Thoughts on Cuban Hip Hop Being Used to Overthrow the Gov’t

Davey-D-brown-frameThere’s a been a lot of conversation about the recent revelations of Hip Hop and Hip Hop artists being via infiltrated through an agency called USAID with the goal of shaping opinions and sparking unrest to create a climate that would lead to the overthrow of the Cuban government. You can peep one of the many stories about that HERE—

In speaking about this case, I noted that far too many have fallen into the trap of seeing themselves and this music/culture as being unique in it being besieged, put under surveillance and being deemed a potential threat to those in power. Too many people saw the police collecting dossiers on Hip Hop as some sort of badge implying it was a reflection of power. Such assertions have been made without the context of history…

First its extremely important to note that this Government has always used culture and popular expression and mediums to undercut, destroy, marginalize, control, redirect a people and yes even help overthrow governments. What was revealed about Cuba is by no means unique. It may be unique for folks hearing about this for the first time..What we are talking about here is something that’s global..Cultural expression is serious biz..

I can say this in 2006, I went to Beirut and attended and participated in global conference on music and censorship. There I met folks who had spent many years in jail from all over the world because of their music and art which challenged those in power. You can read some of what was spoken about at that conference HERE

In order to understand this what folks need to clearly understand is that culture expression here in the US is often limited in how it’s defined. Many simply call it art. And art in the minds of many is luxury that is brought and sold and put on display to admire and debate. Our history and understanding of how we express ourselves has been erased or distorted. So instead seeing many types of cultural expressions (rapping, singing, dance, poetry, playing of music) as important and even primary ways of communication, we fail to see to see that the government sees what we do in that light..

Dr Jared Ball

Dr Jared Ball

With respect to Hip Hop as professor Jared Ball has long pointed out, its ‘mass communication’..Those in power have never ceded ground or allowed us to have too much independent control of mass comm outlets.

Second point, Hip Hop being infiltrated and aspects of it being compromised is one the latest cultural expressions in a long line to be compromised. In order to best understand this.. I encourage folks to go on-line and look up this video that came out in the 1970s with a former FBI agent named Darthard Perry talking about how the government studied culture, in particular Black culture as a way to control the people.. You can and should peep that HERE—

For those who find this be a bit of a stretch.. I encourage you to peep the speech Dr Martin Luther King gave August 11 1967 to the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers about the role of culture, in this case music and Black radio deejays.. He plainly states there is no Civil Rights Movement without these deejays and the powerful influence of Soul Music, which like Hip Hop had its own challenges of being deemed unsavory, less than sophisticated and even violent.. (Folks living here in the Oakland, ask your parents or grandparents about James Brown being banned and concerts being shut down because he brought out the ‘wrong crowd’).. Check out King’s speech and the one given by Minister Farrakhan to a similar body of Black music industry folks 13 years later…

Third point, Hip Hop being as popular as it is was undoubtedly going to be seen as something that needed to be derailed, distorted and used a s a tool of oppression vs allowing it to be used as a tool of liberation. Wherever large crowds are gathered, we have got to expect those in power to be sizing it up and trying to figure out how to economically exploit it and politically derail it..

Bob MarleyFrom icons like Bob Marley being followed and undermined by the CIA to the banning of the drums during slavery at Congo Square to Fela Kuti who specifically said his music was a weapon being attacked, to the Black Arts Movement being marginalized where the late Amiri Baraka and others called upon Black folks to use their poems and music as weapons and be in alignment with the Black Power Movements of the time, to French rappers coming under fire and accused of sparking the 2005 riots in Paris with their music to the way the US uses its radio arm Voice of America to undermine governments, we should be clear in knowing that obtaining and maintaining public space will and has always been a challenge. We should be crystal clear that if you can ‘move the crowd’ folks are gonna have their eyes on you…

What’s most interesting about this scenario is that in many so-called progressive enclaves, culture is still seen and treated as an after thought or sidebar to the movement. Perhaps that’s deliberate because those in power in on that side of the political spectrum like their counterparts on the right want to keep many in the back of the bus and not have a seat at the table.

cuban rappersThe solution to all this is to 1-fully understand the power of our culture. Martin Luther King talks about that in his speech. In understanding its power, one has to then move in a direction where you are not dependent on entities and individuals who fear or don’t respect our culture for affirmation, funding etc..

2-Recognize many aspects of our culture are indeed powerful forms of communication. If Hip Hop has this much influence that governments use it to move folks from point A to point B, then what role are we playing when we consciously produce it or consume it?

3-Check out an incredible book called Party Music by Prof Rickey Vincent who digs real deep into this topic. He talks about the impact the Black Panthers had on Soul Music and how cultural expression was challenged and seen as a threat by those in power and ultimately used to destroy facets of the Black Power Movement..

4-Read Jared Ball’ s Book..”I Mix What I Like!: A Mixtape Manifesto” where he meticulously details how Hip Hop Music has been colonized. It’s important for folks to understand the many forces at work to harness our expression.

5-Read Jeff Chang‘s book Who We Be the Colorization of America  where he talks about the wars, political attacks and commercialization around Art and Culture and the derailment of movements around the concept of Multiculturalism.

6-Look out for an upcoming book due out in February 2015 from Timothy Taylor aka Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers that addresses many of these key issues.

Bottom line, we may take what we do culturally speaking for granted. We may think our songs and dances are no big deal.. But others are not. They study it, see it as a threat and know its potential to liberate and empower if left unchecked. ‪#‎staywoke‬.

Massive Domestic Spying was Wrong in the Past..It’s Wrong Today

NSA signIt’s a damn shame that with all that’s going on, the biggest news in Hip Hop this week is that rapper 2 Chainz did not get robbed while visiting San Francisco..Hell I was just in SF the other day and I didn’t get robbed either.. Why is this news? One would hope that the big news for 2 Chainz is while he was in the Bay he donated one of two chains to charity, he went to a group home to work with youth or that he’s doing a new song about Trayvon Martin or one that he addresses the NSA spying drama…

Which brings me to my next point, as we look at all this massive spying and surveillance of innocent people, we should keep a couple of things in mind.. First watch the media distraction where they are now getting. All these corporate backed news outlets have tuned into a PR firm for the government where they are doing massive spin control by getting everyone to debate whether or not Edward Snowden the man who blew the whistle on all this is a traitor or patriot. One would think and hope the main thrust would be centered around the actual situation of us being spied upon by private corporation using govt money and resources.. Snowden is the guy who gave of us the info.. He’s not the one in power and should not be the main focus. The questions should be what are private companies doing with all that data? What’s the guarantee it wont be abused or compromised?

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

The other thing to keep in mind, is since we’re talking Hip Hop news, perhaps folks should make the connection as to whats going on now with what was going down in Hip Hop a few years back New York City had a Hip Hop cop division that spent countless hours collecting dossiers on rappers and their entourages. 2Pac was being tailed, Biggie was being tailed and to this day all this intel gathering has not led to an arrest and conviction of their killers… At the time many rappers played up being surveilled as part of their whole mob/gangsta image and proof that there was bit of an edge to them…Considering the long legacy of CointelPro and how the FBI, CIA and other government agencies  spying on artists and using culture as a weapon against us, more should have been concerned and outrage then, as they should be now.

Under Cointel-Pro irreparable damage was done, not just in the Black community via the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, but also the Chicano Movement, American Indian Movement, Puerto Rican Independence Movement and the Anti-War Movements. Prior to Cointel-pro we had the McCarthy Era where major damage was done to journalists, entertainers, academics and any other thought leaders who were thought to be connected to Communism.

Like Cointel-pro many during the McCarthy Era who were 100% innocent were caught up in the wide net used by the government to battle what was actually described by some even back in those days, as a Fight Against Terror..There’s no excuse for folks who understand this history not to speak out now.. As we see a lot of this has got to wonder whats really going on? Maybe Hip Hop was surveilled in such a way as to get folks used to this practice so they wouldn’t sound the alarm once this spread and became a bit more Draconian.

Civil Rights Lawyer King Downing

Civil Rights Lawyer King Downing

Below is an interview we did with Civil Rights lawyer King Downing who is the founder of the Human Rights Racial Justice Center and has long dealt with the issues of privacy, unwarranted surveillance, racial profiling and over reach by the government. King is also formerly of the ACLU which is now suing Obama and the NSA for their egregious actions. In 2006 when I first met King, the ACLU was suing George Bush and his administration for spying on the American people Sadly not much has changed, if anything the government has doubled down.

A few years ago, King and myself along with a number of scholars, law enforcement, civil rights people, artists and activists sat on two round tables put on by the ACLU that dealt with the use and abuse of government informants. Lastly King was featured in the documentary Black and Blue: Legend of a Hip Hop Cop which focused on NYPD and their Hip Hop  division which collected large numbers of dossiers on artists, most of them innocent of any wrong doing.

He breaks a lot of things down in this Hard Knock Radio interview including the fact that the surveillance of rappers went far beyond NYPD but was actually coming from Washington DC itself..He connects a lot of dots and firmly makes the case of how the invasive profiling tactics used in the failed War on Drugs that crippled many who lived in the hood and inner cities has expanded under the Patriot Act and the War on Terror. He notes that all of this is connected and in totality make up what he describes as the surveillance state….

Hard Knock Radio logo

During our interview with King Downing I mentioned I would play/post up the excerpt of former FBI informant Darthard Perry speaking about how he and others in the bureau did massive surveillance on Black culture so as to weaken the people…This interview took place in the 1970s..

Spying NSABuilding off what we covered with King Downing, we sat down with professor of communication Christopher Simpson of American University..
Simpson is author of several books, including; BlowbackScience of Coercion and National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations.

With respect to this spying saga Simpson noted:

“The newly public National Security Agency records about PRISM and similar operations demonstrate that metadata about electronic communication is actually more dangerous to democracy than intercepting conversations. That is because the NSA’s analysis of this information is based on mathematical formulas that use guilt by association to construct imaginary networks of people who might, or might not, have some link to political violence, espionage, or to almost any controversy involving international relations.

“Much of what was revealed last week about the National Security Agency has been publicly available for almost a decade, but denied by officials and forgotten or ignored by most big media. The information now on the public record enables any informed person to understand the basics of how these intelligence operations work and why they are dangerous.

During our Hard Knock Radio interview, Professor Simpson expounded upon these remarks.. He laid out the case how this NSA spying situation is the War on Drugs on steroids..If anyone who has dealt with the wide nets used in the War on drugs, then you can probably relate, except, this is bigger and goes a lot deeper..The way the data is being mined, folks are getting tagged and dinged falsely with very little recourse..Y’all better not get caught up in conversations about whether or not Snowden is a Patriot or Hero.. Y’all best be asking what recourse you have from this drama..

Professor Simpson also painstakingly explains how the PRISM program works. He alerts us to how the data is collected and cross referenced with criteria that is secret which in turn determines if you are a potential target for further and more penetrating surveillance..This is no joke.. Peep the interview below..
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US Marshal Told By Supervisors Not to Bring the ‘War on Drugs’ to White Communities

Matthew Fogg

Below is a video from a former US Marshal breaking down how the war on drugs really works.. It’s about smashing down on Black folks who are seen as marginalized and with very little political connections to stop what is institutionalized..

Meet Matthew Fogg, a former U.S. Marshal whose exploits led him to be nicknamed “Batman.” When he noticed that all of his team’s drug raids were in black areas, he suggested doing the same in the suburbs. His boss didn’t take kindly to the idea.

This is part of the SafeKeepers video series produced by the Beyond Bars campaign and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

I wanted to include another video that talks about this war waged on Black people in the form of Cointel-Pro.. This was an interview done in the 1970s from Darthard Perry who talks about how when he worked with the FBI they had him destroy the Watts Writers Workshop..Its also interesting to note how the FBI studies Black culture. The person interviewing Perry is the late Gil Noble.