It feels pretty fucking stupid writing about music right now.
The murder of Mike Brown and the subsequent martial-law fuckery in Ferguson, Missouri that’s still going on, and then, the to-be-expected “neener neener neener neener” moment in which the petulant police pimp a false narrative about how this kid stole some cigars or something (which doesn’t matter or make him a bad person and certainly doesn’t justify shooting the 18-year-old even if it were true, which it isn’t) make it so. I’m not saying other people should feel like I do and decide that finding adjectives to describe how musical notes sound next to one another is a waste of time (and look, I get it, the scheduled tweets gotta keep on coming, and these specifically horrifying injustices never stop happening, though we do seem to be experiencing them at a steady clip lately), but the idea of writing about music feels wrong to me.
I’m glad that the writing I did contribute on the week of Brown’s murder at least speaks to some of the same issues surrounding Ferguson. I wrote about Baton Rouge’s Lil Boosie, a target of the police and victim of the drug war, and in his own way, a political prisoner and a freedom fighter, because rap songs that articulate a simmering frustration with everything and answer that frustration with a humanism that locates lots of pain and a few moments of joy, even, are important. To be clear, though: I can feel OK with my occupation this week because I just so happened to write something that has some loose connection to the world at large on the week that an unarmed black man was murdered by the people who are supposed to protect him.
On Friday, rapper Young Moose’s Twitter was filled with retweets culled from the “#FreeMoose” hashtag and other tweets that suggest the rapper who was supposed to open for Boosie last Saturday night at the Baltimore Arena is in jail. If he has been arrested, why he’s in there, or if he committed an “actual” crime or if it’s some bullshit, I do not know. And even if he did something, the idea of someone going to jail and through the court system and possibly to prison is depressing in and of itself because none of these things are even remotely reformative. Some of Moose’s Twitter fans suggest that the arrest just a day or so before a big-deal concert is not a coincidence. In the past, Moose himself has tweeted about his shows being shut down by police. From July 16: “Police Keep Canceling A Nigga Shows But Fuck’em Aug 16 Down The Baltimore Arena Young Moose Opening Up For Lil Boosie.” Part of me thinks his fans are probably right, because this week in Ferguson is a reminder that nothing’s too petty for the police. This is the kind of shit Moose’s song ‘Fuck Da Police’ off his mixtape “O.T.M. 2” pretty much details: He was first arrested for selling weed at age 12 (a drug that more than half the country believes should be legal), which moved him into Child Protective Services, which hardened and alienated him and only made him angrier and gave him fewer options. Now, he’s 21 years old and he wasn’t there for a concert that could’ve changed his life for the better and raised his profile.
And there is Tyrone West, pulled over and then suddenly dead in police custody somehow right there outside of his vehicle, and there is the autopsy report on his death which took more than five months to come out and there is the independent report of how the stop was handled which arrived last week, which doesn’t blame the police for causing his death (though I am suspicious as always of the “he was out of shape” argument), but does certainly damn them for not following proper procedures and exacerbating the situation. Cousin to West, Kneel Knaris, an excellent Baltimore rapper, is one of the many people around here who hasn’t allowed people to forget about West. Not long after West’s death, Knaris posted this on Facebook: “Tyrone Antonio West is my cousin. The one who kept me out of trouble as a kid and MADE me go to college. I am a man because of him.” It was a reminder that West was a real person who had an effect on real people’s lives, not a talking point. Knaris has continued to be active on the ground and on social media and he also recorded a song, ‘The Ghost of Tyrone West,’ under the name Prime Meridian, that captures the rage and pain (“Afraid to dig deeper, their information’s shoddy/ Five whole days until my family saw his body”) that comes with having to sit on the fact that your cousin is dead under extremely questionable circumstances. It’s also got one of those mealy mouthed early ’90s hip-hop hooks chanted with such conviction that it becomes catchy: “No pity, my message to the citizen’s committee/ Who the biggest law breakers in the city/ Full of corrupt politicians, red tape, road blocks, criminals, dope spots, what about these rogue cops?”
I am also thinking about the new curfew here and the curfew as a tactic to squash protest in Ferguson right now and how parents in Baltimore get fined for letting their kids stay outside late and how that fine, which can be up to $500, may make it so these parents can’t pay their bills or rent or have a Friday pizza night with their kids, and that makes me think of how the Long Range Acoustic Device they are using in Ferguson can damage your ears and how that has long-term effects on people’s lives because that shit costs money to treat, and then that makes me think about how plenty of people protesting don’t have health insurance because this country still doesn’t actually give it to us the way pretty much every other country does, and well, I could keep going, couldn’t I? Those are just some of immediate, hit-you-in-the-wallet sorts of problems caused by the supposed problem-solvers, the police. I don’t know man, stay strong Ferguson.