Plan of Investigation
It is through Gangsta Rap subgenre of Hip-Hop, that the question: “What were the underlying cultural reasons for the Los Angeles Riots of 1992?” can be answered. This paper will examine rap lyrics from prominent Los Angeles Hip-Hop acts in order to investigate the deteriorating rapport between the city’s oft-biased police department and the city’s increasingly restless black urban youth, from the perspective of the latter group. These lyrics will be juxtaposed with statements various accounts of events involving racially motivated police actions, in order to assess their validity. In doing so, it is shown that hip-hop reveals the problematic culture of aggression that led to the riots-- the militant mindset of both the LAPD and the young inner-city African American community, and the increasingly antagonistic and violent relationship between the two. Word Count (132)
Summary of Evidence
In the late 1980s, the hip-hop subgenre known as Gangsta Rap, which focused on the oft-violent lifestyles found in the poverty-ridden inner cities, emerged as a phenomenon.. The participants in the Gangsta Rap scene were not third person observers of the situations they depicted; the majority of these rappers were minorities and came from low-income backgrounds. If a rapper was not from the ‘hood’ he commanded no respect, and if he rapped about things he had never been through, he instantaneously lost all credibility. Songs were written in the first person, and subject matter came from personal experience. In the words of Ice-T, who is widely recognized as one of the forefathers of the genre , the goal of Gangsta Rap was to provide “street-level journalism, real-life observations told in poetry” . And at its best, it was successful in doing so. Its ability to inform the marginalized black youth about the problems plaguing their community led politically driven rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy to credit rap as the “Black folk’s CNN” . And its ability to supply a forum to express grievances and call for change led it to also be praised as “a voice for those impoverished and overlooked by governments, police, and politicians that had the power to change urban communities, but that failed to represent their needs” . The LAPD was a frequent target Hip-Hop artists, who characterized the department as racist and excessive. These accusations are understandable. Under Commissioner Gates, the LAPD "Went after crime before it occurred," Gates said. "Our people went out every single night trying to stop crime before it happened, trying to take people off the street that they believed were involved in crime. And that made us a very aggressive, proactive police department." This mentality opened up the door for frequent employment of racial profiling. In 1987, C.R.A.S.H (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums), a special operations unit of the LAPD, launched the Operation Hammer initiative. The operation consisted of a series of arrests and drug raids that were made in an attempt to crack down on the gang violence that plagued the city. However, due to the stereotyping utilized by the police, innocent minorities were regularly targeted and treated with brutality. From 1984 to 1989 the number of citizen complaints about police brutality increased 33% , and the LAPD developed a reputation for accepting and even encouraging the use of excessive force, especially with minority suspects. This excessive use of force on minorities was demonstrated on March 3rd, 1991, when Rodney King, an African-American construction worker, was brutally assaulted by a group police officers using billy clubs. The beating became front-page national news, due to on-looker George Holliday, who recorded the incident on camera, and sent the videotape, which showed King getting stuck by a baton 56 times to a local news station. Four of the officers involved in the beating were charged with excessive violence, but were acquitted of all...
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