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Monday, September 19, 2005

White radio station execs stoking hip-hop conflict for their own financial gain

In their quest for controversy-driven ratings (and the ad dollars they bring in), New York radio stations have been manipulating hip-hop artists, stoking beefs and arranging conflicts. The guardian reports today:
DaveyD, a Los Angeles-based journalist who covers hip-hop and politics, said the station had to take some responsibility. "Hot 97 cranks it up," he said. "They try to get away with as much as they can. It's part of their marketing. The beef is made public and when things go wrong they say: 'We really couldn't control that.' But they are the ones who gain from it."
DaveyD has also written about the formation of "hip-hop police" squads in many cities, which spy on local artists. In an interview from 2004 on DemocracyNow, DaveyD discusses these specialized police units and the historical context for police intervention in the lives of Black people:
The thing is, the truth of the matter is that the surveillance of black men in particular has been taking place for generations, and the surveillance of hip hop artists is just a new name for the war on drugs; it is a new name for COINTELPRO. Meaning there's always these excuses to somehow have law enforcement come into the community and keep tabs.
He further links it to the broader context of struggle in this country:
I think that what is happening is that... [the] pretext of surveiling artists is being used to set up a situation where you can really start coming into communities where there's a lot of activism going on. Why do we talk about in these headlines that rap artists who have troubled pasts are being surveiled, and what they're not telling you is that Van Jones who was right here on the show earlier was surveiled. Do you see what I am saying? What they're not telling you is that Michael Franti, who is going around the country doing anti-war songs and peace work and every album that he has put out is centered around a theme for peace and justice issues has been surveiled
In an interview in Vibe magazine M1, from Dead Prez, also linked it to past government spy operations like COINTELPRO. He said,
I think they been taking pictures of rappers and anyone black that's been making moves in any kind of way. I think it's apart of that dragnet they use to try and catch you up. And they're using that web to try and build a case. You know, and they build up these trumped up charges. And the more and more they do it, the more it's gonna start looking like the same kind of sh*t they've been doing to catch up organizations like the Black Panthers and so forth. I think we can benefit from those past experiences.
But the focus on hip-hop violence, both by the police and the media serves two purposes, Rolling Stone writer and contributing editorTouré says:
There is a long-standing fear of the black man in America… From Nat Turner to Willie Horton black men have been used to create fear in American hearts. Today's versions of this are rappers.
The original hip-hop cop, and founder of the NYPD's hip-hop intelligence unit, Derrick Parker spoke about the history of his unit in the Village Voice in 2004:
"I did observations. I was at concert halls. Man, you name a rap event, I was there. The rappers got to know me after a while," says Parker. "We did databases. I had pictures, magazines . . . files on everybody. I knew everything about everybody." People got so used to seeing him, he says, that some dubbed him the "Hiphop Cop."
Later in the same article, he reveals the expansive nature of the surveillance operation he was running,
Everything got so big that all the chiefs knew who I was. Now everybody started dropping in like parachutes . . . every single precinct in the city was reporting that they had some kind of contact or non-contact with a guy who was a wannabe rapper, a musician, an artist, or a group.
Of course, there are no similar programs to spy on white rock bands. The surveillance of hip-hop artists parallels the general government policy towards people of color. Longtime community activist Rosa Clemente, reminds us of the link:
"It is illegal for them to profile and that's what they're doing. It's a method of profiling— whether it's racial, economic, or a record label," she says. "This goes back to counter-insurgency within our communities."


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