Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Davey D on DJ Firings UPDATED

UPDATED 7/20…longer version

Davey D on the firings of 2 St. Louis DJs last week:

Hip-Hop, The Police and The Media
By Davey D

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.

Although the group went on to do another ‘F–k tha Police’ type song on their second album, the point was clearly made-think twice before you go out and make or play those records. As far as many of the police unions were concerned such incendiary records could actually lead to violence against the police hence it was in their interests to make sure that at the very least these songs were put on the back burner somewhere.

I recall the concern that was raised during the Rodney King riots in April 1992. Disruptions happened up and down the state for two days in various cities including a serious one in San Francisco. During the second days of disruptions I had witnessed a SF police officer chase down an unarmed man hitting him with his bully club. He never caught the guy he pummeled and through all the confusion I saw him turn in my direction and thought he might come after me.

That night I was scheduled to do an on air mix at our radio station KMEL and because I was angry from what I witnessed earlier that day, I was inspired to do something ‘special’. I started off by playing a message someone had left me where they read a heartfelt letter that appeared in the LA Times from a despondent woman who felt like justice would never be done when it came to people being brutalized by police. The letter was read over the instrumental of Gang Starr’s ‘Take It Personal’. The letter combined with the song made a profound statement that left one feeling really pissed at the police. Quite naturally the follow up song was ‘F—K tha Police’.

When I arrived at the station that night our on air jock Kevin Nash had noted that there were reports that the riots in San Francisco had taken a turn for the worse and things were on the verge of really getting out of hand. I told him that I had prepared a special mix for this evening which at the time everyone was gung-ho to hear. As soon as the beat to Gang Starr’s ‘Take It Personal’ hit an eerie silence fell over the room. I remember Nash looking at me with concern asking ‘Hey man do you think we should be doing this? Should we not be calming things down?’ It was too late to stop the mix, but he pulled a couple of carts to put in cue just in case we had to dump the mix and go to something a bit more tame..

Nash knew as well as everyone else in the room from the tone of the letter what the next song was going to be and what it would mean. It’s one thing to bump ‘F—k tha Police’ while driving down the street in your ride with the stereo turned up loud. It’s a whole other thing to play ‘F—k Tha Police’ in the middle of a riot over 69 thousand watts of music power. You’re essentially making not just a bold statement with all the backing of an official established media outlet that happened to be number one in the market at that time. In other words, whether it was intended or not, by playing that song, we had involved ourselves in that evening happenings and if anything crazier jumped off, folks would be factoring in our involvement as both on air deejays and as a radio station. Mind you we were never told we could not play the song, we just knew from all the stink the police and law enforcement had already raised that a line was drawn in the sand and we had crossed it..

When ‘F—k tha Police’ hit the airwaves you could feel the energy…It felt like every ear in the Bay Area was tuned into us. To this day I’m not sure of the reaction if any we may have caused. All I know is that every phone in the station lit up and all of us were too scared to answer any of the lines including the hotline. No one wanted to hear any sort of disapproval or expressed concern about what we were doing that night. We just let the song play as we collectively resigned ourselves to whatever fate would come upon us. At the end of the a statement was made about the police, but as I said earlier they had already laid groundwork to get their message across.. Think twice before you dis…

For folks who wish to go down memory lane for a bit if you recall, around that time in ’92, you had a lot of activity on behalf of law enforcement. First, you had 2Pac catching heat because of the video to the song ‘Trapped’ where he shows a police officer being shot at the end. A few months earlier Pac got beat up by Oakland Police officers who stopped him for jay walking and started making fun of his name. That’s what prompted the song. In any case Pac not only found himself under fire from law enforcement, but also from Vice President Dan Quayle who put him on blast for his anti-police rhetoric.
If that wasn’t enough, Pac also found himself being sued by the family of a slain police officer who stated that the perpetrator was listening to Pac’s music when he shot him..

Also that year Ice T was caught in the crosshairs, when he did a rock song with his group Bodycount called ‘Cop Killer’. To this day people still refer to it as a rap song even though most hip hop fans never heard this distinctly heavy metal tune. Nevertheless, Ice T also caught the ire of law enforcement as well as President Bush sr. His song put into motion a well healed campaign by police agencies which resulted in him being dropped from the Warner Brothers record label and them severing ties with anything that could be classified as ‘gangsta rap’. A lot of people to this day think all that hoop-la was because rappers were talking about ‘bitches’ and ‘hos’ and morally corrupting the youth. The truth of the matter they had pissed off the police and those who we pay to protect and serve via our tax dollars was not trying to have folks talk bad about them on records.

There are lots of other stories that we can point to that show type of swift reaction the police have had toward Hip Hop acts that have spoken out against them. One of the most egregious tales centers around the incidents leading up to the bank robbery conspiracy conviction of the late Bay Area rapper Mac Dre.

Around ’92 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?

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…

posted by @ 8:16 am | 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Davey D on DJ Firings UPDATED”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s OK for artists to make violent threats against each other and against the civilian population. But one threat (or merely an effective criticism) against the police… and they come swarming.

    With regard to these radio stations. I think the complacency of listeners is partly to blame. And the self-serving self-interest of the executives rules out any potential for a challenge to what appears to be blatant bully tactics by the police

    The inane banter on these stations is truly mind numbing. Blah blah blah… hour after hour… blah blah blah. Is it any surprise that the listeners wouldn’t be expected to rally behind the station? Is it any surprise that the station has no interest in standing up for, not only its own rights, but more importantly the rights of its listeners to hear dissenting opinions?

    If it were my station, and the police came up there telling me what to do… I would say no and fuck you (off the air, or course). And if they fucked with me, I would take them to court. Put those lawyers to work! That’s why you make the big bucks… to get lawyers to protect you from the government!

    These radio stations appear to be backing down without a fight. What laws or regulations were violated? If they had any desire to fight that shit… I bet they could easily win in court.


  2. Oliver says:

    how much clout do the police have in enforcing a boycott of a station? I mean, if all the grass roots campaigns haven’t been successful, why would the police be any better at it?

  3. Anonymous says:

    word. it probably wasn’t the threat of boycott. the executive who made the decision is probably just down with the police and doesn’t give a fuck about free speech or his on-air “personalities” ;. and let’s not fool ourselves… corporate radio has no interest in free speech.

    the sword swung both ways. activist pressure got the Tsunami Song people fired. police pressure got these two St. Louis deejays fired. how ironic.


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