Rapper Kane Mayfield on Freddie Gray and the reality of police brutality

City Paper

The death of Freddie Gray didn’t even shock me. It’s not good, but it doesn’t shock me. I’m not shockable. I’m desensitized. I’ve been desensitized by the slow and deliberate destruction of people who look like me for longer than I can remember.

My cousin just sent me a picture of myself at 15, when I was standing on the corner, hanging out with my friends while they sold drugs because I thought that shit was cool. I had a great time. I had a razor in my mouth and I thought I was the shit. I remember that and I remember who that 15-year-old kid was and all the dumb shit that went through my 15-year-old brain. And if you took me out of my circumstance, placed me in Baltimore, and then put me in the middle of a protest, charged me up with a lot of talk of social inequality and whatever else, and then left me to my own devices with a bunch of other charged-up baseball fans? Those fans are the drunk people in Fells Point that I used to go watch fistfight while I smoked hookah and drank tea and ate fucking shawarma and laughed. Those are the people who don’t know fucking shit about what really goes on in Gilmor Homes and they don’t know how those “young black animals” don’t really have a lot of hope. And they don’t know about the police.

True story: Back in 2005, I went to a buddy of mine’s party. He threw teen parties. I just went to support my friend and hang out with him for a couple of hours while the party was going on. One of the young kids smacked one of the young girls and they sent a helicopter, two paddy wagons, about 15 to 20 cop cars, and like five to 10 motorcycles to break up a teen party. And it wasn’t like there was thousands of kids there. There was maybe like, 100 to 150 kids. And they sent the most harsh reinforcements. And I remember this kid was trying to go back in because he left his phone or some shit in there and the cop kept pushing him. “Sit back,” he said. “I’m just going to grab my phone, I gotta call my mother,” the kid said. And the cop was pushing him progressively harder and harder and I swear, about to fuck this kid up, so I grabbed the kid by his bookbag and I say, “Look, you see that line of kids waiting for the pay phone? Go call your mother from there.”

“But my phone—”

“She’ll be less mad about the phone than she will be about picking you up from booking because he’s going to arrest you. Listen to what I’m telling you. He’s not here to protect you. He’s here to fuck you up. Go make your phone call over there with the rest of the kids.”

And the cop’s like, “Yeah, listen to your friend.”

And I was like, “Yeah, well, maybe if you weren’t fucking him up, he’d understand. If I’m smacking the shit out of you and teaching you long division, you probably wouldn’t get the whole message, would you?”

And he’s like, “Well,  how about I take you in.” And I’m like, “Nigga for what? You can’t take me nowhere.”

Two seconds later zip cuffs are on me.

And they purposefully lost my paperwork and left me in the Central Booking’s holding cell for a week. No shower. Salt meat sandwiches and dope dealers, junkies, and drunk Mexicans. You know, the regular Friday, Saturday night lockups are circling in and out. Just circling in and out. They’re coming in and going out, I’m just sitting there.

But the problem isn’t the cops, it’s the people giving the cops their marching orders. It’s, hey, “we need to do a sweep over here, lock up everybody who looks suspicious.”

Whether you agree or not, you got a job to do. I work for Comcast. I go in on Monday, if they’re gonna say, “You know what? We need to sell more DVRs.” Well, I’m fucking selling DVRs. Everyone’s getting one. So, yeah, it’s fucked up. Same as some young kid who just joined the military to get the fuck out of his bad circumstances and now he’s just killing brown people in the Middle East. It’s not his choice, he didn’t say, “I want to get up and kill some brown people.” Maybe after a couple of tours he says that, but at first he probably wasn’t saying that. He’s just got some marching orders.

Police brutality is a real thing. Police train differently now. Where arrest was the last option, now it’s the first. Cops used to try to not arrest you. But like everybody else, if you’re not bringing in the numbers, you’re not getting funded. If you don’t spend your whole budget, they’ll give you less money next year. And they’d rather give public schools shitty books and give cops better body armor to protect them from the fucked-up illiterate kids that the public school could’ve fixed before they became the nigga shooting at you.

It’s not profitable for humanity but it’s definitely profitable for business. The businesses that sell guns or body armor, who build prisons, who profit off the jail industry because the jail industry is a real industry. If you’re poor, they’re gonna arrest you. You can beat up a young black kid in an alley in West Baltimore and break his spine and you know what? It’s not gonna be any trouble. I mean, the cops didn’t expect him to die, I don’t think they assassinated him, as I’ve seen people say. I don’t think they lynched him, as people say. I think it was business as usual. And it got a little out of hand this time, that’s all. Now the real problem is why is that business as usual? 


Kane Mayfield is a rapper. His most recent album, “Return of Rap,” is out now.

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