Artists who previously protested the February 1999 police shooting and killing of unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo expressed renewed dismay Monday following the officers' acquittal on all charges last week.
"When I first heard that verdict, I was out of my mind. I'm like, no, this can't be true," said Public Enemy's Flavor Flav, whose song "41:19," on the group's album There's a Poison Goin' On, revealed his anger over the shooting.
"How in the world can these cops get off for a brutal murder? That murder was brutal. The man had bullets in his feet," Flavor Flav said.
Officers Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy were found not guilty of murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide on Friday in Albany, N.Y., where the trial was relocated. The four, according to Reuters, testified that they believed Guinea native Diallo, 22, had pulled a gun on them as he stood in front of his apartment on Feb. 4, 1999. They fired 41 times and hit Diallo 19 times.
Boss, Carroll, McMellon and Murphy were reassigned to desk jobs following the shooting.
The case has been surrounded by controversy in the year since the shooting. This weekend in New York City, in the wake of the verdict, marchers protested without violent incident in the Bronx and Manhattan.
"Police officers are considered the insurians of the community," said Raymond Murray, a member of the Atlanta-based production trio Organized Noize, which produced the upcoming all-star protest single "One Four
Love." "[The jury] couldn't accept the fact [that it was an]
uncalled-for, racially motivated thing. I don't see any justification for them not to receive any sort of punishment."
Murray, with his partners in Organized Noize, produced the two-part "One Four Love" last year for the New York duo Black Star and an all-star lineup of other rappers, including Kool G Rap, Rah Digga, Sporty Thievz, Common and Pharoahe Monch, as well Black Star's Mos Def and Talib Kweli.
Black Star's 1998 debut album, Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, featured songs, such as "Astronomy" (
href="http://media.addict.com/music/Black_Star/Astronomy.ram">RealAudio excerpt), that dealt with racial identity and black nationalism.
Murray said he hoped that "One Four Love," which comes out as part of the Black Starspearheaded EPHip-Hop for Respect on March 14, serves as a lasting rallying cry for fighting police brutality.
"I want it to be exactly [like] some of the old hip-hop records like 'Self-Destruction,' " Murray, 28, said. That 1989 song, addressing black-on-black crime, featured Public Enemy, KRS-One, Just Ice and others.
Murray described the guitar-laden sound of "One Four Love" as having a " '60s retro-rebellion feel."
Flavor Flav (born William Drayton), who lives in the Bronx, took a more hardcore hip-hop approach to expressing his anger over the shooting on "41:19" (RealAudio excerpt), one of the few times he's grabbed writing duties away from Public Enemy partner Chuck D.
Over a tight snare drum and minimal keyboards, the rapper angrily condemns racial profiling and unfair treatment of African Americans by police. The song even parodies the theme of the TV show "Cops" ("Bad boys, bad boys/ Whatcha gonna do?/ If you get caught by our motherfuckin' crew").
"There's a lot of good cops. But the bad cops are making the good cops look real f---ed up," said Flavor Flav. "So everybody that's in a blue suit, even if they're good, they're gonna [look] bad to people."
Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and regarded as one of hip-hop's forefathers, also let his feelings be known on the Diallo verdict, releasing a statement Friday.
"I am horrified by the outcome of the Diallo case," Simmons wrote. "This verdict stands as another reason for the community to stand together for a change. The hip-hop community moves as an army that has the power to elect government and puts the people first vs. the officially sanctioned and promoted police-state mentality of Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani. This verdict will continue to motivate me to be part of the aggressive effort that galvanizes our youth to register, vote and make changes in the current system."
(Senior Writer Chris Nelson also contributed to this report.)