It’s 187 on a mothafuckin cop…
Like most of the cultural exports from this arid, massive and altogether mystifying place, Los Angeles’ hip-hop iconography has been deeply sanitized for national distribution. We trust that you’re familiar with all the tropes: thick clouds of weed smoke; sun-drenched streets accommodating souped up ‘64 Impalas; vocoder croons and Parliament Funkadelic flips that ripple through spacetime. All of this shit is chill and great, but it conceals where the music is coming from, the contours and forces that necessitated its existence.
Los Angeles as a capital-D DESTINATION in hip-hop culture — the unassailable swagger and rubbery G-Funk groove that’s been commodified all across the planet — none of that happens without a feral, unhinged terrorist organization known to the general public as the “Los Angeles Police Department.” Now let’s take a sweet hit of that syllogism shit: if LA produced the first mainstream gangsta rap hits, and those songs were written directly about the LAPD, then the sociocultural phenomenon we know as gangsta rap was popularized from our brutal pigshit fearmongerers. Yes, every “fuck 12” laid on wax might as well source back to the uniquely venemous paramilitarian Daryl Gates, another motherfucker that proved to be “untouchable like Eliot Ness.”
So while 2020 has made the phrase “ACAB” suddenly socially permissible from Calabasas to Culver City, Los Angeles’ communities of color have been making art from the sentiment since the day this land was occupied. The secret has been out forever here. The local canon slaps at barbecue smoke-outs and taco trucks and 405 traffic, but it was originally fashioned as radical, unabashed protest music. Let’s revisit that right about now. As we continue to take to the streets with Black Lives Matter LA and the People’s City Council on a daily AND nightly basis, as our feckless electeds get inundated by constituent support for defunding (or abolishing) the police, and as morale hits “rock bottom” within the LAPD warlord torture dungeons…KNOCK is proud to bring you a chronological (CHRONIC-logcal, even?!) set of songs that animate the history behind this fight.
“Just living in the city is a serious task / Didn’t know what the cops wanted, didn’t have time to ask” — Ice-T
The Crenshaw emcee’s 1987 debut album, Rhyme Pays, featured what’s often credited as the “first” gangsta rap hit. And “6 in the Morning” is indeed all about a violent, excessive LAPD raid! This year also marks the formal beginning of Operation Hammer, a police project spawned from the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Daryl Gates oversaw increased gang sweeps and aggressive arrest tactics in majority-Black and Latinx areas like Compton, South Central, Watts, Carson and north Long Beach. The pursuit was about both intimidation and incarceration.
“Fuck the police comin’ straight from the underground / A young n*gga got it bad ’cause I’m brown / And not the other color so police think / They have the authority to kill a minority” — Ice Cube
Does everyone remember that opening scene from F. Gary Gray’s rendition of Straight Outta Compton? The part where a military-grade tank indiscriminately drives a battering ram through the dope house? Yo, that shit for real actually happened. Aug. 1, 1988, on 39th Street and Dalton Avenue in southwest LA. This swarm of cops “smashed furniture, punched holes in walls, destroyed family photos, ripped down cabinet doors, slashed sofas, shattered mirrors, hammered toilets to porcelain shards, doused clothing with bleach and emptied refrigerators. Some officers left their own graffiti: LAPD Rules and Rollin’ 30s Die.” The damage done rendered 10 adults and another dozen minors without a home; it yielded fewer than six ounces of weed and a bit of cocaine. As the very cops involved in this raid later admitted, and as Mayor Tom Bradley’s Christopher Commission confirmed, this was not a one-off incident by any means.
“This pig harassed the whole neighborhood / Well this pig worked at the station / This pig, he killed my homeboy / So that fuckin’ pig went on a vacation” — B-Real from Cypress Hill
The first-ever Latinx hip-hop group to go platinum broke out with a single that was — yup — also about the brutality of the LAPD! Cypress Hill’s self-titled debut LP was released in August 1991, five months after a gang of thuggish cops ran up on Rodney King’s Hyundai Excel on the Interstate 210 highway. King was driving home after watching basketball with a few friends. The stop left him tasered, kicked and repeatedly struck by batons. The Christopher Commission revealed that King suffered 11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and kidney failure; the LAPD’s defense was that King seemed under the influence of PCP, which he was not.
“N*ggas start to loot and police start to shoot / Lock us down at seven o’clock, barricade us like Beirut” — Daz Dillinger from Tha Dogg Pound
The following year, all four cops involved in the beating of Rodney King were acquitted of assault, while three of the four got off for use of excessive force. The California National Guard and the U.S. military were both called in to “help” a shook LAPD during six days of civil unrest that stretched from South Central to Koreatown. It’s a particularly sinister brand of evil when fuckin’ George H.W. Bush reacted to the verdict with more human sympathy than the LAPD did. Cop Stacey Koons blamed King for his own beating in his book, Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair, and called his lawsuit against the city “a multimillion-dollar ransom.” Daryl Gates, comfortably and profitably, resigned from his position in the aftermath of the riots. That same year Gil Garcetti, father of our current Mayor, took over as LA County District Attorney.
“Cause everytime that the pigs have got me / y’all rub it in with the flying Nazi / military force, but we don’t want ya / standin’ on my roof with the rocket launcher” — Ice Cube
O’Shea’s 1993 joint off Lethal Injection was prescient to say the least, codifying the unique hatred for LAPD’s loud-ass, expensive-ass, dystopian-ass, ass-ass choppers. They are everywhere. It is perhaps the only sane and rational response to a massive increase in police helicopters hovering over your neighborhood. This whirring, deafening noise pollution has damn near become the soundtrack to the present movement. That same year in ‘93, an LAPD captain named Nick Salicos — known affectionately as “Nick the Knife” — assumed the role of commander within the Rampart division. As investigations and soooo many police misconduct payouts would soon reveal, the Rampart division had an internal reputation for extreme and unnecessary sadism. Under Salicos’ leadership, Rampart cops “confiscated” drugs, shot unarmed citizens, beat up dissenters and eschewed every last modicum of accountability.
“I bring the things to light, but you still can’t see me” — Lady of Rage
As the Death Row dynasty reaches its commercial peak, the LAPD reaches an inflection point of its own. A 36-year veteran named Charlie Meter does a bizarre and revealing interview with the LA Times, claiming that the force is internally fighting for its soul. We very much know how this fight went down. “Out of about 30 people in my academy class, 27 of them had been in the military service. So we knew how to take orders. When we were told something, no one ever asked why,” Meter said. “The big difference is that with my era, it wasn’t a job, it was something that we were proud of, something we wanted with our heart and soul. Now what you get is this: It’s good pay, good benefits, and it beats doing whatever it was they were doing, and so they decide to become Los Angeles Police Department officers.”
“Homie what you got? A couple sacks to sell / went from weed to dope to max the scale” — Kurupt
The Los Angeles rap scene is a fully-realized force on radio and the charts. It’s also a real cultural signifier on screens and in stores. Kids in Brentwood, blushing while crip walking at b’nai mitzvot. If we could just see Nancy Reagan’s face during the Slip Capone verse. The same Rollin’ 30s members that were terrorized during Operation Hammer suddenly forced the hand of record label execs and industry tyrants. Ironically, those cops gleefully executing “gang sweeps” under Operation Hammer were now looking like a gang themselves — in March of ’97, an undercover cop named Frank Lyga shot and killed fellow Rampart officer Kevin Gaines. Lyga later told PBS that he found an Ice Cube record in Gaines’ car, thinking this vindicated the shooting. Later, in November, Rampart officer David Mack is named as the “mastermind” of an armed robbery at an LA Bank of America.
“ I’m watching my nation die, genocide the cause / expect a bloodbath, the aftermath is y’alls” — 2pac
By 2002, Los Angeles had paid out $125 million in settlements from various Rampart scandals — from the city fund, not the LAPD budget. Yuppppp.
“San Quentin to Rikers, Folsom to Susan / the pen ain’t nothin’ but a family reunion” — Game
Slightly less crushing than using the same hashtag year after year to protest different police killings…here we have Game (yup, once known as The Game) adopting the very same title that Public Enemy dropped back in 1990. Don’t call the cops. That’s it. Simple guiding principle. “Full of n*ggas that don’t give a fuck about a bad cop / that Denzel in Training Day shit’ll get yo ass shot.” Will it stun our readership to learn that Training Day was based on the real-life misadventures of the Rampart division? In 2008, as liberals worked up the performative courage to vote for Barack Obama in the general election, an LAPD officer named Frank Hernandez shot a fleeing 18-year-old suspect. He was not punished or fired or anything like that, but less than two years later, he most certainly did fatally shoot Manuel Jamines — an unarmed day laborer from Guatemala. The Westlake shooting was eventually deemed justified by the Board of Police Commissioners.
“Heart racin, racin past Johnny because he’s racist / 1987, the children of Ronald Reagan / rake the leaves off your front porch with a machine blowtorch” — Kendrick Lamar
Ronald Reagan looted California. Peter Ueberroth was honored and decorated for looting California. Austerity in the ‘80s really truly screwed over and abandoned a lot of people. Kendrick emerged nonetheless, a prodigious talent from Section 8 housing and the Compton Unified School District. Kendrick’s father was a Gangster Disciple, and he was friends with Piru Bloods, so of course Kendrick Lamar Duckworth will show up when searching through the (truly evil) Calgang watch list. Meanwhile, the LAPD’s officer-involved shootings rise about 70 percent in one year, and many cops in the “anti-gang” unit resign after refusing to disclose financial information from Rampart. Our hapless fail-son soon-to-be mayor is waiting in the wings.
“It’s legal to kill black people / it’s legal kill unarmed black people…ain’t that some shit?”
“One shot got life, Zimmerman got acquitted / talkin bout a carjackin’, we talkin bout a killin’”
“Wonder why we never have faith in the system / look at young n*ggas like a waste of existence /and when we do make it, look at how they try to twist it / become the world champ, and then y’all enlist us / get rich off of rap, y’all search us for pistols / it’s like it ain’t no respect ’til we burn up the buildings”
“Would you just accept if we murdered your children?” — Nipsey Hussle
“First off, this a no-fly zone / if you ain’t laying with the chrome, better take your ass home” — Bricc Baby
Not only does the LAPD hold down the title of MOST MURDEROUS POLICE FORCE IN AMERICA, it’s all being conducted by “outside agitators.” It’s estimated that about 80 percent of LAPD officers do not live in the city they “serve.” In Boyle Heights, the LAPD shoots and kills 16-year-old Jose Mendez and 14-year-old Jesse Romero.
“I got blinded by love and that shit fucked me up / and that’s all that I fear, all that I fear” — 03 Greedo
Jason Jamal Jackson, delivering undeniable funk-trap squeals as 03 Greedo, was born in West LA and raised in Watts’ Jordan Downs Housing Projects. He experienced homelessness, like hundreds of thousands of Angelenos do year after year. Greedo’s music caught on and he charmingly fought his way into all of our headphones, only to meet a bloodthirsty prosecution stemming from a 2016 car stop in Texas. The cops found a lot of weed and two pistols; he was facing 300 years, took the plea deal for 20, and now sits in a Texas prison cell during the prime of his life. This is also the year that the LAPD fatally shoots Brendon Glenn, an unhoused and unarmed man in Venice. D.A. Jackey Lacey declines to file a case against his killer, despite even Police Chief Charlie Beck calling for prosecution. “Proctor may have reasonably believed that Glenn was reaching for his partner’s weapon,” the D.A.’s office announced.
“Fuck the D.A., free The Ruler”
Like 03 Greedo, local star Drakeo The Ruler was targeted by the criminal justice system. Let’s all get familiar: one of the most immediately unique and compelling linguists this city has ever heard was arrested in January 2017. He was handcuffed in connection to a Carson murder of 24-year-old Davion Gregory, and his Stinc Team collaborators were inexplicably arrested as well. They locked the whole group up, planted snitches and recording devices, but still get nothing on Drakeo. This irritates Deputy Sheriff Francis Hardiman, a dollar store Mark Furhman impersonator trying to prosecute local rappers over lyrics and Instagram posts. Drakeo beat the murder charges, but he’s still in county lock-up, being re-tried for conspiracy with gang enhancements. Under California Penal Code Section 186.22, all you need to be considered a street gang is three or more people, a common name or identifying symbol, and members who individually or collectively engage in “criminal activity” — which would, of course, easily describe our police departments. The best rapper in Los Angeles records his latest mixtape over the privatized Global Tel Link inmate phone services.
And here we are. The LAPD police union is throwing a fit over possibly losing their raises when every other department is facing cuts. Cops are pooping themselves in Shake Shacks, while the eternally useless LA City Council is suddenly forced to do its job. The county saw an absurd 12.7 percent increase in its unhoused population… before COVID-19. Free Drakeo, fire Jackie Lacey, fire Chief Michael Moore, adopt the People’s Budget. Help liberate or step the fuck aside.
To all you Angelenos out there, who don’t want a city infested with cops, all up in the videos, all on the records, dancin…come join People’s City Council. Enjoy the music, see you in the streets and on the Zoom calls, and please please please stay safe.