Rap changes. Cops don’t.
The Mad Rap Appreciation Post noted that a widespread rap code of lassiez faire towards turbulent issues would make you believe we’re all watching the throne and buying out the bar. Being pissed is so passe that Rev. Calvin Butts had no choice but to chill and put his beloved steamroller on Craigslist. iTunes bigwigs won’t see the inside of a precinct for pushing obscene product and Janna Ryan ain’t pickin’ no fights with NY Oil. But surprisingly safe on wax (or more appropriately, on MP3) are the police. Rappers and the fuzz have always been the Hatfields and McCoys, but if modern music is indicative of their relationship status…erm, it’s complicated. While snitching, cooperating with the boys and blue and Rick Ross’ pig past are still frowned upon and ridiculed, the days of rappers splattering the brains of a crooked cop all over a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot and then snickering at his grief-stricken family are sadly a thing of the past.
When N.W.A’s “Fuck The Police” made the F.B.I. break out the Calamine lotion, fuck-a-cop songs began to snowball the rap landscape. Clever ones, irate ones, violent ones, metaphorical ones, and ones that got albums swiped from shelves and groups dropped from record labels – the anti-cop song replaced the jam for the ladies for a brief period of time. Then Ice-T and Body Count’s “Cop Killer” brought the precinct down on rap. I won’t explain what’s happened since (refer to the aforementioned Mad Rap Appreciation Post), but as team blue continues building its resume with the crackin’ of heads at a Smif-n-Wessun show , the maladroit pursuit of a corporate crazy (and the shooting of nine innocent bystanders in the process ), or the savage beating of a high school student , I lament the demise of the ‘let’s take some (violent) action’ / ‘fry me a pig and make me some bacon’ song more than ever.
Props to Up North Trips for breaking down the importance of the N.W.A. fire-starter and giving us nine other fuck-a-cop joints. I don’t want to step on toes and feature any of the songs they did, so I’ll present my own personal 15 most interesting, entertaining, and underrated songs of this ilk.
15. Boogie Down Productions - “Who Protects Us From You?”
The Blastmaster asks the simple, yet pertinent question that sets up this list. Then he goes on to deliver a line that sums it all up: “There was a time when a black man couldn’t be down with your crew / Now you need all the help you can get / Scared? / Well ain’t that true.” A solid law enforcement chin check in KRS’ catalog that often falls under the radar in lieu of “Black Cop.”
14. MC Shan - “Time For Us To Defend Ourselves”
Buried deep in an album inundated with the ghost of Teddy Riley (no disrespect to the swing man, who had nothing to do with the album) and stiffly-quantized fluff was this serious, icy, and powerful plea for the riddance of docile, non-violent attitudes towards cops. Even more gripping and harrowing was the video , which I only recall seeing once (on Video Music Box). I remember being traumatized by the footage and absorbing it a mere four months prior to my first incident with police – it prepared me for the worst that could happen.
13. Brokin English Klik - “Who’s Da Gangsta?”
½ of this obscure Wild Pitch Records group was Phase, formerly of every high-priced record nerd’s favorite group, Phase N’ Rhythm. Although fairly generic, “Who’s Da Gangsta?” was a thorough shot fired at law enforcement with a hard jeep beat.
12. Double XX Posse - “Headcracker”
Despite beating down chumps and smacking people around in animated alpha male fashion on wax throughout their musical run, XX (led by MC Sugar Ray) calmly, almost dolefully, gives an account of a police brutality case. Ray then questions the methods of the court system when justice is never served. At least he coined a new slang term after a string of physical and systemic beatdowns.
11. Smuv Radicals - "No Justice, No Peace"
Too $hort (“I Wanna Be Free”), 415 (“Court in the Streets”), and Paris all put the world on to Oakland police. The LAPD and NYPD were already well-represented in the pantheon of classic fuck-a-cop songs. Smuv Radicals give us give us the Chi-Town angle on this scarce 12″ from ’93. Undoubtedly influenced by the Windy City’s house scene, you can be radical and still do a gangsta dance to a funky, Planet Rock-influenced, uptempo groove at the same time. Good luck finding an OG copy of this, though. Unless you’re willing to pick up bronchitis in the basement of Out of the Past, you’ll be spendin’ a grip on your wild goose chase.
10. LL Cool J - “Illegal Search (Pre-Trial Hearing Mix)”
More than anything, it’s refreshing to hear a typically insouciant and arrogant late ‘80s LL rapping about serious issues (although arrogant LL was an excellent thing). He took time out of his hectic schedule of bending pregnant groupies over sinks and pipin’ ’em down to throw a sarcastic right cross at racial profiling. But as evidenced by last week’s events , LL don’t need no cops when crime comes to his living room.
9. Hard Knocks - “A Dirty Cop Named Harry”
There’s no doubt that the under-the-radar Bronx group made the most underrated (and one of the top five) Wild Pitch Records album in the respected-for-quality label’s decade-long run. Ten of the album’s 12 songs are conceptual or tell some type of twisted story. In a relaxed, conversational tone, the group’s MC (Hardhead) gives a gripping, detailed account of the rise and fall of a greedy and crooked NYPD officer.
8. L.O.H. (Legion of Hip-Hop) - “No Justice, No Peace”
I’m definitely seeing a trend with this song title. Anyway, in my days engineering at Vance Wright’s studio, I did some work with Bronx MC, C-Money, who was one half of this obscure duo. He’s the one that gave me this 12” single – I’ve never seen it in my years of record bin-scouring. L.O.H. sound like a pair of former Black Panthers discussing rekindling the days of old in the back room of a community center. Unfortunately, the ire and vitriol of this radical chest-thumper was contained to that room – the record saw extremely regional and limited exposure in the then undeveloped and scarcely-distributed independent hip-hop 12” hustle. #NoJusticeInTheRapDistributionGame Notable fact: V.I.C. (of Beatnuts fame) lent a hand in the song’s production.
7. WC & The MAAD Circle - “Behind Closed Doors”
There’s something odd (in a good way) about hearing Coolio rapping in a serious tone, but “Behind Closed Doors” is a strong entry in the fuck-a-cop rap song database. A woefully underappreciated album, the group’s Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed is the perfect home for this vivid look at regular run-ins with the Darryl Gates-era LAPD. The song’s hook is absolutely priceless.
6. 2 Pac - “Violent”
The 2Pacalypse Now entry in the Mad Rap list says all that needs to be said about the album and how its influence set the stage for some real life cop-poppin’. Rappers complained about being harassed by cops and often spoke of shooting them themselves, but hearing ‘Pac rap about continuously beating the living shit out of an officer just makes this one that much more vivid.
5. Mobb Deep - “Cop Hell”
Banned from the group’s debut album due to the aftermath of the “Cop Killer” controversy, this DJ Premier-produced smasher saw the young duo holding the sickles on their cover playing Duck Hunt with the fuzz. A few great sentiments include: “Treat a cop like chump change and splatter his fuckin’ brains,” “Grab his nightstick and beat his ass down ‘till he flatlines,” and “Tried to cuff me up, so I murdered the fuckin’ clown.” Moments like these make you wish these two cats would just bury the beef like men and do what they do best.
4. Paris - “Coffee, Donuts and Death”
Hands down, this is the greatest song title on the list. Paris’ trademark rage seeps through the speakers and the song begins with a skit that features OPD’s finest raping a woman. Fuck a Commodore 64. The added insanity the skit brings will probably make you want to go out and play a real life game of Cops ‘n’ Robbers more than anything song on this list.
3. 2 Black 2 Strong MMG - “Ice Man Cometh”
I’ve already noted how manic and incensed this Harlem group was, but “Ice Man Cometh” is possibly the angriest anti-cop song ever recorded. The VU meters were peaking on the studio mixing console and the rage was flowing so frantically you’d be inclined to pin every unsolved cop murder in the books on these guys. Detectives Williams and Torres looked urbanly hip and cool as hip-hop cops giving each other soul brother pounds on New York Undercover , but that’s because MMG had probably moved to Atlanta or some shit by the time the show started filming. Those two clowns would’ve been poached before the end of season one. At least Torres got the chance to bone Lauren Velez before he croaked in the third season.
2. Hard Knocks - “Road To The Precinct”
Hard Knocks is the only group to make the list twice – they really, really didn’t like cops. But rather than going on a rampage or raising the decibels, rapper Hardhead gives twisted angles on the mindsets of police and tells stories on a level that Slick Rick would have to dap him for. “Road To The Precinct” chronicles the life of “Mighty Whitey,” a black kid from the hood who was ostracized and bullied throughout childhood. He eventually used that as ammunition for going back to the hood as a cop to antagonize his former antagonists during adulthood. “Road To The Precinct” snatches the medal when it comes to delivering the most interesting and unique perspective on crooked cops.
1. Main Source - “A Friendly Game of Baseball”
This is the example I cite when I crown Large Pro the best producer on the mic. Mr. Mitchell was no Rakim, but the writing on this metaphor flip that turns America’s favorite pastime into cop code is a brilliant embodiment of the racist, ‘good ole boy’ natures of both. The subject of police brutality has never been done better. Professor at Large, indeed.