of the selfish and wicked, so when the devil wants to dance with you, you better say never, because a dance with the devil might last you forever.” This is the most powerful statement ever composed in a rap song, which addresses a common theme throughout this genre: poverty and its relation to gang violence. A rapper by the name Immortal Technique wrote the song “Dance with the Devil,” which tells the story of a teenager named William who lives in a low-income neighborhood and how he gets into the world of gang violence and drug dealing. The youth who live in these impoverished neighborhoods are more susceptible to being initiated into gangs. The only way to make money and gain respect is to have a strong reputation. Other factors include poor educational facilities, inefficient government support programs, and damaging home lives.
Gangsters and drug dealers are seen as desirable occupations for youths in low-income areas. For they are the ones who wield power in their neighborhoods, so when they feel powerless in a society that views them as second-class citizens, they see crime and fear as the only way to gain control over their lives. William was a young man who’s father was absent, and his mother was a drug addict.
He had an obsession with material objects to fill the void inside him. Immortal Technique said that William never felt equal to people; “I don’t project my insecurities in other people, he fended for props like addicts with pipes and needles, so he felt he had to prove to everyone he was evil, a feeble-minded young man with infinite potential, the product of a ghetto-bred capitalistic mental, coincidentally dropped out of school to sell weed, dancin’ with the Devil, smoked until his eyes would bleed, but he was sick of sellin’ trees and gave in to his greed.”
Then, William began to engage in dangerous activities such as robbery and selling hard drugs such as crack and cocaine, but this wasn’t enough. He wanted to be a real thug.
In this following verse, Technique does a brilliant job capturing the shocking, brutal, and inhumane way one proves they were “hard.” “They told him any motherfuckin’ coward can sell drugs…But only a real thug can stab someone ’til they die, standin’ in front of them, starin’ straight into their eyes, Billy realized that these men were well-guarded, and they wanted to test him before business started, suggested rapin’ a bitch to prove he was cold-hearted.” This is where William had to make a significant decision, does he want to be like the powerful men in the neighborhood? Should he rape women and sling crack for the sake of being like the rest of them? William believed that committing the vile act of rape was worth it.
“They drove around the projects slow while it was rainin’…until they saw a woman on the street, walkin’ alone…they wrapped her shirt around her head and knocked her onto the floor, ‘This is it, kid, now you got your chance to be raw’, so Billy yoked her up and grabbed the chick by the hair…they got to the roof and then held her down on the ground, screamin’, ‘Shut the fuck up, and stop movin’ round!’…so Billy stomped on the bitch until he’d broken her jaw…they kicked her until they cracked her ribs. She stopped movin’ blood leakin’ through the cloth. She cried silently, then they all proceeded to rape her violently.”
Another important issue addressed in this song is rape culture derived from a strong culture of misogyny that leads the men to view women as objects. Beings without autonomy or identity, simply “bitches” who can be violated, murdered and tortured to further their street reputation. After William commits this heinous act, he feels overwhelmed with guilt because he was reminded of his mother when she would walk home in the projects, and began to see the face of his mother in the woman he was raping. He promptly jumps off the roof and kills himself because he can’t bear to live with what he’s done.
The natural reaction to William’s story is to condemn him for showcasing the worst of humanity, but one cannot ignore that people are products of their environments. When governments cut spending on social welfare programs or vote for policies that give less to the poor, we are perpetuating the cycle of poverty that dire consequences for the futures of children born in poverty.
When a child grows up in a society that favors the rich and shows little regard for the poor’s plight, they are dehumanized. They internalize that their needs don’t matter, and the rich can get richer, and the poor get poorer. William didn’t wake up one day and think that robbery, drug-dealing, and rape were acceptable acts.