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Police Brutality and Rappers

Music Commentary by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya Salaam

 

 

Hip Hop CDs

Straight Outta Compton (Priority, 1988)  /  Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip Hop (Jive, 1989)  /  Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ – Soundtrack (2005)  

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50 Cent CDs   Get Rich Or Die Tryin'  /  The Massacre   / Guess Who's Back  / Power of the Dollar

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Books on Rap & Hip Hop

 

Todd Boyd, The New H.N.I.C.: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop (2003) / Sharif Responds to Todd Boyd / Is Hip Hop Really Dead?

 

Brian Cross, It's Not About a Salary... Rap, Race and Resistance in Los Angeles: Rap, Race, and Resistance in Los Angeles (1993)

 

Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (1994)

 

Russell A. Porter,  Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism (1995)

 

Bakari Kitwana, The Hip Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture (2003)

 

Imani Perry,  Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop (2004)

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Police Brutality and Rappers

 

Over the years, police and rappers have had a contentious relationship, to say the least. Even before N.W.A. launched their FBI-baiting fireball at the law enforcement community, rappers weren’t feeling cops, although they may have been a bit shy about getting on wax to say so. I grew up in a neighborhood where the cops showing up usually meant someone you knew was about to have bigger problems than they already had.

As such, I can’t honestly say it ever occurred to me to think of cops as ‘Officer Friendlies’ or ‘Protect & Servers.’ Rappers on the other hand, were my heroes. So, predictably, when it came to the whole ‘rappers v. cops’ thing, I sided with rappers. The thing is, the older I get, the more I realize that the cops whose job it is to patrol economically disadvantaged neighborhoods (to euphemize) are in a difficult, thankless and often untenable position. Not unlike the residents of said neighborhoods, come to think of it. There’s an irony for you.

One of the reasons people like ‘cop hating’ songs so much is because—let’s be honest—it’s fun to hate cops. I can’t speak for people who might have a legitimate reason to feel antagonistic towards police officers, so I won’t try. But just speaking for myself, I like anti-cop songs because they make me feel like I’m subversive and anti-establishment. This, as I cruise the freeway in my late-model Volkswagen Passat on my way to and from my cushy union job in sunny San Diego.

As I said, I was born and raised in a pretty fucked up neighborhood but I can honestly say I’ve never had what Mos Def might call ‘a bad experience’ with a cop. Which isn’t to say I’ve never been pulled over. I’ve been pulled over plenty. It’s not even to say I’ve never been pulled over illegitimately. That’s happened too. But rather than ‘a bad experience,’ I think I’d term my run-ins with law enforcement as ‘aggravating and borderline transgressive experiences.’ (Which rolls right off the tongue. Somebody’s going to name a song after that phrase.)

The worst was once back in New Orleans. I was driving my piece-of-junk Ford EXP Hatchback (remember those?) down a dark industrial road, on the way back home from my girlfriend’s house. To make a long story short, I ended up behind the car with my hands behind my head, fingers locked as per unambiguous instruction, facing a canal while Mr. Cop called for back up. Things didn’t seem to be going well for me at all until he asked me for identification. All I had was my school ID—I had forgotten my driver’s license at home. I know. Bad move, right?

Actually, not. The cop took one look at the ID, which read “Benjamin Franklin” (an elite high school for ‘smart’ kids…and not coincidentally, the whitest public high school in New Orleans), and my situation changed immediately. “Ben Franklin,” he said. “You’re one of the good ones, huh?” I said, “Yes, sir,” which was the right thing to say, instead of, “Fuck you, bitch-ass cop,” which is what I was thinking. He handed me my stuff back and told me to drive safely. That was it. Oh, did I mention that the cop was black?

Another time, right here in San Diego, I was cruising down University Avenue at about two in the afternoon. I was off of work and had no particular place to go. I know I wasn’t speeding and I didn’t run any lights. Suddenly, there it was—blue lights, siren, the whole thing. Mr. Cop walked up to my window and said, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” I said, “No.” He said, “License, registration and proof of insurance, please.” I gave him everything, then sat and waited while he ran my plates and checked my license.

A few minutes later he walked back up to my car, handed me all my shit and said, “Have a nice day.” Then he headed back to his cruiser. I couldn’t believe it. I almost wanted something to be wrong. “Hey!” I yelled at him. “What did you stop me for?” He just called back, “Try to be more careful,” and kept walking. “More careful of what?” I said. “What did I do?” He just got back in his black-and-white and off he went. Nice. That cop, by the way, was Mexican. Or, less precisely, Latino. I didn’t ask him for his country of origin.

There’s a line in “Fuck Tha Police” (N.W.A.’s) where Ice Cube says, “Don’t let it be a black and a white one / ‘Cause they’ll slam you down to the street top / Black police showing out for the white cop.” It’s a great line but it leaves a lot unsaid. The little ‘showing out’ problem to which Cube refers isn’t specific to cops. I’d bet most black people in the workplace are both victims and perpetrators of that injustice on a fairly consistent basis. The difference is, most of us don’t carry a gun or arrest people.

I can remember more than one occasion in my capacity as ‘Record Sales Manager’ at Tower Records where I found myself ‘showing out’ (i.e., doing some bullshit at the expense of another black employee in order to look like ‘one of the good ones’ in front of my white boss and co-workers). Every time I did it, it disgusted me to my core and made me feel like shit for days after…if not longer. But, as the saying goes, we do what we must. Or at least, we do what we do.

Quite often, after a long, hard day of being one of the good ones, I’d go home and drop the needle on something like “Bo! Bo! Bo!” or “Fuck Tha Police” and while listening to those songs never made me feel better, they did make me feel aggressive, hostile and capable of extreme violence against authority figures, which is almost as good. That’s one of the reasons I drive a truck now. I intentionally stopped working at jobs where ‘comportment’ is important.

For a black male in corporate America—or retail America or service-sector America or maybe I should just say America, period—I’ve found that ‘behaving appropriately in the workplace’ is a synonym for ‘be an ass-kissing sellout’ and I just plain got tired of it. And while I now realize that the day-to-day reality of police work is considerably more difficult, ambiguous and stressful than I ever could’ve imagined when I was younger, I still haven’t got tired of hearing rappers yell “fuck the police” and I don’t think I ever will.

The tracks:

Boogie Down Productions - “Bo! Bo! Bo!” from Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip Hop (Jive, 1989)

This is one of a pair of K.R.S.’ anti-cop songs from the third Boogie Down Productions album, Ghetto Music. (The other is “Who Protects Us From You?” but that one is both coherent and rational. Not our theme.) I like “Bo! Bo! Bo!” because the somewhat bouncy, reggae-inflected beat conflicts so dramatically with the extreme nature of the revenge-fantasy lyrics. Favorite line: “On the ground was a bottle of Snapple / I broke the bottle in his fucking Adam’s apple.” Nobody merged ‘violent sociopath’ with ‘erudite intellectual’ like K.R.S.-One.

I’ve never been a big fan of Dead Prez. For self-proclaimed disciples of Public Enemy, both their beats and rhyme cadences are frequently dull and uninspired. That said, I like this one because the bassline is hypnotic and the lyrics are hilariously, illogically, capitalistically violent. “I’m caught up, caught up in a mix of shit / And I ain’t tryin to hear shit, ‘dun / My crew got cash to get / Blast you with the pistol if I have to / In my mind it’s all about cash in a fistful.” It’s all about cash? I thought these dudes were supposed to be revolutionaries?

I guess the legal department at the late Jay Dee’s label was trying to avoid the drama—“Fuck The Police” begins with a disclaimer (“By no means do we encourage or condone violence against law officials”) but the moment that hyperactive beat drops, you know you’re about to hear something aggressive. I used to get upset when hip-hop-haters would say rap music ‘sounds violent,’ but honestly, this record does have that homicidal vibe going even before the MCs start rapping. “Y’all need to get shot for nothing / ‘Cause we don’t hold back, we just let go!”

Young Buck “Don’t Need No Help” from Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ – Soundtrack (2005)

Young Buck is comical. Back in ’88, Ice Cube and Ren came up with reasons—or at least justifications—for wanting to shoot cops. (I have to say, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to refer to N.W.A. as ‘reasonable.’) Meanwhile, in the way of reasons, Buck has this to say: “So if they try to lock me up for smoking my weed / The whole force of police is what they gon’ need.” Let me see if I understand your position, Mr. Buck. Rather than simply restrict your marijuana consumption to the privacy of your own home, you’d rather take on the entire New York City Police Department? Makes perfect sense. I do like the low-tech siren effects though. Those are good.

N.W.A. – “Fuck Tha Police” from Straight Outta Compton (Priority, 1988)

The classic. It’s almost twenty years later and I’m still having trouble believing that an FBI official actually took time out of his busy schedule of hunting for dangerous criminals in order to compose and mail a letter about a fricking record.* Me and my friends used to listen to this and “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Boyz N The Hood” ad infinitum. Those of us who were already criminally-inclined continued to be so. Those of us who weren’t already involved in criminal behavior continued to not be involved. It’s like my man Frank Zappa once said. There are more love songs than any other kind; if records could make people do anything, we’d all love each other.

—Mtume ya Salaam

Source: Breath of Life

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Stop Police Brutality 

Three things.

1. In the early Seventies, when Ernest “Dutch” Morial was elected the first black mayor of New Orleans, the infamous NOPD (New Orleans Police Department) went on a killing rampage. We were at the forefront in organizing to stop police brutality. Our efforts culminated in our taking of the mayor’s office. We were there for three or four days. It was a big issue at the time.

2. New Orleans post-Katrina is under heavy, heavy manners, i.e. the major black neighborhoods are militarized zones. We have NOPD, Louisiana State Troopers, and armed National Guard troops patrolling the streets. At Douglas High School, where I work, there was a fight a week or so ago. That evening, the authorities mounted a massive show of force. Military Humvees parked on the median in front of the school. At least fifteen armed security guards standing outside, along with NOPD and a contingent of armed National Guard.

New Orleans is in the grips of a massive rise in murders. Yesterday (Friday, 15 December 2006) two bodies were found in the street: a 17-year-old and a 20-year-old. Need I add they were black?

3. I’m surprised you didn’t include Ice T’s “Cop Killer.” That may not be one of your favorites but it certainly was a major anti-police song.

It’s a bad time right now. The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about is in full effect. Full effect. Maybe we should have included the reggae song, “Police & Thieves” or Max Romeo’s “War In A Babylon”?—Kalamu ya Salaam

P.S. Back in November when I first moved back to the city, one night I was coming from a meeting in a sparsely lit area in the hood. As I turned onto a major street, a cop car came up behind me. A couple of blocks later, he flashed his lights. I pulled over. Same old shit. Driving while black coming from a black neighborhood. There is an anger that black men feel when we are accosted by the police for no reason other than “the same-old reason.” Back in the Sixties, there was a book by two black psychologists called “Black Rage.” I bet they could sell a ton of those books today. And then again, probably not…. We be too mad to read about it.

Fuck the cops. Fuck the pushers. Fuck the thieves. Fuck the corporations. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Source: Breath of Life

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Victims of Police Activity

Abner Louima

Abner Louima, NY -- Aug. 1997: The Haitian immigrant won an $8.75 million lawsuit after his arrest outside a Brooklyn nightclub. While in custody, police officers sodomized the then 30-year-old with a plunger inside the station's bathroom. One officer, Justin Volpe, is still in prison.

Amadou Diallo

Amadou Diallo, NY -- Feb. 1999: Shot to death in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building by undercover officers while the 23-year-old reached for his wallet. The officers fired 41 shots, hitting Diallo 19 times. They were acquitted of all charges.

Danny Reyes

Danny Reyes, NJ -- April 1998: Reyes was of four young New York men pulled over by New Jersey state troopers on their way to basketball camp in North Carolina. According to Reyes, he mistakenly put the car into reverse while talking to the officer. The cops opened fire shooting all four of the men, including Reyes, six times. Although all charges against the officers were thrown out, the case set off a federal investigation into racial profiling on the nation's highway.

Kathryn Johnston

Kathryn Johnson, Atlanta -- Nov. 2006: The 93-year-old grandmother was shot to death in her own home after plain-clothed officers obtained a 'no-knock' warrant and stormed inside her one-story brick home.

Rodney King

Rodney King, LA -- March 1991: A global symbol of police brutality. Officers were caught on tape repeatedly beating King, then 26, with batons; they were later acquitted of charges igniting one of the worst riots in US history.

Sean Bell

Sean Bell, NY-- Nov. 2006: While leaving his bachelor party at a Queens strip club, undercover officers fired more than 50 bullets into Bell's car, killing the 23-year-old and seriously injuring two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield.

Stanley Miller

Stanley Miller, Los Angeles -- June 2004: After stealing a car and leading the police on a high pursuit chase, Miller, a 39-year-old Los Angeles man was beaten by an officer using a metal flashlight. He was hit 11 times after being grounded by a group of officers. He settled with the L.A. City Council for $450,000.

Terrance Shurn

Terrance Shurn, Benton Harbor, Michigan -- June 2003. Shurn, 28, died when he crashed his motorcycle into a building while fleeing police officers. His death sparked riots during which cars and buildings in Benton Harbor were burned. Shurn was reportedly carrying an ounce of marijuana.

Timothy Stansbury

Timothy Stansbury, NY -- January 2004: Stansbury was a 19 year old who worked at McDonald's. He was shot and killed on a Brooklyn rooftop while making his way across several buildings to borrow CDs from a friend who lived a few doors down. He was shot in the chest by police officer Richard S. Neri Jr., who later said it was an accident.

Source: AOL BLACK VOICES

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Straight Outta Compton (Priority, 1988)  /  Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip Hop (Jive, 1989)  /  Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ – Soundtrack (2005)  

posted 17 December 2006

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Panther Baby

A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention

By Jamal Joseph

In the 1960s he exhorted students at Columbia University to burn their college to the ground. Today he’s chair of their School of the Arts film division. Jamal Joseph’s personal odyssey—from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth to the halls of Columbia—is as gripping as it is inspiring. Eddie Joseph was a high school honor student, slated to graduate early and begin college. But this was the late 1960s in Bronx’s black ghetto, and fifteen-year-old Eddie was introduced to the tenets of the Black Panther Party, which was just gaining a national foothold. By sixteen, his devotion to the cause landed him in prison on the infamous Rikers Island—charged with conspiracy as one of the Panther 21 in one of the most emblematic criminal cases of the sixties. When exonerated, Eddie—now called Jamal—became the youngest spokesperson and leader of the Panthers’ New York chapter. He joined the “revolutionary underground,” later landing back in prison. Sentenced to more than twelve years in Leavenworth, he earned three degrees there and found a new calling. He is now chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division—the very school he exhorted students to burn down during one of his most famous speeches as a Panther. In raw, powerful prose, Jamal Joseph helps us understand what it meant to be a soldier inside the militant Black Panther movement.

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 21 March 2012

 

 

 

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