Boots Riley of the Coup While in Paris Speaks His Mind on Politics & Music

 “One of the problems, with political movements or music, is the fact we don’t think we matter”

-Boots Riley-

Boots Riley of the Coup

Boots Riley of the Coup

Boots Riley, from the Coup, is a true MC. He always manages to grab your attention, whether it’s on record, during a show, or discussing with him. Because he’s a rapper who speaks with power and he’s also an organizer who acts with power. As this year marks  the 20th anniversary of his group’s first album “Kill my landlord”, and the 2nd anniversary of the occupy movement in which he was involved from his hometown, Oakland, La Voix du HipHop sat down with him, in Paris, while he was on tour promoting The coup latest album, “Sorry to bother you”.

How MC Hammer’s success (and also Digital Underground and Too Short ones) helped him get signed, HipHop activist Vs organizer, the lure of black capitalism, the criminalization of black cultures, the shutdown of Oakland Port and its meaning, but also The Coup’s strategy to be heard and evolve (among other topics), Boots Riley provided us with some useful, entertaining and pertinent food for thought. In the true spirit of the MC.


La Voix du HipHop: Did you have the thought or the ambition of being a rapper when you would grow up, like kids of today?

Boots Riley: No. When I was 12, I wanted to do something Big. I think I wanted to be like Prince or I wanted to be on TV. And to me, what I knew was important was what was on TV.

Growing up as a child you learn about the terrible things in the world but you learn about them in a way that says  there’s no change. You learn about them with no sense of power, no sense of your own agenda in that world, except for maybe you could escape. You have the power to make yourself better and to guard yourself from that…

By  the time I turned 14, I joined a revolutionary and political organization. I started learning that the way the world is, it is able to be manipulated by the people, not just by the few who are in power. I understood there were certain steps I needed to take to be effective in this possible future that may happen. I was learning, not only things that were happening but also dialectical materialism, the idea that things happen for a material reason, and also that things always change. And that what you do has an effect how those things change. All these learnings gave me a sense of power and made me feel like I was doing something important. Like, “Ok, you don’t have to be on TV to be important, you don’t have to be on TV to matter…”

What led you into HipHop?

Boots-france-sudentsEverybody was rapping at school, it was just something you did like playing basketball or baseball. Lot of times, it was just people beating on the table and then it’s your turn! And at that time I was stealing my raps from a very good rapper named Schoolly D. I was saying his rhymes and people would be like oh shit!! In my town, nobody knew Schoolly D.

Then, since I was involved in organizing rallies, I was trying to get a couple of my friends to come. I was telling them that if they come to the rally, they could get on the mic and rap, there will be hundreds of people, and it will be like a rap show. My friend Johnny was like, ok, I’m only doing this if you’re my hype-man. So I became his hype-man. That’s how I got started… And at that time, we had the dream he would get a record deal. But his idea of what a record was a freestyle. I mean, we thought all records were freestyle and that all the albums we heard was like somebody just got in the booth and started rapping and that it was easy. Then, I started asking around about the techniques to master how to do it actually. From there I was learning and practicing… And  my school was doing a play called “Eastside story”, that was a take-off of Westside story which was a take-off of Romeo and Juliet. They wanted to make it a rap musical play and I wrote all the raps for it. I was actually in the play and nobody booed the raps. So I was like wooah, I can do it! And for the record, the girl who was playing the opposite me in that play was Hiep Thi Le who ended up being a star in an Oliver Stone movie’s “Heaven & earth”.

How did you end up signing with Stud Fine’s Wild Pitch records, which at that time was an east-coast oriented rap music label with Main Source, UMCs, Chill Rob G, Lord Finesse, Gangstarr, etc.. For us, as fans, it was a huge powerhouse…

Boots Riley RappingFirst of all, at that time, in the early 90s, MC Hammer, Digital Underground and Too Short went multiplatinum. And the record industry works like this: You got a blonde girl sing and you go multiplatinum, then every record label has 50 blonde girls in their roster. So because of these three artists, every record label had to have somebody from Oakland or from the Bay area.

Once I decided to do this rap thing seriously, because of political organizing, I knew how to launch a campaign, I knew how to plaster an area with a poster or an idea, or how to go to door to door. So we applied that to the music. We had an EP, and we put posters everywhere in Oakland. The EP was available at this independent record store in Oakland and I guess basically the record label, Wild Pitch, went in that record store and asked who were the top 3 selling local artists. And it was us, The Coup, E-40 and a guy named Dangerous Dame. Dangerous Dame has just come off a major label record deal, he wanted a gang of money… E-40 and the click? they had other income sources. So we were just the cheapest one of the 3.

And there’s another reason we got signed. Stu Fine, the owner of Wild Pitch, is a great A&R person and a terrible business person. So he signed stuff that he didn’t know how to make money on, just because he liked them. The way he got into this business actually is that He had been first in the music industry in the 70s and hen he had to quit to do baseball management or something like that. He was walking down the street and there was a LL Cool J concert, he walked in and decided to stop with the baseball stuff and start a HipHop label that day. So he decided he would just sign things he liked… So he had people like Gangstarr, he hooked up with Guru and them, he hooked up with DJ Premier, who was in Texas, and put them together. But the point is most people wouldn’t even sign them and put them out, same thing with The Coup. We’ve been shopping stuff, nobody was interested. Stu signed us just because he liked us, but he didn’t have any idea on how to market us at that time. You know Gangstarr didn’t really sell records until they went to somebody else… Same thing with Lord Finesse… He was signing people nobody else would sign. And if Stu was a good businessman, he wouldn’t have signed any of us.

You’ve been on a major label. You’ve been in independent label. What are the pros and cons of being independent, today. Especially when you do the type of music you do?

It’s all capitalism at the end of the day. The idea of independent capitalism that is better than corporate capitalism is bullshit. Slave masters were independent capitalists. It’s not necessarily better. It’s not necessarily worse.

Sometimes, when you have a small label, you can get more attention, but you don’t get as much coverage… Epitaph records for “Pick a bigger weapon”, for instance, was the best experience. The same label 6 years later, as music industry changed, had different tactics and strategies, and I felt that they didn’t have as much faith in our record. It’s not their fault. That’s part of the reason, a small part, that is, not so many people who like the Coup know the new album, “Sorry to bother you”. Anyway, I don’t think there’s any formula to our type of music.

The really small independent label I was on for “Steal this album”, they still owe me 60 thousand dollars. They stole it…

Talking about “Steal this album”, there is a lot of misunderstanding about “Me & Jesus the pimp”… Personally, I saw it as a critic of black capitalism, as it repeats the same violence to the same people.. Could you elaborate on this one. What’s the message?

Actually there’s quite a few messages. The main idea, to me, is Jesus the Pimp, symbolizes the idea that we can be free by black capitalism & black entrepreneurship. You know the things people get caught up in their struggle, for some sense of power in their life.

But first and foremost, I wanted to write a song about sexism. I started to realize that how sexism (that is taught to women) actually affects men’s lives in terrible ways. So in that song, I wanted to talk about that.

I went to film school, I always liked to tell stories, I liked to write descriptive things, and also after “Fat cats & bigger fish”, I started seeing people thought I had a talent for that, so I decided to write another story song…

The choice of title? Before I was on internet a lot, I had just remembered there was a revolution in Grenada in 1979. So I was like I’m going to use that for title, because it was a social revolution.

I want to address “fuck a perm”… I mean, in the early 90s, lots of black folks had jheri curls, especially on the west coast… Weren’t you dissing people who could have been fans of your music?

Boots-francestrikeBack then I had natural hair and people were criticizing it like ‘what you’re doing with your nappy ass hair!’. I wrote that song as a response to the critics about my hair. Also, I think at that time I was at San Francisco State University where there were folks who changed their names with stuff that meant King or Queen. So I was influenced by the culture around and it did have an effect on my writing. A lot of those who considered themselves as revolutionary or conscious were preachy, like you need to change yourself…

Now, you said lots of people had jheri curls back then. Actually they didn’t  so much by the time the song came out in 1993. Even Ice Cube had cut his curls…And to get back to the fans, here’s an interesting story. We were on tour promoting “Kill my landlord” and we went to Milwaukee. Milwaukee in 1993, stylistically, fashion-wise, looked like Oakland in 1986. We were on the stage performing and I remember E-roc saying to me, don’t do “fuck a perm”. We didn’t do it as it was obvious 90% of the crowd had curls. It wasn’t about politics, it was just style. Then we got out to sign autographs, and a group of dudes walked by and they were like “Hey Coup” – [because of a lot of people called us “Coup”], “Hey Coup, fuck a perm… Fuck you”. And they kept walking and got into their car. And they were just sitting there, not so far from us.

Then we left the venue, and they followed us, bumping the whole album loud in their car and they kept yelling “fuck a perm”. And they all had curls… They really seemed hurt. But they were bumping the album. We went to different clubs, they were still following us… So it became clear there are lots of things on the album those dudes could relate to, but the song made about appearances w as the one that touched them. And that wasn’t even the intention of the song, as if the appearance was what was all about. And things are still that way today. We had all these articles about young people sagging their pants, etc.

So you say, the problem is not how we look like nor our culture…

BootsRileybrown_1For years after the civil right & black power movements, we’ve been endoctrined by the media that told us the problem wasn’t the system, but the problem is people being lazy, irresponsible, savage, etc. And some of black intellectuals response to this was chiming and said yeah, but it’s because of these culture conditions: Which was we don’t know ourselves so therefore we’re lazy, violent, etc. But the reality is: That’s bullshit.

We’re so much endoctrined that what we actually see black people as dangerous, ignorant, savage. They might be black people who are dealing with drugs, yes because that’s what exists in all our society. There might be like one person hustling and doing nothing, yeah, but you got that all over the world. The problem is that Black culture has been criminalized so they look to some other culture that doesn’t exist right there to say that’s what it should be. But then afterwards, that culture will be criminalized as well… It really stems from people running away from having class analysis.

Culture in everything is dictated from how people survive. From the beginning of the humanity, things have been organized for survival. In this system, that survival has to do with labor and economics. You work for money to survive. There can’t be new paradigm on how to look at addressing that problem. But until you do, you end up blaming the people…

How would you define yourself: An activist? A HipHop activist?

I wouldn’t call myself as a HipHop activist or activist. The activist , to me, is someone who moves from event to event, like a rally or a demonstration, which is kinda what’s being pushed as opposed to an organizer which has to do with more long term campaigns, with building something. I’m an organizer.

HipHop activism is a term that came about in the early 1990s. There was a bunch of us who wanted to see the landscape of political organizing change. It was boring at that time. The idea was : Trying to make this thing (political organizing) more artistic. And in the early 1990s, we had set up this thing called HipHop edutainment concert with the Mau Mau Rhythm Collective. And a few years later, people who were in the non-profit organizations picked up on stuff like this (on what we were doing) and started selling it to foundations to get money. Like HipHop activism is the new thing.

You had these non profit organizations that would come at you like ‘we want you to come and sit at this roundtable discussion. We’ll pay you a thousand dollars, come over here”. I go there it’s like a closed door discussion about political organizing… And then they take pictures of me, use it in a flyer or brochure, and after that, they’re like “we do HipHop organizing, give us some money, look we even got Boots Riley involved”… So, many of these non profit organizations make 10s of thousands or hundred of thousands dollars off of that and say that I’m part of these things.

It was on your Facebook page: Oakland Port, December 2nd, 2011. We did it. What does the shutdown of Oakland port mean to you?

Boots Riley & Mistah Fab Address the Crowd

Boots Riley at Occupy Oakland

A lot of the folks in non-profit organizations in Oakland are politically radical and revolutionary. But they have a job. And some of them in these organizations are not necessarily politically radical revolutionaries, some of them are liberal progressives, and they’ve been the ones doing certain struggles that stayed away from economic wages struggles. They’ve been the ones doing stuff around “Stopping the violence”. We gotta stop the violence in our community, ok. But they do not address the fact violence comes out of the fact there’s an illegal business that’s happening that needs violence to regulate  it. This business needs violence to regulate. You can’t come in and just take the money without fear of the police coming and locking you up. How do you eliminate the need for that illegal business? When you have jobs that pay decently. When people have jobs with decent wages, they’re going to be involved in that job, instead of the illegal business and the violence associated with it… But that’s too much, like class struggle, for certain folks. Especially for foundations, what they talk about is limited. That being said, some of those political organizations, not only non-profit ones, don’t have any base in black communities or in communities of color. Because they’re not handling what these people are doing on their everyday life which is trying to put some food on the table. And some people are like “Fuck marching on the streets, it’s not doing anything…”

We managed to achieve that shutdown because people saw it as something possible, as an economic blow to the system and as a way to have some economic leverage. That’s why people came out and drove for that.

Also we announced that at the exact right time… A few days earlier, a young white ex-marine from Occupy Oakland got shot in the face by the police.. So because it came out he was an ex-marine, a young white guy and also because it was caught on video, it blew up all over the place… people kept coming to the park Occupy Oakland demonstrators were occupying, and police kept coming back… And we knew it costed the city millions of dollars, so they couldn’t sustain doing that… So we put it out there, that we would just keep coming back, they’re gonna spend tens of millions of dollars, til they give us the park back. So they gave us the park, they opened it up, there were thousands medias from all over the world there.. So the idea of many of the organizers was like we got this world stage right now, let’s take it up one notch. It was a 3 thousand people meeting. 3 thousand people voted to have a general strike in one week from then. So the fact we didn’t say from 3 months from that, but one week, which seemed crazy for me at that time, most of us didn’t even think that would happen. We were just like we would put the call out there, put the idea that economic leverage can do something. People were like “Hell, yeah!” and it was all up in the media. And since it was connected to all the occupy movements in other cities, it made people felt like it had more power as well.

One of the problems with political movements or anything, even music, is the fact we don’t think we matter. Like you have a local rapper, a local band, and they might be really good to you, but you know they are only known in your city, you’re like “they’re only local”, and people don’t like “local”. Because if it’s only local, it can’t be that good. That’s what happened to us too. All of sudden when people from our city started seeing people from other cities liked us, they were “oh, they must be good”. Because people of other cities are better than me. That’s how we started getting a big local group of followers. Similar with this movement, people see that it is attached to something bigger. They feel they have more chance to win. So 50 thousand people came out and shut down the port.

The outcome of it? 3 years ago, a labor contract would come up and the Union wouldn’t even fight it. Workers would just lose their benefits and everything… Right now, what’s happening in Oakland is the BART workers and the train operators are on strike, the librarians are on strike. Other cities workers are striking, they’re striking and are supporting each other. That wouldn’t have happened in any other time. That’s illegal. But we put this tactic on the table. Because that’s the only way things are gonna be done, through solidarity strikes…

 HipHop (especially through videos and records) plays a big role in shaping the views and opinions of millions of people worldwide when it comes to the representations of Black (youth) life and experience. The Coup is known worldwide, today. How do you deal with these issues of representation black lives and experiences in front of the world with your music and now with the movie “Sorry to bother you”?

boots-atstrikeThere are plenty of mafia shows on TV all the time, and people are not scared of Italian people all over the world… Most of those representations and images of black people come from portrayals of news medias and the political of what happens in a city and why it happens.

The image of black people that people put out or that artists put out is just the image that they are talked too or that they see on the news. It’s not necessarily the image that comes from what they know.. See, you could live in a city and have most of your information about that city given to you by the news. And often that’s the case, and you make certain assumptions and logic based on the some of these basic facts you hear on the news.

And also what is being said on some of those songs is exactly what they are taught about what the world is supposed to be about in school. They are taught that if you have money, it’s because you work hard, be smart about it, and figure out how to hustle… If you don’t have money, it means it’s on you, it’s not the system. So, that leads to everything else.

Now, whether people are afraid or not of the image of black people, has to do with how they categorize people. There’s a TV show called Dexter, about a blonde white guy who is a mass-murderer, he’s the hero of the show because he only kills the bad people. Nobody is afraid of blonde white guys. So, it’s not just videos. It’s everything, the news, the movies. We hear on the news, a random shooting happened. NO.You can explain clearly, like this is the dope game, there are no jobs paying 12 dollar/per hour in the area, it’s not random. It happens because of these things… You have non profit organization that would be like we need to stop the violence and talk about interpersonal communication. But it’s not about that. If you talk to people from these organizations, they admit it’s not about that, they admit the solution is having jobs that pay more. The question is how to get that? You only get that through making a radical militant mass movement. It’s a hard thing to do and who wants to spend their life doing that? But we have no choice.

I remember Digable Planets saying that they capitalized on their pop success (Reachin’) to put out their master plan into action (Blowout combs) which, lyrically, kinda hit as hard as any PE album HipHop. When you deal with Art & Revolution like you, is there any strategy to adopt to get your message heard?

It must be a very long strategy because I’ve been doing this for a long time… More seriously, I have strategies, the question is whether they work or not. I had a strategy with “Steal this album”, back in 1998. But at that time, there were no downloading. So back then, if you steal an album from a store, that store still has to pay for the album. We had a lot of fans, a lot more fans than those who were represented by record sales. So for instance, for me, besides an Ice Cube album, every album I ever had was dubbed on cassette tapes. One person would get an album and we would dub it, that’s how it went. HipHop when it was just in the black communities didn’t even go gold. A lot of people were listening to it, but it wasn’t what you were spending your money on.

So “Steal this album” was based on the idea that what if you have 3 millions of fans, but your 3 millions of fans are among the brokest people on earth and someone else has hundred thousand fans, but those fans are wealthier. It’s gonna look like more people like that person.  It’s gonna change how people make records. So here’s the solution: Steal this album.

What’s the coup business plan today?

Today, touring is our main way of promotion, we can’t really rely on anything else. We have some fans who are more well-known, so we try to enlist them to help us. We have for example, Patton Oswalt, who is a well-known comedian in the USA. He made recently (In june 2013) a video doing an interpretation of “Magic Clap”. We’re trying to get Dave Chappelle… So that’s one of the strategies. I think I’m also going to do sort of political comedy talk shows, so I also could stay at home, I need to.

-courtesy of  La Voix Du HipHop- (Paris France)


Boots Riley of the Coup Speaks on Zimmerman Verdict & the Tone of Recent Protests

Boots Riley of the Coup

Boots Riley of the Coup

HKR 07-17-2013: Yesterday we caught up with long time activist and artist Boots Riley of the Coup and had a great dialogue on Hard Knock Radio about the George Zimmerman verdict and the subsequent demonstrations that have kicked off all over the country in the aftermath.

Boots laid out his thoughts on this and connected it to larger pictures that are in play all over the planet.. We talked at length about the protests and the tone they have taken and how they compare to protest in other parts of the world. We also talked about what should be some possible end goals especially if one perceives the justice system to be beyond repair. Boots of course noted the importance of not seeing the issues around seeking justice for Trayvon Martin in isolation, but instead as something that is systemic requiring us to have deeper analysis and long-term goals for fundamental change.

We also talked about Boot’s new album ‘Sorry to Bother You’ and his upcoming shows in the Bay Area this weekend..

Hard Knock Radio logo

HKR Boots Riley-on Trayvon and Demonstrations

The Coup Shows You a Billionaire’s Coming Out Party

The Coup which features Boots Riley has a new album out called Sorry to Bother You. So far its been getting a lot of buzz.. Below is the video to one of the singles off the album called ‘Your Parent’s Cocaine’. Boots describes the song as a billionaire kids coming out party..

Goldman Sach’s is a Main target on the December 12th West Coast Port Shutdown

Yesterday the city of Oakland was on fire as Occupy Oakland and other organizations went in on banks foreclosing on homes…It was a day of activity which including shutting down a foreclosed Housing auction at the Alameda County Courthouse and reclaiming a couple of houses the banks had foreclosed on and moving families back in..The day was pretty successful..

We caught up Boots Riley of the Coup to talk about the days activities and get updated about what we should expect on December 12th during the day of action when all West Coast Ports are to be shut down….In our intv Boots pointed out how one of the families in West Oakland had lived in their home for over 15 years.. The mother lost her job and fell two months behind on her mortage and instead of working with her the bank came in like gang busters to foreclose on the property.

With respect to the D12 Shut down.. Boots noted that momentum has been picking up and that Vancouver will be shutting down their port and that there will be an action in Houston, Tx to shut down their ports..

In this interview, Boots gives all the details as to why shutting down the ports are important.. He points out how Goldman Sach’s is a main target for these port shut downs and how they are deeply connected to the activities that occur there on the daily. He also noted the plight of many of the truckers who are paid below market wages and are denied to unionize and get health insurance..

Obviously the threat of a West Coast port shut down has caused enough concern that management at the Oakland Port paid over 10k for a full page ad asking the public not to support the strike. In the words of Chuck D of Public Enemy-Don’t Believe the Hype..

We included a a short snippet of an interview with some prominent union leaders about the D12 strike..

As pressure builds for the Dec. 12 West Coast port shutdown, the capitalist owners and their media began a battle of ideas to blunt this powerful threat to their profits and control — even for a day.

Two International Longshore and Warehouse Union members — Clarence Thomas, who is a third-generation longshoreman in Oakland, and Leo Robinson, who is now retired — spoke with Workers World reporter Cheryl LaBash. Both men have held elected office in ILWU Local 10 and have been key labor activists during their years of work in the ports.

WW: The Nov. 21 ILWU Longshore Coast Committee memorandum states, “Any public demonstration is not a ‘picketline’ under the PCL&CA [Pacific Coast Longshore & Clerk’s Agreement]. … Remember, public demonstrations are public demonstrations, not ‘picketlines.’ Only labor unions picket as referenced in the contract.” What is your reaction?

Clarence Thomas: A picket line is a public demonstration — whether called by organized labor or not. It is legitimate. There are established protocols in these situations. To suggest to longshoremen that they shouldn’t follow them demands clarification. It is one thing to state for the record that the union is not involved, but another thing to erase the historical memory of ILWU’s traditions and practices included in the Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU adopted at the 1953 biennieal convention in San Francisco.

Leo Robinson: The international has taken the position somehow that the contract is more important than not only defending our interest in terms of this EGT [grain terminal jurisdictional dispute] but having a connection to the Occupy [Wall Street] movement in that when you go through the Ten Guiding Principles of the ILWU, we’re talk about labor unity. Does that include the teachers? Does that include state, county and municipal workers? Those questions need to be analyzed as to who supports whom. The Occupy movement is not separate and apart from the labor movement.

CT: Labor is now officially part of the Occupy movement. That has happened. The recent [New York Times] article done by Steven Greenhouse on Nov. 9 is called ‘Standing arm in arm.”

The Teamsters have been supported by the OWS against Sotheby’s auction house. OWS has been supportive of Communication Workers in its struggle with Verizon. Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees, has called for expanding the Occupy movement by taking workers to Washington, D.C., to occupy Washington particularly Congress and congressional hearings demanding 15 million jobs by Jan. 1.

LR: There was the occupation in Madison, Wis. That was labor-led. People are trying to confuse the issue by saying we are somehow separated from the Occupy movement. More than anything else the Occupy movement is a direct challenge or raises the question of the the rights of capital as opposed to the rights of the worker. I don’t understand that the contract supersedes the just demands of the labor movement. It says so right here in the 10 guiding principles of the ILWU.

Article 4 is very clear. Very clear. “‘To help any worker in distress’ must be a daily guide in the life of every trade union and its individual members.” Labor solidarity means just that. Unions have to accept the fact that solidarity of labor stands above all else, including even the so-called sanctity of the contract. We cannot adopt for ourselves the policies of union leaders who insist that because they have a contract, their members are compelled to perform work, even behind a picket line. It says picket line. It doesn’t say union picket line. It says picket line.

Folks can get more information and see the rest of the interview by going to
We wanted to include another interview we did last night.. This is with a sister from Egypt named Al-Shimaa’ Haidar who has been involved with the revolution at Tahir Square.. She talks to us about whats going on in Egypt and how it connects with the Occupy Movement here.. check this out below..(please forgive the mispelling in the video)

Justice for Oscar Grant: Nov 5th is Sentencing Date for Killer Cop Johannes Mehserle

Here are two heartfelt speeches to give folks better context as to what’s at stake.. The first one is from Oscar Grant’s ‘sister in law’ ( the aunt to his daughter Tatiana… Its a letter to Judge Robert Perry where she breaks down how his death has impacted the family.. The second is from Minister Keith who has been on the case from day one.. He sums up everything that has happened and what we are ultimately seeking-Justice.. Open Letter to Judge Robert Perry Minister Keith Speaks

Follow @OscarGrantTrial for up to date info on sentencing on twitter


The Bay Area is still celebrating the aftermath of the SF Giants World Series win and the fact that we kept the Tea Party takeover out of our neck of the woods.. However, everyone is anxious as we await to see if Justice for Oscar Grant will be a reality. Tomorrow November 5th is the sentencing day for  killer cop Johannes Mehserle.

His family and police departments around California showed total disregard to the family and the scores of people who witnessed the slaying by holding Pro-Mehserle rallies all over the state. They used words like Freedom and Justice to describe the plight of this rogue officer who killed unarmed Grant New Year’s morning 2009.

His family insulted the Bay Area by showing up to the McCovey Cove behind the AT&T Park where the Giants play and hoisting huge banners calling for Mehserle to be free. It made many momentarily forget that Oscar was the victim, not Mehserle who was found guilty.

The photos are from a big rally held last week in front of Oakland’s City hall. The Longshoreman were angered by the Pro-Mehserle rallies and decided to put on one themselves and remind people this is about justice and it should not be mocked by Mehserle and his supporters who even at this late date still try to put blame on unarmed Grant.

We’ll be doing a special broadcast around this sentencing from 4-6pm on 94.1FM KPFA.. You can also hear us on line at Folks will be gathering down at City Hall in Oakland

Tomorrow November 5th is the day Killer cop Johannes Mehserle gets sentenced. His lawyers want a re-trial. Grant's family wants the full 14 years.

Minister Keith, spoken word artist Kat and organizer Tony Coleman have been on the case from day one. They along with many other Bay Area activists refused to let any obstacles stop theim from seeing this case through.. As Minister keith reminded us the end the goal is Justice!

Minister Keith, spoken word artist Kat and organizer Tony Coleman have been on the case from day one. They along with many other Bay Area activists refused to let any obstacles stop theim from seeing this case through.. As Minister keith reminded us the end the goal is Justice!

Boots Riley of the Coup and his father Civil Rights attorney Walter Riley were on hand at the Longshormen's Justice for Oscar Grant rally

Oscar Grant's daughter Tatiana, her mother Sophina came with the rest of the family to let everyone know how his death had impacted their family. Tatiana's aunt read an open letter which left everyone heartbroken. That day we came to truly understand that a beautiful spirit was taken from us Jan 1 2009 at the Fruitvale BART station

Former Black Panther Party chair Elaine Brown along with co-founder Bobby Seale were on hand at the rally. Sadly the police killing of young Black and Brown men is an issue they are still dealing with 44 years after the Panthers were formed

You can peep the rest of the photos… by clicking the link below

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While Glenn Beck Hijacks King-Hip Hop Attempts to Restore its Roots

While tens of thousands gathered for the Glenn Beck rally in Washington, DC another large crowd gathered in Columbia, MD. The 7th annual Rock the Bells concert welcomed mainstream and underground hip hop artists to the metropolitan area. Concert goers were concerned that mainstream rap music has contributed to the degradation of what some viewed as a powerful tool for mobilizing the black community; Hip hop. Now, hip hop fans are moving towards more political rap for inspiration.

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High Rents Killing Bay Area Hip Hop

daveyd-raider2Last week the Bay Area Hip Hop community was saddened to see the unintended departure of long time producer DJ Paul Nice. He had become the latest casualty in an increasingly long line of talented musicians and artists who have been forced out of the Bay Area due to astronomical housing costs. With the average price of a medium size two bedroom house going for $435 thousand dollars, rents in Bay Area cities like San Francisco, San Jose and now Oakland have skyrocketed to the point that it is now cheaper to move out and rent an apartment in Manhattan. Bay Area Hip Hop hot spots like Oakland, Vallejo and East Palo Alto are changing by the minute as longtime residents are getting evicted left and right. Paul Nice was a victim of a landlord saying he wanted to move into his pot .. so he could kick Paul out and then go on raise the rents..

In San Francisco the housing situation is all but a lost cause. Hip Hop strong holds like the Filmore have literally changed face over night thanks to the dot com invasion. You will now show up to a gig in the Filmore and be made to feel totally unwelcome and out of place in what was once your neighborhood prior to the new economy suddenly exploding. The historic colorful Mission District is currently dealing with this onslaught and next on the list is Bayview Hunters Point. The South of Market club district is now dotted with ‘live work lofts and newly arrived cranky residents who have used their economic and political clout to shut down night clubs which they say are making too much noise.. It was just a few years ago that many of these now occupied buildings once played host to raves and after hours Hip Hop parties..

Adding fuel to the fire in the nation’s dot com capital is a 1% vacancy rate and ruthless landlords who are now starting to put rental units on auction sites like EBAY. It is now a situation where the highest bidder wins. This is complicated by big businesses that are now buying up and renting apartments for key executives and employees which has driven up rental prices even more. Can you imagine competing for an apartment with a big company that has deep pockets and is determined to fly in workers from overseas or across country? They simply outbid you by offering crazy rent prices. Its not unusual to see 1 bedroom apartments for $2500 and up. Its totally ridiculous and we haven’t even begun to address the drama surrounding commercial properties. About a month and half ago there was a highly publicized situation where a dot com came into the Mission District and displaced a popular rehearsal and studio spot that was home to more than 500 musicians. The Bay Area’s Hip Hop community has definitely been feeling the strain.

bootsriley-pamLast year Boots of the Coup along with the San Francisco Bay Guardian which has been chronicling this entire mess did a series controversial radio ads on Bay Area radio stations about the Bay Area housing crunch. In the commercial Boots talks about how he was forced to move out of his house in Oakland because of high rents and gentrification. He placed the blame on Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and warned long time Oakland residents that the new economy and the new face of Oakland would most likely not include them if they didn’t step up their efforts. Boot’s concerns were realized not too long ago when Oakland City Council members voted down an ordinance that would’ve protected residents from unfair evictions.

Another longtime Bay Area Hip Hop fixture was producer DJ Fear of the group No Concept. Earlier this year he was forced to move out of Oakland due to high housing costs. Well established Hip Hop outfits like the Bay Area Hip Hop Coalition and the Hieroglyphics Crew were forced out of their downtown office space which they had for years due to rent increases. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the past year and a half I’ve counted more than 30 Bay Area Hip Hop artists, promoters DJs etc have moved out of the San Francisco/Oakland area to the far outskirts of the Bay or down to LA because of the high housing costs. Its now gotten to the point that when out of town cats say they’d like to get a taste of the local Hip Hop scene, you have to send them to neighboring cities like Sacramento, Antioch, Stockton or Los Angeles which is 400 miles away so they can get a feel. It’s in these places that you will now find Bay Area artists like; Mac Mall, The Luniz, Mac Dre, Mystic Journeyman, Money B, and Rappin’ 4Tay to name a few. More and more Bay Area folks have also been relocating to New York, Atlanta or Texas where housing costs are cheaper when compared to the Bay..Even sadder is the fact that some Bay Area Hip Hoppers went away to school and found they can’t afford to move back..

Billy Jam

Billy Jam

In an attempt to bring attention to this housing problem, long time Bay Area DJ Billy Jam and Amoeba Music has put together a compilation album featuring 19 independent artists called ‘Just Paying The Rent’. The album is a who’s who of Bay Area underground artists like Clever Jeff, Crack Emcee, Superstar Qu’am Allah, BLACK, DJ Fear Slumlordz and DJ Zeph. to name a few cover the entire music spectrum from Hip Hop to folk music.

“Just payin’ the rent” is pretty much the battle cry for each of the nineteen indie artists on this compilation who, despite their radical range in musical styles, all share the struggle to just pay the rent and be able to create their art. The San Francisco Bay Area, where most of them reside, has felt the seemingly-overnight effects of the new dot-com economy which has escalated housing costs, changed demographics, and had a drastic effect on the local arts community.

Crack emcee

The Crack Emcee

“Living in San Francisco is like living in a computer: everything is about the Internet,” said the pre-teens’ Laura Davis. “People are been forced out because of the skyrocketing rents. Clubs are closing down and practice spaces are rare.” Indeed a major blow was dealt when on October 1st, San Francisco’s Downtown Rehearsal building, where 500 bands of all types of music had rented rehearsal spaces, were all evicted after the building was sold for a huge profit. “I call them the Dotzies,” laughed the Crack Emcee. “They’re blowing the smoke of the new economy up your ass… and all they want to do is sell you sh&*…..everyone’s selling banner space.”

There’s no telling where all this will end and what the final lay of the land will be..I guess I’ll have to move down to LA or back to New York with DJ Paul Nice to get a taste of the Bay Area’s Hip Hop scene. For more info on ‘Just Paying The Rent Project’ drop an email to Billy Jam at