Jeru da Damaja - Invasion
“When I was young I used to shoot for the stars, But got shot down by demons in patrol cars”
The intro to ‘Invasion‘ sounds so real, I still wonder if it is. In Jeru’s East New York neighborhood, 90% of residents were stopped and frisked by police in 2011. He probably has plenty of personal experience to draw from regarding overzealous policing.
The Coup - Pork And Beef
Cut Killer - Nique La Police
Cut Killer’s contribution to the fantastic 1995 urban French movie ‘La Haine‘ (The Hate) is a mashup of famous samples: The Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Machine Gun Funk’ (itself a sample of 70s funk band Black Heat) and N.W.A’s ‘Fuck The Police’ along with KRS-One’s ‘Sound Of The Police’ (both present in this list as well). ‘Nique La Police‘ takes no prisoners; the message is pretty obvious.
LL Cool J - Illegal Search
“Get that flashlight out of my face, I’m not a dog so damn it put away the mace”
A long time before Kanye asked if a young man can make money anymore LL was asking abusive cops the same question on the Marley Marl-produced ‘Illegal Search‘, as they searched his car for guns and drugs on the side of the road. Unfortunately since LL says he “drinks champagne, the hell with Coors” and “never sold coke in my life, I do tours… ” he has to endure harassment.
Brand Nubian - Claimin' I'm A Criminal
“I got the right to an attorney and to stay silent, They got the right to try to burn me if I play violent”
‘Claimin’ I’m A Criminal‘ is an interpolation of R&B singer Luther Ingram’s ‘I’m Trying to Sing a Message to You‘. Lord Jamar’s verse is my favorite here: “Still I won’t bite my tongue, I just write tight shit to incite the young, to fight the one.” Great stuff.
Cypress Hill - Looking Through The Eye Of A Pig
“I’m in the biggest gang you ever saw, above the law, Lookin through the eye of the pig I see it all”
Cypress Hill’s love for the LAPD is evident on more than one songs, but ‘Looking Through The Eye Of A Pig‘ scores more points and nails its place on this list for its narration throught a cop’s point of view.
Prince Paul Ft Everlast - The Men in Blue
“From the Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn to Staten, We’re the most organized criminals in Manhattan”
As if hip-hop’s first concept album ‘A Prince Among Thieves’ wasn’t groundbreaking enough (the album charts the rise and fall of young MC Tariq on his quest to gather money to finish up a demo tape for his meeting with the Wu-Tang Clan), Prince Paul’s collaboration with Everlast on ‘The Men in Blue‘ masterfully depicts police corruption, as the main character gets arrested by Officer Bitchkowski. Everlast kicks a rhyme that one would imagine a corrupt cop kicking if a corrupt cop could kick rhymes.
Body Count - Cop Killer
“Cop Killer better you than me, Cop Killer fuck police brutality!”
I have actually uploaded a video on YouTube that covers this story. Ice-T released ‘Cop Killer‘ after the Rodney King beating that sparked the infamous L.A riots so it’s definitely a song bursting from anger and encapsulating the ferocious spirit of the times. The U.S. government actually tried to use the song’s imaginery as an escape goat – claiming that it provoked the riots, not just documented them. Still sounds fresh today, of course.
KRS-One - Sound Of The Police
“I know this for a fact, you don’t like how I act, You claim I’m sellin’ crack, But you be doin’ that”
KRS One has talked about police before but damn, those sirens are on another level. That Woop, woop has become a symbolic one in the face of injustice and KRS-One evoked the emotions that come from witnessing corruption more aggressively. The music video adds images to the message, flashing police brutality behind a serious KRS who asks when the injustice will end. Some might say this song’s message still rings true.
N.W.A - Fuck The Police
“Without a gun and a badge, what do ya got? A sucker in a uniform waiting to get shot”
When ‘Fuck The Police‘ was released, the outrage from some, including government officials and the F.B.I., was to be expected. After all, Cube described a “bloodbath” and explained that he would “swarm” on anybody that had a badge, a gun and “a blue uniform.” While controversy surrounded the song upon its release in 1988, it later became an ominous cut. The 1991 beating of Rodney King showed that Cube, MC Ren, et al. weren’t exactly fabricating the injustice they saw on the streets of Compton at the hands of some police officers.