How rap music came to be filled with messages that encourage young black men to break the law, thus fueling the growth of the prison-industrial complex
A white BMW 7 Series crosses a bridge from the sexy, cosmopolitan part of Miami, as seen in many a BangBros film (I would imagine), to the squalid, destitute part of the city that could double for Haiti, if there’s ever a Wyclef Jean biopic.
In a voiceover, in the video for “Hustlin’,” his first hit song, Rawse welcomes us to his Miami, the real Miami, where people . . . hustle.
In the video, Rawse is shown making business deals with Hispanic people, presumably not for the importation of “authentic” tortillas, to cater to the hipster demographic in a neighboring, gentrifying part of the city.
In the song itself, meanwhile, we’re informed that Rawse knows Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian dictator, not to be confused with the host of the podcast Drink Champs, and that, like Atlantic Records, he’s into distribution.
I just assumed he really was a drug dealer.
What sense would it make for a label to promote a rapper merely pretending to be a drug dealer?
It’s not unheard of for people who used to be drug dealers to become rappers and make songs about how they used to sell drugs.
Jay Z’s whole career is built on this.
In the song “Dead Presidents,” he claimed he was still spending money from 1988. That song came out in 1996. Think about how much money a black man would have to make, in order to still be spending it eight years later.
In “99 Problems,” he recounts the story of when he was pulled over for driving while black, somewhere down south. He just so happened to be transporting kilos of cocaine, but that’s neither here nor there. Just because a black man is in the wrong doesn’t mean he doesn’t have rights.
The cop tried to search the car, but Jay Z wouldn’t let him. The drugs were in the trunk, and according to Jay Z, the cops can’t go in your trunk if you’ve got it locked using the mechanism beneath the front seat, for when you need to let a valet or ne’er do well relative drive your car.
The cop threatened to call a K-9 unit, which definitely would have detected the bricks in the trunk, but then his radio went off — he had to attend to another issue, elsewhere. Jay Z had 99 problems, but a bitch wasn’t one of them.
An actual lawyer analyzed the song’s lyrics, a while back, and apparently the bit about the trunk being locked isn’t any more true than the idea that an undercover cop — one pretending to be a hoo-er, let’s say — has to tell you if you ask if she’s a cop.
(Sidebar: In some cities, undercover cops are allowed to have sex with prostitutes as part of a sting operation. I would consider switching careers, but with my luck, they’d get rid of this rule as soon as I graduated from the academy.)
It is true, though, that they’re supposed to have probable cause. If you can prove in a court of law that they searched your car without probable cause, you can get the case tossed out of court on its ear.
But what’s the likelihood, really, that a drug dealer can argue his way out of a conviction based on a technicality? Most of these cases don’t even go to trial. They offer you a plea deal, and if you don’t take it it’s subtly implied that you’ll end up doing football numbers.
Your best bet might be to step on the gas. In some places, like my native St. Louis, cops aren’t allowed to chase you, because they ran over too many eight-year-olds back when you could easily steal a Chrysler product by jamming a screwdriver in the ignition.
If there’s passengers in the car, and the cop can’t identify them, they can bail from the car while it’s in motion and make a run for it. The real Rick Ross did that once, back in the ’80s, and got away with it. 5–0 had no idea what he looked like, because he kept such a low profile.
It turns out, Rawse wasn’t any more of a drug dealer than I am.
I sold some drugs once, I’ll have you know. (Unless, that is, you’re law enforcement, in which case I’m just making this up to make myself look cool on the Internets.)
When I was in high school, I was guilt-tripped into buying a bag of marijuana at a $5 discount from a guy who didn’t have enough money to catch the bus home from work.
The next day, when I got home from school, my mom told me I had a message on the phone. It was the same kid, asking if he could buy the weed back — for the same price I bought it for, natch.
My mom either didn’t listen to the message in its entirety or didn’t give a shit. She may not have been surprised that I was involved in such activity. I had 99 problems, and parenting wasn’t one of them.
Can Rawse claim to have ever sold drugs? It isn’t clear.
In 2008, the Smoking Gun turned up pics of him in a cop uniform, looking like a shedload of bread stuffed into a bag, and documents from his time as a corrections officer in Florida in the mid ‘90s.
One of the documents was something they made him sign stating that he’d be willing to shoot someone in the back if they tried climbing over the fence.
Female COs are known to do the nasty with inmates, as discussed in Mike Tyson’s excellent memoir Undisputed Truth, but if you’re a guy it just means that you have to look at a lot of other guys’ peens, and inside their assholes.
And you might get poo flung at you, like at the zoo.
A few weeks later, in an attempt to shore up his street cred, Rawse had his weed carriers put a shoe on DJ Vlad at the legendarily violence-prone Ozone Awards. Vlad had mentioned Rawse being an ex-cop in one of his videos.
Vlad sued Rawse for $2 million, and, years later, settled for $300,000, which is still a hefty payday for a blogger. To this day, he doesn’t run any more stories on Rawse. He has done interviews with the real Rick Ross, who’s referred to as Freeway Ricky.
Rawse was also implicated in the death of Sam Ferguson, an editor with Don Diva magazine, which is big in prisons. The magazine had run a story on Rawse’s law enforcement past. Ferguson hailed from the same Miami ghetto as Rawse, and Rawse supposedly had it out for him because of the story.
Ferguson died in a car wreck on the highway after some guys in another car opened fire on him while he was driving. His case has yet to be solved. The police are generally loath to investigate themselves.
In 2009, 50 Cent started a beef with Rawse, supposedly because Rawse didn’t like the way Fiddy looked at him at the BET Awards, which I want to be true regardless of whether or not it really is (Fiddy says it isn’t), because it’s just precious.
Fiddy may have just needed the publicity. This was two years after his 9/11 sales battle with Kanye West, which he lost. He was having a hard time getting Interscope Records to grant him a release date for his next album.
The beef brought the absolute best out of Fiddy, including the following:
• The song “Officer Ricky,” arguably the last good 50 Cent song — and one of the few good ones in general, as far as I’m concerned
• A video of a date Fiddy took Rawse’s baby’s mother on, in which he bought her a fur coat and implied that he’d made sweet, passionate love to her
• A picture of Rawse’s son at Floyd Mayweather’s house, with Fiddy, Floyd and the kid striking a pose I termed the “dry Eiffel Tower”
• Leaking another one of Rawse’s baby’s mother’s sex tapes, which is still available on many tube sites to this day
Throughout this beef, Rawse was hamstrung in his ability to respond to Fiddy the way he would have responded to an amateur journalist.
He couldn’t have his weed carriers pop a cap in Fiddy’s ass, because Fiddy is constantly surrounded by the Hip-Hop Police, due to his beef with Ja Rule and his connection to Jam Master Jay, who was murdered by drug dealers.
And he couldn’t bring in assassins from the Medellin Cartel, because Manuel Noriega doesn’t even know Rawse, let alone owe him a hundred favors.
The real Rick Ross was a high school tennis player and low-level car thief who grew to become, as he was once described in a newspaper article, the Walmart of cocaine.
In the 1980s, he’s alleged to have sold billions (with a b) of dollars worth of cocaine, making a profit of upwards of a billion dollars in profit, in today’s money.
As a youth tennis player, he studied under Venus and Serena Williams’ father, before there was such a thing as Venus and Serena Williams, and who knows. Under a different set of circumstances, he might have been just as successful, if not as muscular.
Alas, he wasn’t able to play in college, because he’d somehow managed to make it through high school without learning how to read. And he must not have been good enough to go pro, which wouldn’t have required him to know how to read.
Instead he took an auto upholstery class at an area trade school. His teacher, he found out, sniffed blow and also sold a little on the side to supplement his income. He probably didn’t make much money, since he was both selling and using it.
I believe it was Biggie Smalls, in the “10 Crack Commandments,” who said that one should never get high on his own supply.
Ross had a beat up ‘60s-era Impala that he was trying to rehab, using his new auto upholstery skills, but he needed money for parts. He started buying small quantities of cocaine from his teacher and selling it.
Because he lived in an area with, shall we say, a lot of potential customers, it wasn’t long before he was selling more coke than his teacher. He turned out to be something of a coke-dealing genius, despite his illiteracy.
He’d sell kilos of coke for significantly less than anyone else in the area, to drive volume, and then use the profit to buy even more coke. He supplied coke to both the Crips and the Bloods, neither of which would pop a cap in his ass, because they needed that coke.
The gangs expanded their distribution to such improbable locales as Little Rock, AR, as depicted in a ’90s HBO documentary, which led to increased sales volume for Ross. Ironically, the Walmart of cocaine had operations not far from the headquarters of the Walmart of wage slavery.
If someone ripped him off, which is bound to happen when you’re dealing with criminals, let alone people on drugs, rather than popping a cap in the guy’s ass, Ross would just let that shit slide and stop fuxxing with him. Shooting someone would only serve to attract police attention, which is bad for sales.
Ross kept such a low profile that, for most of his ‘80s-era reign as the Walmart of cocaine, 5–0 had no idea who he was. He dressed modestly, and he purposely rode around in beat up, older cars. His beard isn’t nearly as luxurious as Rawse’s, even though I’m pretty sure there’s a solution for that.
He avoided buying expensive things in part because he didn’t want his mom, whom he still lived with, to know he was dealing drugs. He’d have his friends, who wore flashy clothes and spent a lot of money, explain to girls that he was extravagantly wealthy despite his looks so they’d have sex with him.
Through a “connect,” he started buying coke from a Nicaraguan exile, Oscar Danilo Blandon, who could supply kilos of the drug for significantly less than Ross could find anywhere else. Eventually, Ross began dealing with Blandon directly, driving the price even lower.
Unbeknownst to Ross, Blandon was taking the money he made from selling cocaine and using it to fund the Contras, a US-backed terrorist group in his native Nicaragua.
For most of the 20th century, Nicaragua was ruled by the Somoza regime, in which Blandon was a high-ranking official. In 1979, Anastasio Somoza was overthrown by socialists, the Sandinistas. The Contras formed in opposition to the Sandinistas.
(Sidebar: In the mid ’80s, Bernie Sanders appeared on stage at a Sandinista rally in Nicaragua, where the crowd chanted death to America. The Republicans planned to use this against him if he became the Democratic nominee. He still would have won.)
Concurrent with Blandon selling cocaine to fund the Contras, officials in the Reagan administration illegally sold weapons to Iran, for the same purpose. The resulting scandal became known as the Iran-Contra affair.
It was later revealed by journalist Gary Webb, in a series of articles called Dark Alliance, that Blandon’s various fundraising activities were facilitated by the CIA, allowing him to freely smuggle huge quantities of drugs into the US.
In the early ’90s, Blandon was busted by the DEA. Rather than burying him underneath the jail, given the size of his operation, they let him off with a slap on the wrist, then gave him a job making $42,000 a year and ordered the INS to give him a green card despite his criminal record.
Blandon then proceeded to set up the real Rick Ross. He called Ross and offered to sell him 100 kilos of cocaine. At this point, Ross was supposedly done dealing drugs. He just needed one last score, and then he could go legit.
You can probably already tell where this is headed.
Because this was Ross’ third felony offense, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, under California’s controversial three-strikes-you’re-out law.
In prison, one of his fellow inmates taught him to read, using flash cards, and he ended up getting his sentence reduced to 20 years by arguing that this was really only his second strike, because his first two were part of the same drug deal. He was paroled in 2009.
In 2010, the real Rick Ross sued the fake Rick Ross for using his name and failing to put some respek on it.
Rawse, perplexingly, tried to claim that his nom de rap was an old nickname from when he used to play football (he played in high school and one year of college ball for some obscure HBCU), a bastardization of “big boss,” possibly by an Asian classmate.
But obviously Rawse got “Rick Ross” from the famous drug dealer. Rappers back in the ’90s, when Rawse started rapping, used to name themselves after famous criminals. Biggie Smalls was Frank White. Nas was Nas Escobar. The entire Wu had mafia aliases, known collectively as the Wu Gambinos.
50 Cent took his name from a kid who used to go around robbing people in New York back in the mid ’80s.
The real 50 Cent is pictured on the back cover of Eric B and Rakim’s Paid in Full, along with Freddie Foxxx, Kool G Rap and a guy named Killer Ben (as mentioned on “What’s on Your Mind?”), whom Biggie had killed back in the mid ’90s, according to a book I once read about the Hip-Hop Police.
Like Omar in the Wire, the real 50 Cent was eventually killed by a kid. (Uh, spoiler alert.)
In the joint, the kid, Julio Acevedo, became a jailhouse lawyer and got himself out of prison by arguing that he had no choice but to kill the real 50 Cent, because drug dealers had kidnapped his little brother and threatened to kill the little brother if Acevedo didn’t kill the real 50 Cent.
Years later, a drunk Acevedo killed a Hasidic Jewish man, his pregnant wife and their baby in a hit-and-run accident and was sentenced to 25 to life.
The real Rick Ross wasn’t as effective in arguing his case against Rawse. In 2012, a judge dismissed the case, citing the First Amendment. He also ordered the real Rick Ross to pay the fake Rick Ross’ court fees.
The term Sandinista will be familiar to brothers of a certain age as the name of an album by the Clash.
Released in late 1980, a few days after John Lennon died, Sandinista! was the followup to London Calling. Whereas London Calling had been a double album, Sandinista! was a triple album, with six songs on each side of three vinyl LPs.
London Calling sometimes ranks highly on lists of the best albums of the ’80s even though it was released in 1979. It wasn’t available here in the US until early 1980. London Calling topped the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop poll for the year 1980, while Sandinista! topped the same poll for 1981.
Sandinista! was of course named for the democratic socialist political party that overthrew Anastasio Somoza in 1979. Its catalog number was FSLN1, which is an acronym for the group’s full name in Spanish, Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional.
The Clash gave up some of their royalties from the album so that it could be priced similar to a single LP, either because they were concerned for their fans’ financial well-being or because they feared no one would buy it if it cost too much. Probably a little bit of both.
Years later, those terriple two-disc rap albums from the late ‘90s-early ’00s were similarly discounted, or else they would have cost upwards of $40, i.e. the price of two CDs back then if they weren’t on sale.
Two-disc sets count double for RIAA certification, which is how a lot of rap albums went diamond (e.g. OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below), but how many people ever paid more than like $20 for one of them? Arguably, each set should only count as one and a half albums sold.
The third single released from Sandinista!, “The Magnificent Seven,” was a rap song inspired by early rap singles by the Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
According to no less an authority than the world’s most accurate encyclopedia, “Magnificent Seven” was the first white rap song, predating Blondie’s “Rapture” by six months, but in fact there’s a sort of Plant-Coverdale relationship between the two songs, in which it’s never quite clear which one came first.
“Magnificent Seven” was recorded in April of 1980. I couldn’t find when “Rapture” was recorded anywhere on the Internets, which means that information doesn’t exist, but presumably it was some time that fall. But the album “Rapture” is on, Autoamerican, was released a month before Sandinista!
Furthermore, “Rapture” was released as a single a good three months before “Magnificent Seven.” By the time the Clash song was released, in April of ’81, “Rapture” was the number one song in the country, becoming the first song with rap in it to top the Billboard Hot 100.
(Sidebar: “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang may have been just as popular, but it was heavily bootlegged by the mobsters who really owned Sugar Hill Records, and those sales didn’t count towards its chart position.)
The first full-on rap song to top the Hot 100 was “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, about 10 years later. What was the first “real hip-hop” to top the Hot 100? That’s a trick question. Real hip-hop will never top the Hot 100.
If only the Clash had the foresight to release “Magnificent Seven” as the first single from Sandinista! I wonder if there was concern that people would hear the single and not want to buy the album, thinking it was all rap music. They were already taking a huge hit selling it at a discount.
As a publicity stunt, the Clash scheduled, for their only US tour dates in 1981, a seven-night stand at a small venue in Times Square, Bond’s Casino. The first night, 5–0 showed up and tried to shut them down because they sold more tickets than they were allowed to, for fire code reasons or whatever.
Instead they added an additional eight nights (like Hanukkah), so that everyone who bought a ticket could get in. A veritable who’s who of early ‘80s-era hipster musicians were booked as opening acts, including Bad Brains, the Fall, Dead Kennedys and Lee “Scratch” Perry.
The very first night, the opening act was none other than the aforementioned Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Steve Buscemi, who was there, says they were booed off the stage. Melle Mel says he asked the crowd to say ho and they said fuck you instead. Joe Strummer then came out and reprimanded the crowd.
The punk rock community back in those days was notoriously racist. Part of the appeal of punk rock in the first place was that it lacked the macho swagger and the funkier rhythms of rock groups of the late ’60s and early ’70s, like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, who were heavily influenced by black blues musicians.
The term rolling stone is used to describe a black guy who travels around banging random women, leaving a string of illegitimate children, like some “urban” Johnny Appleseed. The Temptations had a song about such men in the early ’70s. “Papa was a rolling stone,” they sang, “wherever he laid his hat was his home.”
Punk rock groups, meanwhile, consisted of lanky Jewish guys who looked like a stiff wind could knock them over, talking about how they wanted to sniff some glue because they didn’t have shit else better to do. Some of them could hardly play their instruments!
Fans of punk rock were the original alt-right, in a sense. They’d do things like wear Nazi symbols on their clothes just to get a rise out of people. They were big on casual use of the n-word, but only for irony purposes, not the way kids who listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd might use it.
Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (who’s also dead) in the movie Almost Famous, wrote about this nascent strain of what’s since come to be known as hipster racism, in a 1979 article for the Village Voice called “White Noise Supremacists.”
The article was inspired by an incident in which a black couple, who’d gone into a punk rock record store looking for a disco record, overheard him calling them the dreaded n-word.
Around the same time, Woody Allen went into a record store and was told they were having a special on Wagner. Get it, Wagner?
The punk rock community was upset with Lester Bangs for writing the article, not because they felt the accusations were untrue, but because he’d put their business out in the street. Essentially, he was accused of being a “cuck,” long before the term had been coined.
Flash and the Furious Five were credited as being, among other things, one of the first socially conscious rap groups, if not sufficiently “woke” by 2017 standards: Their groundbreaking 1982 song “The Message” includes two uses of the other f-word.
Their song “White Lines” released the following year, ostensibly spoke out against the use of cocaine. In fact, not only do the song’s lyrics celebrate cocaine use as a way to have a good time (I can neither confirm or deny this, especially if feds is listening), Melle Mel was allegedly high on crack while recording it.
Melle Mel and Sugar Hill Records founder Sylvia Robinson conceived of the song as a tribute to cocaine, then decided to append “Don’t Do It” to the song’s title as a concession to the marketplace. It would be a while still before labels promoted rap songs that encouraged kids to do drugs.
“White Lines” was credited to Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel, to make people think Flash had anything to do with it, though he’d left the group, and Sugar Hill Records, the year before, possibly to spend more time with his crack pipe (but also because Sugar Hill was known for jerking artists).
In the mid ’80s, Grandmaster Flash became a crackhead, and in his book, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash, he says he once heard the song on the radio while he was going to cop. He says he thought Melle Mel really was talking to him.
Eazy-E is alleged to have made as much as $200,000 selling crack in the mid ’80s. It wasn’t exactly Rick Ross money, but it was more than enough to convince girls to have sex with him.
Indeed, by the time he died he had more kids than he could count. In a letter he wrote to his fans on his deathbed, he misstated the number of kids he had, and it wasn’t necessarily because he was trying to write some of them out of his will. Supposedly, he was broke anyway.
Eazy-E was the only member of NWA who was really in these streets. He started Ruthless Records with some of the money he made selling drugs.
Dr. Dre, meanwhile, performed wearing lipstick, eyeliner, sequins, a purple satin lab coat and a stethoscope, as a member of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru. Eazy-E would later make fun of him for this, on “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s.”
Eazy-E paid Alonzo Williams, another member of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, $700 (which he kept rolled up in one of his socks) for an introduction to Jerry Heller, a washed up artist manager who’d once worked with Elton John and Marvin Gaye.
Heller became Eazy’s partner in Ruthless Records, because Eazy didn’t know Jack Schitt about the music industry, and because he needed a white guy to take meetings with major labels, to get distribution. As the Jerry Heller character explained in the “Dre Day” video, he worked for Sleazy-E. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Sidebar: The Jerry Heller character in the “Dre Day” video was played by Interscope Records exec Steve Berman, the same guy from the skits on those Eminem albums. “Violet Brown told me to go fuck myself. Tower Records told me to shove this record up my ass.”)
NWA was one of the first rap groups inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. As was the case with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, NWA’s discography is spottier than you’d think, for such a celebrated group.
Ice Cube was the only great MC in the group. MC Ren had a certain technical proficiency but he didn’t seem to have a whole lot to say. Dre and Eazy didn’t write their own rhymes, and Eazy was never very good at repeating rhymes other people wrote for him.
Ice Cube’s anger seemed to stem from his dealings with women, but he proved to be adept at channeling this frustration into insightful political statements.
On the great “I Ain’t tha 1,” for example, he takes women to task for wanting money in exchange for having sex with him. Why can’t women just have sex for free, for the sheer enjoyment of it?
Ice Cube was in Arizona studying architectural drafting during part of the recording of Straight Outta Compton, and the parts of the album without him suffer from his absence.
Like many ‘80s-era LPs, Straight Outta Compton is frontloaded, and while the first three songs might be the best first three songs on any album, much of the rest of it isn’t nearly as good. No one has ever listened to “Something 2 Dance 2” in its entirety, not even when they were high and stuck to the sofa.
“Fuck tha Police” was arguably their best moment as a group, and remains a staple of protests, like the ones that erupted in response to so many police shootings of unarmed black men, to this day.
Accounts differ as to the song’s origin. In the movie, NWA is harassed by the police for no good reason after Dr. Dre argues with his baby’s mother in the street, and then Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti a/k/a Pig Vomit, gives a moving speech.
I’ve also read that members of the group were pulled over by the police and forced to lie down on the pavement, on a freeway, after shooting random people with paintball guns, which is arguably justifiable.
At any rate, the FBI took exception to the song’s lyrics and sent them a threatening letter. Legally, the FBI couldn’t have the song removed from the album, and they probably only made it more popular, but I’m sure the last thing Eazy et al. needed was increased police scrutiny into their affairs.
Er, the second to last thing they needed, after full-blown AIDS.
As depicted in the film, there was also an incident in which a show in Detroit had to be cut short because they played “Fuck tha Police” after being told they weren’t allowed to, though in real life there was no police chase through some expertly filmed riot scene; the police simply met them back at their hotel.
Years later, NWA was one of the few groups that didn’t perform at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, even though they could have. It was rumored that this was because they were told they weren’t allowed to play “Fuck tha Police.”
Ice Cube was the first member of the group to realize they were being taken to the cleaners by Jerry Heller.
In 1989, he came home off tour — the same one with the incident in Detroit — without enough money to move out of his parents’ house, and he was facing the prospect of having to try to sneak girls in and out of the house to take advantage of his newfound celebrity.
He tried to talk Dr. Dre into leaving as well, but Dre wasn’t having it. He was making more money than Ice Cube, because he was the producer, but he wasn’t making anywhere near what he should have been making.
Ruthless Records had five albums that went either gold or platinum in like a two-year span, which must have netted the label somewhere in the mid eight figures. Dr. Dre was the mind behind all of that music. If he had any sense, he could have kicked Jerry and Eazy to the curb and kept that money for himself.
Much of the success of Ruthless Records was attributable to the fact that they had a huge white audience, and to hear Jerry Heller tell it, this was his doing. In his mind, he probably deserved all of the money anyway.
In interviews he credited himself with spreading NWA to white skaters and surfers, and by extension, young CAC America.
He said he found out that they liked groups like Guns N Roses and Suicidal Tendencies, so he introduced those groups to NWA and got them to wear NWA gear on TV and in interviews. White kids saw Axl Rose’s NWA ball cap, went and copped the album, and the rest, as they say, is history.
NWA also benefited from appearances on early episodes of Yo! MTV Raps, which was one of the few places you could hear NWA, aside from buying the album, since “black” radio wasn’t really fuxxing with them. (As I recall, you’d hear more Eazy-E on the radio than NWA.)
By the time their second album, Niggaz4life was released, in 1991, they’d cultivated a large audience of white cultural tourists. They capitalized on this by crafting an album that seemed to confirm much of what their new audience probably already suspected about young black men.
Ice Cube wasn’t around to write their rhymes anymore, so they were handicapped anyway, but Niggaz4life was just ridiculous. The second half was devoted almost entirely to violent misogyny, examples of which include videotaping themselves raping a teenage girl, killing a prostitute and “She Swallowed It.”
It just so happened that around the same time, Billboard changed the way it tabulated album sales. It used to be, they’d call each record store and ask which album sold the most, and they’d just say the name of the artist whose labeled purchased the largest in-store display.
The new system, Soundscan, tabulated album sales based on barcode scans. The result was that rap and country albums did way better than they did before. Niggaz4life debuted at number two under this system, and then it rose to number one the following week, without significant radio airplay.
In the wake of the success of Niggaz4life, a secret meeting was held in which top music industry execs discussed ways to use the success of gangsta rap to funnel black youth into the prison-industrial complex . . . or so it was alleged in an email that went viral a few years ago.
And I quote:
We were told that these prisons were built by privately owned companies who received funding from the government based on the number of inmates. The more inmates, the more money the government would pay these prisons. It was also made clear to us that since these prisons are privately owned, as they become publicly traded, we’d be able to buy shares.
[The mysterious, unnamed, individual who called the meeting] told us that since our employers had become silent investors in this prison business, it was now in their interest to make sure that these prisons remained filled. Our job would be to help make this happen by marketing music which promotes criminal behavior, rap being the music of choice.
This was probably a hoax.
It’s not uncommon for someone who feels she’s right about something to make up an incident that seems to prove her point. We’ve seen this a lot since the election, with, for example, the girl who claimed someone tried to pull off her hijab on the subway while yelling Trump. She’s since been arrested and charged with filing a false police report.
In the late ’80s, Tawana Brawley, who was in fact fairly cute, accused four white guys, including a cop and a prosecutor, of raping her, writing the dreaded n-word on her, covering her in poo and placing her in a trash bag. She almost certainly made it all up, but Al Sharpton still believes her. Al Sharpton is the original intersectional feminist, perm notwithstanding.
However, there probably was a meeting around that time in which music industry execs discussed ways to promote rap music that promotes negative images of young black men, as found on Niggaz4life. It seems unlikely that such music could become so popular without them coming up with a plan for how to market it.
The question is whether there was one big meeting, like black people are rumored to have, with the heads of the major labels, people from Viacom and Clear Channel, a representative from Mossad, so on and so forth, or if they operate in a decentralized manner, like al-Qaeda.
I’m leaning towards the latter.
Noam Chomsky, in Manufacturing Consent, argues that, rather than there being a secret cabal that hands down orders from above, the system is set up to weed out individuals who aren’t “with the program,” not unlike what happened with my hip-hop journalism career.
It’s also true what the letter says about the people who own the major labels having a vested interest in the growth of the prison-industrial complex, as explained a while back in an article by Homeboy Sandman (a rapper).
The single largest shareholder in Corrections Corporation of America, the largest owner of private prisons, is the Vanguard Group. The Vanguard Group is also the third largest shareholder in the second largest owner of private prisons, the GEO Group. The Vanguard Group is the third largest shareholder in both Time Warner and Viacom.
The first largest shareholder in both Time Warner and Viacom is a company called BlackRock, which is the second largest shareholder in Corrections Corporation of America, behind the Vanguard Group, and the sixth largest shareholder in the GEO Group.
Essentially, the exact same people who own the media own private prisons. And not only is it in their best interest to promote content that encourages people to break the law, it’s illegal for them not to. As corporations, they’re required by law to maximize shareholder value.
(Sidebar: Admittedly, my IRA is through Vanguard. I noticed substantial gains right around the time the song “Minnesota” by Lil Yachty came out, but there’s no way you can tell why your balance went up or down, based on the brief account summary you receive in the mail each month.)
The King Alfred Plan, not to be confused with a King Albert piercing, describes a far less convoluted black-doomsday scenario.
Whereas the scheme outlined in “The Secret Meeting” is a high-tech affair, involving planning and coordination across systems, cultures and industries, the King Alfred Plan involves rounding up black people and placing them in concentration camps. There’s nothing about it that couldn’t have taken place in the 1940s.
Like the secret meeting, the King Alfred Plan is probably a hoax, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t quite a bit of truth to it.
The plan has its origin in a novel called The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams, published in 1967, a fictionalized account of the life and death of author Richard Wright, the guy who wrote Native Son and Black Boy.
Around the time the novel was released, Williams copied pages from the book having to do with the King Alfred Plan and placed them on the seats of subway cars in Manhattan, from which word of the plan spread throughout the black community. It was the ’60s equivalent of those emails about how black people’s right to vote is set to expire.
Probably the best way to familiarize yourself with the substance of the King Alfred Plan is to check out the eponymous song by Gil Scott-Heron, from his album Free Will, from 1972, which quotes from the text by Williams. I listened to the album while I was writing this, and I learned more than I did in college.
According to Scott-Heron, the plan involved refurbishing the same camps used to house Japanese-Americans during World War II and using them to house black people, in the event of some sort of emergency. “Brothers and sisters,” he announced, “there is a place for you in America.”
He warned that it was already legal to detain an American citizen, as a preventative measure, in Washington, DC. Obviously, the laws have become much more draconian since then. They could straight up kill an American citizen as a preventative measure, let alone ship one off to Gitmo, and in fact they already have.
Supposedly the camps, or at least one of them, is located in Allenwood, PA. (Not Allentown, PA. That’s a different song.) I consulted the Google re: Allenwood, PA, and I found its entry in the wiki, but there’s almost no information. Hmm…
Gil Scott-Heron recited spoken-word poetry over tribal-sounding drums, in a style that’s since been described as proto-rap. He’s also a hip-hop pioneer in the sense that he ended up on the pipe. It may have helped him cope with what he knew about the terrible things the government has planned for us.
15 years after the release of Free Will, in a matter of life imitating art (which itself may have been imitating life), it was revealed in the Miami Herald that the United States government has a plan very similar to the King Alfred Plan, called Rex 84.
Short for Readiness Exercise 1984, the plan involves detaining large numbers of US citizens deemed threats to national security, in the event that the president declares a State of National Emergency.
The main difference between Rex 84 and the King Alfred Plan, as outlined by John A. Williams, via Gil Scott-Heron, is that, while the King Alfred Plan targeted black people specifically, Rex 84 targeted anyone deemed a threat to national security.
One possible scenario given in which Rex 84 would have been enacted was widespread opposition to a US invasion of Central America, perhaps to overthrow the Sandinistas and restore power to a Somoza-like despot.
The plan was referred to, briefly, in the following exchange from the Iran-Contra Hearings (via the wiki):
[Congressman Jack] Brooks: Colonel North, in your work at the N.S.C. were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?
Brendan Sullivan [North’s counsel, agitatedly]: Mr. Chairman?
[Senator Daniel] Inouye: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon that?
Brooks: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed, by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was an area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.
Inouye: May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I’m certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.
I wonder what’s so “sensitive” about this plan that they can only discuss it behind closed doors.
In the summer of 2012, right around the time I released my first book, The Mindset of a Champion, Army tanks randomly appeared on the streets of St. Louis. Many of the sightings were near the Army Reserve Armory in North St. Louis, not far from the warehouse where I work.
Infowars picked up the story, and it went viral on the Internets, leading to a segment on the local evening news in which we were ensured that this was just an exercise to teach the troops how to drive tanks in residential areas in foreign countries, not here in the US.
A few weeks later, it was reported that, in the 1950s, the Army sprayed radioactive chemicals from the tops of buildings, like schools and housing projects, and from the backs of station wagons, in the part of St. Louis where my family is from, not far from the Army Reserve Armory. This was called Operation LAC.
Supposedly, this part of the city was chosen because the topography resembled parts of Russia that the US considered attacking during the Cold War. I’m sure this could have just as easily happened in a white part of town.
In the summer of 2014, Mike Brown was shot dead in the street. A crowd quickly gathered. They didn’t have to be at work, because unemployment is rampant in that part of town.
Shortly thereafter, the police showed up in tanks, probably the exact same tanks we were told were being used to teach people how to drive in foreign countries. They must think we’re dumb.
The most resourceful, opportunistic protesters quickly built careers via social media, purporting to represent the entire black community, and frequently attempting to either divert attention to black feminist or gay issues, or shill for various brands.
It was reported that billionaire financier George Soros donated $30 million to the protesters, collectively known as Black Lives Matters. DeRay Mckesson, the de facto leader of Black Lives Matter, is rumored to have been one of the primary recipients.
According to the aforementioned Infowars, the purpose of this donation was to create unrest in the black community so that Barack Obama could declare a State of Emergency, thus suspending the Constitution, as outlined in Rex 84, with ultimate goal being to institute a one-world government.
The following year, several Walmarts in the southwest randomly closed, as part of an exercise called Jade Helm 15. This was odd, to the say the least, because Walmarts rarely go out of business, though they do threaten to immediately shut down stores if workers are overhead discussing plans to unionize.
It was never revealed what exactly Walmart’s role was in Jade Helm 15, or even if they definitely were involved. One rumor that circulated was that they were being used to stockpile weapons for the Chinese military, which would be arriving to confiscate our guns, in order to facilitate the transition to a one-world government.
Supposedly the Jade in Jade Helm 15 was a reference to China, while Helm was an acronym for Homeland Eradication of Local Militants. The 15, as was the case with Rex 84, was a reference to the year it took place, but also the fact that it began on July 15, 2015, and ended on September 15, 2015.
The same conspiracy kooks who were so certain that Barack Obama conspired with George Soros, DeRay Mckesson and the Chinese to take away our guns the year before gleefully celebrated Trump winning the 2016 presidential election, but I wasn’t nearly as optimistic.
On the one hand, I think we can be reasonably certain that Trump isn’t in cahoots with the Chinese. One of his main advisers, Roger Stone, is friends with Alex Jones, so it’s likely he’s been briefed on Jade Helm 15. Hence, presumably, the numerous references to China during the debates.
On the other hand, further unrest in the black community seems more or less guaranteed, with, for example, the appointment of Jeff Sessions, who was declared too racist to be a judge, in 1986, as Attorney General. What’s the likelihood that he’ll even investigate a white cop for shooting an unarmed black man, let alone find him guilty?
(Sidebar: In his judicial confirmation hearings, in 1986, Sessions copped a plea, claiming that disparaging remarks he’d made about the NAACP were due to their support of, you guessed it, the MFN Sandinistas.)
In the waning days of the Obama administration, the president announced plans to phase out the use of private prisons for federal inmates, and granted clemency to boatloads of nonviolent drug offenders. Vice, which has been granted a suspicious amount of access to the president, did a big special on the latter.
Stocks in private prisons tanked, with the announcement that Obama was doing away with private federal prisons. Already, the prison population had plateaued in the last couple of years, after having skyrocketed since the War on Drugs began, in the 1970s, in part because they’d just plain run out of room for more inmates.
It was starting to look like I might not be able to retire!
I read on the Internets, however, that private prisons, because they’re susceptive to the profit motive, aren’t competent enough to house our most dangerously criminals, especially if the detainees in Gitmo are transferred to the federal system, and therefore private federal prisons were being cleared out to make room for relatively docile illegal immigrants.
The purpose of granting clemency to nonviolent drug offenders, meanwhile, was supposedly to protect increasing numbers of white opiate addicts from harsh penalties. White deaths from prescription drug abuse are skyrocketing. Where is the accompanying increase in white imprisonment? Are drugs not illegal if you’re white?
In the Intercept, it says that, in the days after it was announced that Obama was shutting down private federal prisons, a subsidiary of the GEO Group, the aforementioned second largest owner of private prisons, made a substantial donation to a pro-Trump PAC, which may have been illegal.
When it was announced that Trump won, stocks in private prisons shot up to higher than they were before they fell in the first place. Had they already been informed that Trump plans to expand the prison-industrial complex, or did they just kinda assume that dark days lie ahead for America in general, and black people in particular?