Last week two St Louis deejays from radio station KATZ (100.3 FM), were suspended after local police deemed their on air remarks inappropriate and called for a boycott of the Clear Channel owned station known as ‘The Beat’. For some this may seem like an unusual story, but in fact there’s a long history of police being able to use their influence and sometimes the law to silence those who wish to speak out against them especially within Hip Hop.
The most glaring example is what happened to NWA after they released the song ‘F–K Tha Police’. The popularity of the song resulted in numerous police departments all over the country stepping to concert venue owners and insisting that contracts be drawn up prohibiting the group from performing the song. In one infamous scenario in Detroit, the group tried to do the song and were bum-rushed by 20 undercover cops.
The story leading up to the bank robbery conspiracy conviction of the late Mac Dre is also glaring. About 15 years ago, scores of young Black men in Mac Dre’s Vallejo neighborhood called the Crest were being rounded up and questioned after a series of bank robberies. The police accused a loosely knit group who resided in Dre’s neighborhood called the Romper Room Crew. Dre responded by releasing a song called ‘Punk Police’ which smashed on VPD for their faulty moves. He gave props to the Romper Room cats and called out an overzealous police sergeant by name. The rest they say is history.
A few weeks after the song was released Dre found himself being monitored by both VPD and the FBI. When he made a road trip to Fresno, California, a passenger he was rolling with, told police that him and Dre had planned to rob a bank-a charge Dre had vehemently denied to his recent death. That accusation coupled with the lyrics in Dre’s song helped get him convicted for conspiracy to rob a bank. He served 5 years.
Two weeks after Dre’s conviction he called into Bay Area radio station KMEL from prison to discuss his situation. He let listeners know he was set up by a police informant. The following day law enforcement showed up at the station in mass and held a closed door meeting with station managers and basically put the fear of God in them. The result was we were not to diss the police on air or take anymore phone calls from prisoners especially Mac Dre.
Dre’s scenario was the start of the whole Hip Hop Police thing which made headlines a couple of years ago. Here in the Bay Area police over the years used their influence to determine what acts could and could not appear at certain concerts or even the type of music one could play at a night club. Those who decided to oppose any police department recommendations or ordinances would find their entertainment permits pulled by these various police agencies and over the top policing of their venue with patrons and even artists being harassed. For years KMEL would have to consult with local police to see if it was ok to have certain rap acts perform at their Summer Jam concert. The people who were most penalized were local rap acts who the police had erroneously determined had gang affiliations (meaning they lived in neighborhoods the police considered dangerous).
For those who think this is far fetched look at the type of steps that have been taken by police unions around the country that have called for the boycott of entertainers who have called for a new trial for political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal who is now on death row in Pennsylvania accused of killing a police officer.
Over the years we’ve heard stories of popular Hip Hop radio deejays and radio stations either being warned or stepped to by the police with the goal of making sure heated rhetoric was toned down and particular songs not played on air…
Folks in Los Angeles may recount a colorful incident that took place with comedian Steve Harvey when he was doing morning drive on KKBT. There was an incident a few years back when an up and coming actor was attending a Halloween Party. He was dressed as a cop and was outside the house looking inside the window when LAPD officers rolled up on him and shot him under the pretense that they thought he was gonna shoot them with his fake gun. Party goers were horrified and angry as was Steve Harvey who promptly got on the air the next morning and blasted the police a new one for their mistake.
The next day after then LA Police Chief Bernard Parks got at Harvey, he went on the air the very next day and apologized for his outburst and said it wasn’t his job to be a police critic and basically toned down any anti-police rhetoric all the way up to the time he left-which was earlier this year.
Another case which falls in the same vein was the overwhelming silence that took place after the Amadu Diallo trial where the cops accused of shooting him were released. If you recall, popular radio station Hot 97 which has made a career promoting beefs, avoided that beef like the plague and never opened up their phone lines or even acknowledged the verdict or sentiments felt by many of its Black and Brown listeners to what was one of the NYC’s most watched trials. Go figure that…
Adding insult to injury was stations like Hot 97 and other all over the country hardly playing the anti-police Brutality collab song put together by Mos Def and Talib Kweli called ‘Hip Hop for Respect’. I want everyone to peep out this article that outlines the group’s initial response and plans of action after the Diallo acquittals and ask yourself the following questions:
1-Why did my favorite radio station for Hip Hop and R&B not show their efforts any love?
2-Why were they not nominated for an NAACP image award for their tireless efforts that year?
Here’s the link to the article…
Also peep out this other article about the turbulent relationship between Hip Hop and the police.
As you read the article below, keep in mind that while these two deejays got suspended after threats of a police boycott, you still have stations where the N word and other racial and sexist epithets are used day and day out. You also have the recent case where a Clear Channel station in San Francisco hired a racist producer who penned a parody song for Emmis’ Hot 97 where he made fun of Tsunami victims by calling them ‘Chinks’ and ‘Gooks’.
So Clear Channel will suspend two jocks for making inappropriate remarks about the police the week of a funeral for a slain officer, yet that same company will go out and hire a known racist who made fun of 220 thousand innocent victims to a horrible tragedy. So where do we draw the line as to what’s appropriate and what isn’t?
So the message is clear, our tax dollars which support the public airwaves LICENSED to the Clear Channels of the world can be used to support over the top racist behavior, but those same tax dollars will not tolerate anything said against the police who by the way we pay with our tax dollars Something to think about…
DAVEY D is a hip hop historian, deejay and community organizer. Visit his excellent website at: http://www.daveyd.com/