Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cuz it's 187 on an Undercover Cop...

Rap has been under the fire of different controversies for seemingly as long it has been around as an art form. Whether it's the language, misogyny, drugs, or the portrayal of violence, many a mix-tapes have been confiscated and destroyed by protective parents. The most serious of these complaints stem form the explicit violence aimed towards cops and authoritative figures.

N.W.A.'s notorious hit and all the criticism that follows, seem self explanatory solely from reading the title. Ice Cube proclaims the reasoning behind his hatred in the first verse,

"Fuck tha police
Comin straight from the underground
Young nigga got it bad cuz I'm brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority"

He lays the blame of his resentment squarely on the shoulders of discriminatory cops, most notably the LAPD. At the time of the song's release,a time of unrest in the streets, it would be hard to argue that there is no truth in his lyrics, especially after the Rodney King incident a few years later. Ice Cube uses this discrimination as a call to arms and a cause for just retaliation.

"A young nigga on a warpath
And when I'm finished, it's gonna be a bloodbath
Of cops, dyin in LA"

MC Ren delves into more detail on how he will use his skill set.

"I'm a sniper with a hell of a scope
Takin out a cop or two, they can't cope with me"

The detailed depiction of violence and direct reference to the murder of cops generated heavy controversy from the get go. Ruthless Records, NWA's label, even received letters of displeasure from government agencies such as the secret service and FBI. It is understood that members of NWA themselves would likely not begin roaming the streets of LA capping cops, but the effect of such lyrics on others cannot go without thought. NWA created this song to bring police brutality and discrimination to new light, not as a literal call to arms. They used the depictions of explicit violence towards cops as a means of generating controversy, and thus generating notoriety and widespread knowledge of the song. Ironically, it's seems as if the point of their use of violence towards cops, was to bring about more knowledge of the cops violence towards them.

Nas depicts a more viseral scene in his timeless "NY State of Mind" as he is "Reminiscing about the last time the task Force flipped"

"Once they caught us off guard, the Mac-10 was in the grass and
I ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin
Pick the Mac up, told brothers, "Back up," the Mac spit
Lead was hittin niggaz one ran, I made him backflip
Heard a few chicks scream my arm shook, couldn't look"

Is this glorification of cop violence simply another tale to use in a braggadocio? Is it a vehicle to shine light on social problems? Or can the very real social roots cause other to rise up and cause very real violence.


  1. I think you bring up an interesting point about the motif of violence against cops. What i find interesting the is obsession in rap to project authenticity, which is why I find a large disconnect in these songs. While it's clear that many of these artists would never do what they're threatening to do, why they continue to exaggerate their confrontations with law enforcement? Surely there are more sensible ways to shine light upon the plight of urban youth and their mistreatment under the hands of law enforcement.

  2. Yes, there are likely many more sensible, parent-friendly ways to spread the word, but these lack the controversy that spark the nation into talking about them. News stations aren't going to have segments on rap videos that ask politely for an end to urban plight, but instead focus on the ones that aesthetically and vividly portray the plight. If that means rapping about pushing drugs and threating cops, then it must be done.


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