Police brutality in the US has been a vice that has generated some considerable amount of contention among the law enforcers and the citizens in the US. This article will strive to examine five rap songs that address the issue. It is understood that protest music and songs against the vice of police misconduct have been a tradition even before the inception of hip-hop. Music has always been a conduit for the expression of dissatisfaction that comes from the public with police brutality and misconduct (Osumare, 2015). That is from J.B. Lenoirs Alabama blues way to Rick James Mr. Policeman in the year 1981. As the music built up to become a major cultural force, the artists were more outspoken and unafraid to speak out on anything concerning the problems that the societies faced. Some of the most common songs for this article review and analysis include the following; Geto Boys Crooked Officer of 1993, 2Pacs Trapped of 1991, LL Cool Js Illegal Search of 1990, O.Cs Constables of 1994 and Main Source- Just A Friendly Game Of Baseball of 1991 (Belle, 2014).
The response of Geto Boys to police brutality was a step further than the song of N.W.A, Fuck the Police this song can be seen as a precursor to the infamous song of Ice T, Cop Killer. Although it uses a language that is intolerant, it brings the idea home. That is because of the high degree of freedom of speech that the citizens of the US enjoy. Some lines of the songs rhymes run this way,
Mr. Officer, crooked officer/ I wanna put your ass in a coffin, sir / Cause you done fucked with niggas like myself for too long / Its time to grab my motherfucking nine and get it on.
The mocking chorus sang by Big Mike ascertains the kind of appropriate response to police violence and racial profiling against the young African American males. Some of the pieces of LL Cool Js Illegal Search of 1990 are like the following,
What the hell are you looking for? / Cant a young man make money anymore? / Wear my jewels and like freak it on the floor / or is it my job to make sure Im poor?
Like the song Geto Boys, the rap song to uses intolerant language to demonstrate the kind of disgust and feeling the musicians want to address.
Although the artist is nowadays popular for his acting career and his celebrity standing, he remains to be an icon of hip-hop. 2Pacs song, Trapped is another masterpiece of the artists expressing their feelings on the issue of police brutality. The song runs like this,
They got me trapped / Can barely walk the city streets/ Without a cop harassing me, searching me/ Then asking my identity/hands up, throw me up against the wall / Didnt do a thing at all.
2Pac addresses the vice rather directly without blurting out his feelings using intolerant language. In his song, Trapped, 2Pac narrates in details the plight of the citizens, especially the blacks, on the hands of police. He provides the perspective to the most sung out theme of police brutality. This song is still relevant from 1991 to date. That is quite unfortunate considering that the relevance could be a pointer that the vice is still dominant. The main source delivers yet another song about the menace of police brutality. With some of the lyrics going,
[Blam] Aww shit, another young brother hit/ I better go over my mans crib and get the pump/cause to the cops, shootin brothers is like playing baseball / And theyre never in a slump
The source uses a rather different approach to address the problem and to express himself. For instance, in the clever track, Large professor incorporates the baseball game as a satirical simile to show and talk about another national sport that is, the harassment of young African American males by the police. The source portrays the fact that the vice has been perpetual to insinuate that it is sort of a sport to a certain clique of people. O.Cs Constables of 1994 also offers another typical tale of the unjustified police brutality with a hook of KRS. A sample of the lyrics goes this way,
They clocking, shocking and knocking me/ Wantin a reason for whocking me/ But aint committin no crime/ Soon as they stopping me O.C. roll if a dolo went solo / Cop car come screechin in my presence is a second yelling Freeze!....
Jay Z is also not left behind, but his 2004 track of 99 problems addresses the vice. In the lyrics, the rapper demonstrates that the main reason for the police stopping blacks is because of the supposed low social status that they have in the society. Jay Z portrays that the fact that a person is young and black, he is treated less of a human by the police.
Considering the songs that have been analyzed above, the analysis is persuading of the fact that rap songs are the most common genres that are used to address the problem of police brutality. One of the reasons is that rap hip hop songs provide the liberty of addressing some of the issues that the society have to battle with, without the limitation of the language used. Most of the lyrics in the rap songs above are written in a bold and rather abusive or intolerant tempo (http://blogs.longwood.edu/turnurejr/2013/04/29/hip-hop-vs-the-police/).
The article titled, Hip-Hop vs. The Police demonstrates the issue most openly. The article purports that the on-going war between the rap music and the police have escalated into war. This was going on for decades. The antagonism and war between the two parties have been demonstrated and expressed through the hip-hop rap songs. The hip-hop genres rely mostly on imagery about war, characterizing the police as an occupying force. However, Tupac Shakur has been able to take a different approach to the issue. Although the artist strives to talk about the problem at hand, he does it in a more peaceful manner.
Stereo Williams also comes up with an article entitled, hip-hops History with Police Brutality: Why We Should Live in the now. Williams brings on board the fact that the contemporary rappers have taken the task of addressing the brutality of police; the question that lingers is whether they are qualified to do so. That is because hip-hop has morphed from being a credible source of information to become a source of hype and venting. However, he gives credit to the contemporary artists that they are still addressing issues in the society but rather in a different way, mixing hip-hop with entertainment. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/hip-hops-history-with-police-brutality-why-we-should-live-in-the-now )
Osumare, H. (2015). Keeping it Real: Race, Class, and Youth Connections Through Hip-Hop in the US & Brazil. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 37, 6-18.
Belle, C. (2014). From Jay-Z to Dead Prez: Examining representations of Black masculinity in mainstream versus underground hip-hop music. Journal of Black Studies, 45(4), 287-300.
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