October 29 2001
All I can say is we are living in some crazy times...I saw this OP/ED
piece in USA Today and I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. We are
now somehow trying to connect Hip Hop with the Beltway Sniper. On any
normal day I would simply shrug it off as pure ignorance and really
not trip... But unfortunately while many of us were deeply engaged in
the last year's Nas vs Jay-Z battle, our elected officials under
pressure from a scared and reactionary public, hastily passed a 362
page document called the Patriot Act. Many within Congress had noted
that they did not even have a chance to fully read and study the bill.
However, many felt compelled to pass this bill or be seen as
unpatriotic... They feared loudmouths like Bill O'Reilly or Rush
Limbaugh going on TV and radio, dissing them and leading a revolt
against them for standing agaisnt the bill.
Within the provisions of that law, Law enforcement now has broad
sweeping powers to do all types of secretive surveillance on US
Citizens who they think may be a threat to American society. Please
read some of these articles...
This is couple with the fact that police departments all over the
country have been collecting and now have very detailed dossiers of
rap artists and who they're affiliated with. From New York City which
actually has a 'rap task force' to Oakland to Mountainview California
where the police chief sits down and determines what RAP acts are
allowed and not allowed to perform at a Summer Jam bill.. Several
years ago their police department felt that acts like Tribe Called
Quest and even Run DMC would be over the top. All but two or three
local rap acts were prohibited from ever being on stage at the
Shoreline venue Cats out here in the Bay know what I'm speaking
on...But what I speak about is happening everywhere now...
A few years ago I wrote a lengthy article about police departments
listening to rap records and then going out and using song lyrics as
evidence to arrest cats.. http://www.daveyd.com/whyrapispowerart.html
another good article related to this is
Over the past couple of years we have seen Senators trying to propose
a ban on the sale of certain types of rap records.. We seen the NYPD
declare one of Hip Hop's most peaceful organizations The Universal
Zulu Nation a gang and with that classification went out and arrested
34 members for tutoring students in a park in Staten Island. The
charge levied against them was more 20 people had gathered in a public
park without a permit..The charges were eventually dismissed, but the
cats had to go on trial.
Over the past year we've seen attempts made to malign rap by making a
connection to the American Taliban John Walker and him being
influenced by visiting Hip Hop websites.. We heard stories about
suicide bombers reciting 2Pac lyrics before committing their acts. In
November of last year we had FBI officials in NY jamming up activists
and asking questions about Hip Hop activist here in San Francisco..
This was supported by an open letter written by Van Jones of the Ella
Baker Center who let us know how to proceed if stopped and questioned.
Now we have folks somehow trying to connect Hip Hop to the Beltway
Sniper.. On the same accord we never have folks giving Hip Hop credit
for things things that people have cited in their acts of heroism i.e.
Long before the horrors of Flight 93 and the passengers yelling 'Lets
Roll' before fighting back the hijackers, rappers Doug Lazy out of
Washington DC and Chill EB out of Concord Californina had songs where
they used that phrase both in song and title. Ironically Chill EB a
former military man was known for his socially conscious and
politically laced songs.. In repsonse to the horric deaths caused by
the Beltway snipers you have rap artists in Philly and Maryland
banning together to raise funds. I don't wanna digress, but I thought
I'd toss that in so we can be reminded that we actually do a lot of
good things.. In any case peep this article.. and let me know what
Remember Not Being Political is Political..
So we better step it up and get involved before its too late..
Peace for now
Here's the USA Today article...
HIP HOP'S GRIM UNDERTONES
by Mark Goldblatt
The mainstream media are slowly catching up with the buzz on hip-hop
Web sites about a possible connection between John Allen Muhammad,
indicted in the Washington-area sniper case, and a virulently racist
black group called the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths, to
which several of today's most popular rap acts have acknowledged
The Associated Press has reported that notes left at two shooting
scenes contain language and symbols associated with the Five
Percenters, who splintered off from the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1964
and consider themselves a culture, not a faith. Muhammad was once a
NOI member, but the FBI (news - web sites) declined to comment on any
connection between the sniper's notes and the Five Percenters, whose
leaders also did not comment. If the connection is proved true,
however, the repercussions will be felt throughout an element of the
hip-hop community that already is rife with suspicion and animosity
toward white society.
The group's philosophy rejects most accepted authority and history.
It teaches that 85% of people are ignorant followers and another 10%
try to lead those ignorant masses to enrich themselves. The
enlightened Five Percent who remain have true knowledge and must wage
war against the 10% for control. The details of what the Five
Percenters believe and how they act on those beliefs are disputed.
Some in law enforcement deem the group a racist gang. South
Carolina's prison system has rated all Five Percenter prisoners
Black male Five Percenters are ''Gods'' and will refer to themselves
as God. One letter from the sniper contained the demand that police
call the author ''God'' and a stock Five Percenter phrase, ''word is
bond,'' along with five stars, also used by the group. A tarot card
left at another shooting stated, ''I am God.''
As the Anti-Defamation League and a few scholars have noted, Five
Percenter theory stands behind the apocalyptic visions of race war
expressed in the rap music of some of the more influential hip-hop
performers. In Goin Bananas, Da Lench Mob raps: ''We're having
thoughts of overthrowing the government . . . it's open season on
crackers, you know; the morgue will be full of Caucasian John Does .
. . oh my god, Allah, have mercy; I'm killing them devils because
they're not worthy to walk the earth with the original black man . .
. I won't rest until they're all dead.''
Sunz of Man, an offshoot group of the wildly popular Wu-Tang Clan,
repeats similar ideas in the song Can I See You: ''Camouflaged for the
mission; use your third eye to see the Israelite; detect those who
tell lies . . . carry .45s in these last days and times . . . I
was born to survive a soldier, and I strive, with a duty to civilize
these 85s . . . an original black man with a plan to run these
devils off our . . . land; now listen real close while I explain
A rap by the group Brand Nubian is even less subtle: ''It's all about
brothers rising up, wising up, sizing up a situation, but getting fit
within the Nation . . . I sing sounds of math on behalf of the Gods
and the Earths . . . now face your maker and take your last breath;
the time is half past death.''
These acts' appeal is largely limited to hard-core hip-hop fans, but
even artists who've crossed over to mainstream audiences and whose
videos turn up regularly on MTV, such as rappers Busta Rhymes, Rakim
and Nas, have flirted with Five Percenter concepts. What's unnerving
is that these acts are not only among the most critically acclaimed
hip-hop stars, but they are acclaimed precisely because they're
considered the most politically sophisticated rappers.
The question, of course, isn't whether hip-hop performers have a
constitutional right to express crazy, or even racially incendiary,
ideas. Clearly, they do. The question is to what degree their fans
are taking them seriously as they try literally to drum an
us-against-them mind-set into young black people.
Pubic Enemy's Chuck D., the first overtly political rapper, once
called hip-hop ''the black CNN.'' It will be a terrible development if
it turns out that John Allen Muhammad was tuning in for the news.
Mark Goldblatt, the author of Africa Speaks, a satire of hip-hop
culture, lives in New York
The FNV Newsletter c 2002
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