Note: this is part two of a four part series. You can read part one here.
By: Kelvin Criss
“We gotta fight back’ that’s what Huey said” (Tupac, “Changes”)
Hip-hop has a strong focus on self-defense, not violence. The idea of protecting one’s community, much like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s idea of police patrol and self-defense, is very clear in the lyrics of the music. Hip-hop often has notions of confronting police due to injustices against one’s community and protecting the community from foreign exploiters. This can be seen in countless songs such as Dead Prez’s song “Assassination.”
“Them belly full, my trigger finger got pulled/To cut the bull shots’ll warm your flesh like wool/These tools for survival make fools out of rivals/Fuck the Bible, get on your knees and praise my rifle/Your life is done there aint another place to run/Eat your own gun, scared because my people never known fun” (“Assassination”)
“Them belly full” conveys the same message as Tupac’s “Holler if You Hear Me” as far as police exploitation. “My trigger finger got pulled” has the same message of fighting back in order protect one’s community from further innocent blood being shed by the police. Immortal Technique’s “Fight Until the End” has a very similar message to Dead Prez and Tupac’s songs.
“Dem’ shoot at us/Turn around and deny it/People on the streets are dying/We must come together/Fight depression and pull de pressure/On de system that tries to diss us/Tries to hurt us, and tries to kill us/We don’t win, we fight again/We gon’ fight until the end, until the end/We fight until we win, until we win.” (“Fight Until the End”)
“Dem’ shoot at us, Turn around and deny it…Fight depression and pull de pressure, on de system that tries to diss us,” shows the violence that police use against those who are from the community; people are being shot in their neighborhoods for unknown reasons by the police departments. Dead Prez has a song entitled “I Have a Dream Too” which describes a group of Panther-like revolutionaries who are looking for a police officer who shot a boy. Later in the song, a woman sings about the incident of a young boy being shot by the police.
“Just when you thought it was safe/Police kill a little boy last night/They said it was a mistake/But that won’t bring back his life/His momma couldn’t believe/That it could happen to her/She prayed to God everyday/Guess it just wasn’t enough” (“I Have a Dream Too”)
These lyrics show the hardships that people in urban communities endure. As if poverty wasn’t bad enough, they have to deal with the police shooting their youth. In their song entitled “Far From Over,” Dead Prez state: “Truth is like a 44 magnum in this business/I’m out to go Jonathan Jackson on you bitches.” This is a direct reference to George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, who was taken out of his trial by his younger brother, Jonathon Jackson and friends, who were armed with automatic weapons. Dead Prez say this to not only incite community action, but also to commemorate what the community had done. “You ain’t got the right to bear arms, huh?/Sometimes you might have to brandish a motherfuckin’ firearm.” This line from Immortal Technique’s “Lick Shot” describes the mentality the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense has. This belief is not exclusive to the Party, but rather is common belief amongst revolutionaries. In order to protect ones community, one must pick up arms to protect one’s neighborhood.
Public Enemy’s “Can’t Hold Us Back” is about protecting one’s community:
“We rep justice, equality and freedom now/Put fam first, man, woman and child/Never mild, keep it hostile ’til we raise/Where we say, what we mean and we mean what we say/It’s been a long time comin’ that we mob as one/Guerrilla Funk, Hard Truth nigga, that’s what’s up/No peace on the street ’til the justice come/From the ballot to the bullet, if it’s on, it’s on” (“Can’t Hold Us Back”)
This song both resonates the ideas of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and describes what the community needs. These lyrics not only mention the lust for “justice, equality and freedom,” but also that there will be, “No peace on the street ‘til the justice come[s].” All of these songs mirror the principles of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. In particular, how the members of the community are willing to stand up for their rights, pick up arms and fight, even die, to protect their community.
Keep up with Bonus Cut and its continual look on the ideas of the Black Panthers in hip-hop every week in this four part installment.
Dead Prez. Let’s Get Free. Rec. 1998-2000. Loud Records, 2000. CD.
Dead Prez. RBG: Revolutionary but Gangsta. Rec. Feb.-Mar. 2004. Sean Cane, Stic, 2004. CD.
Immortal Technique. Revolutionary Vol 1. Rec. 2000-2001. Viper Records, 2001. CD.
Immortal Technique. The 3rd World. Rec. June 2008. Bronze Nazareth, 2008. CD.
Public Enemy. Rebirth of a Nation. Rec. 7 Mar. 2006. Pari, 2006. CD.
Tupac Shakur. 2Pacalypse Now. Rec. June-September 1991. Atron Gregory, 1991. CD.
Tupac Shakur. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Rec. January-March 1993. Atron Gregory, 1993. CD.
Tupac Shakur. “Changes.” Rec. 1992. Changes. 1998. Song.