[Op-Ed] Streets Is Watching: Rap and Surveillance

black-and-blue-legends-of-the-hip-hop-cop

via Village Voice

Pop Matters today publishes an essay, “Watching Rap,” which starts like this:

In March of 2008, the LA Times published an article that implicated Sean “Diddy” Combs and his associates in the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur at Quad Recording Studios in New York. A few days later, the Times retracted the article once it became apparent that the author, Chuck Phillips, had relied on fabricated documents and less-than-credible sources. Nevertheless, despite the quick (and embarrassing) retraction, the story got nearly one million hits on latimes.com, more than any other story for the year, and as a result, the story-within-the-story became the overwhelming public interest in the shooting, even 14 years after the fact.

And, after a kind of survey of why one million people would care about this story–the fact the deaths remain unsolved, the allegations of police involvement in Pac’s death, the rise of so-called hip-hop cops, and so on–the piece’s author, Erik Nielson, winds up here: “This recent mainstream interest in the subject may suggest that these kinds of surveillance tactics are new, but the existence of the “hip-hop cops” is really just further evidence of a long-standing tradition of institutional surveillance of rap as a whole–a tradition that has been so pervasive that in many ways it has become intrinsic to the genre as we know it.” So far–great.

It can’t be understated the degree to which this surveillance is weird and threatening and, relative to the amount of crime that actually takes place in the (narrowly-defined) rap community, completely disproportionate. Hip-hop cops are, as Nielson points out, a naked throwback to “the COINTELPRO days of the ’50s and ’60s, when black artists and activists were routinely monitored by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies”–except these days, the New Yorker writes bemused profiles about the cops involved. I have yet to read an even remotely convincing justification for their existence, although Ian Frazier did give it a shot in that New Yorker piece: Fabolous shouts out Street Fam, which is in fact a criminal gang, all the time; Vibe reported on Young Jeezy’s ties to the “ATL street crew” Black Mafia Family. So yes, these dudes knew/grew up with/are still friends with criminals. Continue reading

Fab Preps Thanksgiving Release for ‘Loso’s Way’

via Hip Hop DX

Fabolous is back. After a brief hiatus, Loso is ready to go to work. Quietly, he has been gearing up for the next album, one he just explained, will be out by year’s end.

“We’re cookin’ now,”
Fab told MTV while standing alongside Swizz Beatz and Ryan Leslie. “You might be looking at two of the producers on that ‘Loso’s Way’ coming this Thanksgiving. We’re letting the world know we’re coming now.”

For now, fans can catch him heating up the collaborative world ads he has been featured as a guest on various tracks alongside Red Cafe, Mariah Carey and more.

“Anybody who knows me know I love to step out to the collabo world. Best verse? That’s a hard one. I go in different lanes. I give it my all wherever I step up.”

With all the love he’s getting for verses, you’d think Los wanted to flow from the jump. However, Loso wasn’t always thinking of holding a mic. He was also thinking of holding art supplies.

“I thought I was going to be an artist. I went to art and design high school. I drew cartoon characters. Then I realized I wasn’t very good, so I turned to music,” he told WENN.

Failed cartoon characters aside, Loso‘s next art project will be released in the form of his new LP, Loso’s Way, set for a Thanksgiving release date.