The History Behind The Song, “Self-Destruction”


“Carli, one of the leading rap record executives, and George, now the Black music editor for Billboard magazine, decided to make an all-star rap record and donate the profits to charity. They called their project the ‘Stop the Violence Movement,’ after a Boogie Down Productions’ song. Carli asked Boogie Down Productions’ youngest member, Derrick ‘D-Nice’ Jones, to produce the track. Both she and George enlisted the help of the most popular rappers in the genre: Chuck D and Flavor Flav from Public Enemy, KRS-One and Kool Moe Dee, Heavy D, the members of Stetsasonic. The young prince of rap, LL Cool J, still smarting from his battle with Kool Moe Dee, was the lone holdout; but he helped a female rapper named MC Lyte write her verse. Ann Carli’s own artists, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince begged to be included, but Carli felt that their image was too ‘soft’ for the project, and might detract from the record’s credibility with the ‘hard rocks’ they were trying to reach.

Recruiting the rappers for the project turned out to be easier than securing a record deal, even with the star-studded cast. Russell Simmon’s Def Jam and Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records passed on the project, because the executives didn’t think they could make any money on it. Tom Silverman very much wanted the record for Tommy Boy, but Carli was turned off when Silverman explained to her how they could donate all the artist royalties to charity, while keeping the profits from the record’s distribution for themselves- just like EMI had done with another charity record called ‘Sun City.’

In the end, Carli came home to Barry Weiss and Clive Calder at Jive, who agreed to donate everything but the cost of the project to the National Urban League, for programs combating Black-on-Black violence.

The video for the song, ‘Self Destruction,’ was the largest-ever gathering of rappers on one record, uniting the biggest names in hip-hop for the common good. In the video, KRS-One rapped to his colleagues from a podium at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, blaming the ‘one or two suckas, ignorant brothers’ for the violence, not the rap audience. While Kool Moe Dee contributed one of the most memorable phrases (‘I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan,/and I shouldn’t have to run from a Black man’), the video featured other extraordinary moments, including the sight of former adversaries Red Alert and Marley Marl standing beside each other in a cemetery, over a plot that few but insiders knew was the final resting place of DJ Scott La Rock.

The video, released in the late winner of 1989, was carried to televisions across the country by Yo! MTV Raps, and sold enough records to raise $500,000 for the National Urban League.

The Stop the Violence Movement was largely New York’s response to a local incident. Tone-Loc was the only out-of-towner to make a cameo in the video. But Tone-Loc participated in California’s answer to ‘Self Destruction’ the following year, when he, Young MC, Ice-T, MC Hammer, Digital Underground, NWA, and others joined forces to create the West Coast All Stars, and their antiviolence song, ‘We’re All in the Same Gang.’” -From, “The Big Payback” By: Dan Charnas

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