According to my usually reliable sources, Mobb Deep rapper Prodigy was allegedly murdered on Friday in a New York shooting. In addition to receiving more than a dozen e-mails, I received a phone call from one of my New York informants saying that s/he was a few blocks from the shooting. “I saw the police taping off the area and everybody crying about P”, s/he swore to me on Friday evening.”, s/he swore to me on Friday evening. After several confirmatory phone calls, I reported this information on the site.
As it turns out, rumors of Prodigy’s death were greatly exaggerated. By all accounts, the QB MC is alive and prepared to embark on series of overseas shows.
To be clear, I don’t believe that my source was lying. Rather, s/he probably heard the same rumors that I did and assumed that the shooting was Prodigy-related. What’s most interesting to me is how such a rumor starts in the first place.
To be sure, the Prodigy story is part of a long tradition of premature public obituaries. Every few months, a rumor emerges that one of Black America’s stars has passed away. I’ll never forget sitting in my Freshman composition course at Morehouse College and having my instructor stop the class and announce that Chris Tucker had passed away. We then devoted 15 minutes of class time to discussing the alleged specifics of his early demise. (I can’t help but think that our White instructor’s decision to hault our education to discuss the star of “Friday” would have been different if he weren’t in a classroom filled with Black men.) The rumor, which circulated around Atlanta very quickly since Tucker is a native of the city, remained the main topic of conversation on the city’s urban radio stations until Tucker finally called the station to verify that he was alive.
This past Spring, it was Jaleel White (aka Steve Urkel) who was killed in the public rumor mill. In fact, everyone from Mark Twain to Jim Brown has woken up to read about their alleged death in the daily newspaper. The question, however, remains: Who starts these rumors?
Sometimes, the rumor is started by the person herself. After all, given his latest career moves, under what other circumstances would I be talking about Prodigy? By adding his own name to the rumor, the celebrity is able to enter his or her name back into the public conversation and, given the hagiographic nature of most death reports, remind the world how wonderful they are. After a day or two of public rumination, the subject of the discussion can correct the record and hopefully revive or strengthen her career.
At other times, the rumor is started by a random trouble maker. Similar to the computer virus engineer, the rumor-maker gains pleasure from witnessing his power to affect the lives of countless people who she otherwise wouldn’t meet.
Lastly, many rumors are crafted by anonymous haters. Despite the above-mentioned perquisites, death rumors nearly always cause some form of pain and grief for the subject of discussion. As such, death rumors allow acknowledged enemies and fake friends to rhetorically murder the subject and hurt their loved ones without ever stepping out of the shadows.
Peace, love, and health to Prodigy and his family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!