The Hip Hop Response
To Police Brutality

March 9 1999
by Davey D.

At 7:03 PM -0500 3/8/99, Meg Henson wrote:

>Dear Davey D-
>What IS the hiphop response to Amadou Diallo's murder?
>So far, they've been absent from the demonstrations, absent
>from the media about it-- just absent.
>I don't think it strange, as hip hop is notoriously apolitical-
>but since it's ABOUT them, since men and women-- excuse me
>"niggahs" and "bitches and hos" --  have been working day and night,
>risking their own freedom, to insure that another young black man
>isn't executed by the police--
>you'd think some of those notoriously loudmouth young men-- excuse me-
>"niggahs"-  would show up.
>If they don't EVER show up at the demonstrations for their lives,
>just as they've never shown up ideologically, I guess they'll just be known
>for decimating the global image of upright Africans-- excuse me--
>"niggahs and bitches and hos".
>Oh well.
>Meg Henson

Dear Meg

That's an interesting question you asked.. What has been the hip hop response to Amadou Diallo's murder? First of all you assume that most people even know who he is..A lot of folks don't because it wasn't spoken about in traditional mediums.. I found out about Diallo on the internet, not from the Chronicle, Examiner and Tribune here in Northern Cali.. For the average person Diallo is absent in their primary source of information.. Since it is ommitted, folks have no way of even knowing their missing out.

You claimed that you have not seen any hip hoppers in the media or at demonstrations etc.. Well, the lack of response may be dependent upon where you look.. I saw a bunch of hip hoppers at the Western Regional Conference for Mumia this past weekend..on the UC Berkeley campus.. I also notice that inspite of the couple of thousand folks who showed up, there was no news coverage.. I had the priviledge of sitting in on a standing room only session that was entitled 'Hip Hop Resistance'.. There I saw all kinds of hip hoppers including Prophets Of Rage, Naru, Local 1200, Black Dot Collective and many others. There was another panel discussion that was lead by High school students who specifically spoke to the issue of police brutality and what should be the response to it.. In fact that whole Mumia conference was about young people/hip hoppers becoming political and addressing and responding to the issues of 'police brutality'.

I was with Chuck D of Public Enemy the other night on a panel here in San Francisco. He spoke about the Diallo murder and why it was important to have a media outlet like the Internet to get that information across to people. It was a pretty powerful panel.. Again no news coverage..I know for myself on my Hip Hop radio shows I've raised the issue and brought it to people's attention.. I also saw a bunch of hip hoppers at the Malcolm To Mumia Rally at Oakland's Union Hall two weeks ago..Over 800 people showed up..It was an evening of spoken word and hip hop.. everyone from DJ Fuze of Digital Underground to Hobo Junction to the Local 1200 djs to Bored Stiff and Exile Society showed up and Diallo was talked about..Again no news coverage..although press releases were sent out.. That's how I found out.

The following weekend on February 27th.. I had the priviledge of judging a Freestyle Battle that took place at Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown's home.. It was put togther by a serious hip hopper Iesha Bilal and the staff from her Edutainment Department here in Oakland.. What? You guys don't have an Edutainment Department??? Iesha and her family used to run the Nu Upper Room which frequently housed artists ranging from KRS-One to De La Soul to The Last Poets. Before each performance they would hold a question and answer section where pertinent issues of the day were always spoken on. Her brother who was one of the judges is Mohammed Bilal of the hip hop group Midnight Voices.He too is extremely political and up on this issue.. In any case there were over 600 kids from 'the hood' kicking it at Mayor Brown's place..The freestyle battle was proceeded by a talent show which featured spoken word. I heard a couple of the young high school aged rappers bring up the issue of police brutatilty and Diallo among other victims..One of the young rappers who happened to win the battle, appeared on my talk show the following day to speak on the issue of police brutatility. Again Diallo was raised.

Last week there was a panel discussion and show scheduled at the Berkeley Community Theater. It was to feature Ras Kass, KRS-One, Defari and several others.. The date got pushed back to March 28th.. There is no doubt that the Diallo as well as the Tyesh Miller murder in Riverside would've been spoken about..

Today as I write this.. I will be going to Log Cabin Ranch which is a juvenille facility to speak to the youth about this and other 'political issues'.. many of these young men are into hip hop and in fact several have participated in Poetry Slams.. Their assignment is to read the article I penned called 'The Hip Hop Criminal'.. When I arrive we will be having a Town Hall type meeting about that topic and all the issues surrounding it which no doubt will include Diallo and police brutality..

In the backdrop of all this I have all sorts of hip hoppers ringing my phone off the hook wanting to speak on this and do something about it.. My boy Adisa The Bishop of Hip Hop has called me every week to see if I can find a space on my once a week one hour talk show to speak out and raise these issues.. My only regret is I don't have the airtime to adequately address the issue and accomodate him..The lack of community airtime resulted in the ACLU purchasing airtime to help raise the issue of police brutality.. They like Adisa have been hitting me up every week to help get the word out.. My boy Vinnie of Naughty By Nature had called me and then got hooked up with the ACLU to be a spokesperson..He volunterred his time and has been extremely outspoken on the issues of police brutality.

You have 3rd Eye Movement in SF headed by Van Jones.. They are an excellent response unit to police brutality. They got nothing but hip hop heads. In fact hip hop and spoken word is their main way of getting all this information across to their peers.Yes the frequently talk about Diallo. You have Boots from the Coup who was on one of my shows not too long ago raising this whole issue of police brutality and Diallo. You have my girl Dominique DiPrima and her partner Fernado from KBBT 92.3 The Beat in LA who I'm almost sure have raised this issue.. And yes they are indeed hip hoppers..They probably had a couple of other rappers on their shows when they spoke on this issue.

The question becomes who is presenting information and how is it being laid out? I can't speak for New York, but here in Northern Cali, the story surrounding Diallo was barely covered. As I mentioned earlier, I first found out about it on the internet and only because I happen to be on several political listserve groups..Afterwards I took it upon myself to try and spread the word as did numerous other people. Most of these events and activities and expressions I mentioned from Hip Hoppers don't get covered in the news media. Certainly you aren't that naive to expect that they would..The other thing to keep in mind is that as tragic as the Diallo situation was..You have all sorts of police brutality incidents being raised in people's respective backyards..

In LA it's about the young woman shot 12 times while sleeping in her car.. Here in San Francisco a lot of attention has centered around the young lady shot in the back of the head while sitting in a car as a passenger. In Oakland, a great deal of concern has surfaced because the new Mayor-Jerry Brown wants to fire the Black Police Chief who has suceeded in reducing crime and police brutality. The specualtion is that he wants to send a dangerous signal that it's open season on Black folks in Oakland by getting rid of the chief.. Every city has their police concerns..Most folks have consolidated their efforts under the umbrella of Mumia because it allows all these related issues ranging from the prison industrial complex to ploice bruatlity to be addressed.. They're all connected. So please just don't think this fight is about saving one man's life.. It's about changing a system and activating minds..

From the tone of your letter I suspect that you're wondering why you haven't heard from Puffy and Master P and Jay-Z and others? Perhaps they have spoken out. I don't expect the local news media to tell me that they did.. It's your job as well as mine to make sure who ever is reporting the news and writing articles reach out and put a mic in front of these people's faces and ask the right questions.. For example, if you're in New York.. and you're listening to Hot 97, ask the dj when he does his next interview why he didn't ask for an artist's opinion on Diallo and other police brutality victims..

The other thing is..did you and other concerned individuals reach out and invite these high profile rap artists to these events and demonstrations? I can honestly say, I didn't.. Perhaps some would've showed up if I had..In that regards we can all do better jobs reaching out..It takes a a couple of phone calls and a few well placed letters..and persistence..It was these type of actions that got me involved.. Don't get mad at a 'loud mouth' rapper for not being at a demonstration you didn't invite him to..Keep in mind they may be involved in other activities..For example, about a month ago 2-3 thousand people showed up at Oakland City Hall for a Mumia Concert and Rally.. There were all sorts of hip hop groups performing. Redman and Method man were in town.. Now I personally think they should've been at the Mumia Rally as opposed to the record store signing autographs.. I don't expect an East Coast based Method man and Redman to know about a local demonstration..but I do expect their local handlers and record reps to know.. so I step to them first and ask them why they didn't bring them down to the rally.

Now my personal opinion is this.. I'm more interested in highlighting and making heroes out of those who do the work and do show up. I'm not gonna spend my time bashing Jay-Z for not holding a press conference on Diallo.. I'm gonna give big props and all my attention to an Exile Society and Bored Stiff or Black Dot Collective for speaking up.. Lets face it this country is very apolitical.. It's no different within hip hop. There are gonna be heads who speak out and those who remain silent.. It all comes down to who you chose to focus your attention on.. In closing, my suggestion to you and others is to jam up the media for not talking about these issues.. Jam them up for not making enough time. Remember he who controls the flow of information sets the tone for the rest of the world..

written by Davey D
c 1999

Send comments, questions and concerns to
The FNV Newsletter
written by Davey D
All Rights Reserved

Go Back To Hip Hop News Directory

Go Back To Davey D Homepage

[home] [chat] [conferencing] [updates] [what it is]
[politics] [contests] [opinion] [links/photos] [media]

this site is produced by Davey D in association with eLine Productions