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kendrick lamar is campaigning to end gang violence in la

The rapper got members of rival gangs the Pirus and the Crips to discuss his new sneakers and their message of unity.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
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Jul 20 2015, 3:53pm

Kendrick Lamar has been waging a war against gang violence in his hometown, LA, since 2012. On m.A.A.d. city, he raps, "If Pirus and Crips all got along / They'd probably gun me down by the end of this song." And the cover for his recent single i features an image of two gang members throwing up hearts, not gang signs, with their hands. Now, his newly released Reebok sneakers (the rapper's version of the Ventilator) are continuing the fight.

On Saturday, Kendrick released a video of a Piru (a gang affiliated with the Bloods) and a Crip setting aside their differences to talk about the shoes and their message of peace. Each pair includes one sneaker with the word "red" on the heel, and one with "blue" - a reference to the gangs' identifying colors. A tag on the back of the tongue reads "neutral." "It's a unity thing - we taking steps together," says the Piru in the video. And his new buddy agrees: "Music is real influential, so when you got someone like Kendrick promoting unity [...] it makes kids wanna be cool with each other, no matter what neighborhood they grew up in."

During the last three years there have been 491 gang-related homicides in LA, and Compton, where Lamar grew up, is especially notorious for its gang culture. Will Kendrick's sneakers make a difference? According to a recent report, gang violence in the city is already on the out.

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Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Image courtesy Reebok

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Kendrick Lamar