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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Woop! Woop! That’s da sound of da police 

Judge Dre presiding in the case of NWA versus the police department.

Prosecuting attourneys are MC Ren Ice Cube and Eazy muthafuckin E.

Order order order.
Ice Cube take the muthafuckin stand.

Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth
and nothin but the truth so help your black ass?

- NWA, 'Fuck da Police'

Anti-police song lands Tiki Taane in court

Singer Tiki Taane is to appear in court after he allegedly sang the rap anthem F*** the Police at a Tauranga nightclub while officers were conducting an inspection.

Taane, 34, a former member of Salmonella Dub, spent a few hours in the cells at Tauranga police station early on Sunday after his altercation with the police at the Illuminati nightclub, where he was master of ceremonies for DJ Dick Johnson.

The news that Tiki Taane was arrested at his concert for singing NWA’s (Niggars with Attitude) 'Fuck da Police', while slightly laughable, bears further contemplation. Arrested for singing Rolling Stone Magazine's 417th best song of all time, Taane was clearly incarcerated by those who didn't spend the better part of the late 80s and early 90s jumping around in MC Hammer pants. The song, after all, is landmark in hip hop circles and marks the point at which hip hop culture crossed over into Kiwi culture, spawning acts like Upper Hutt Posse, DLT and Dam Native and eventually the explosion of Pacific and Maori music.

While I wasn’t at the concert, the split in comments on his Facebook page by those who were is interesting, with many arguing that the multiple arrests caused by Taane’s evocation of NWA now immortalized in the Facebook meme of FTP was unnecessary. Others argued that he should be more aware of how he is viewed as a role model and that the comments were inappropriate.

It would be wrong to speculate on what happened without being there, but Taane’s arrest reminded me of a similar situation I was in a few years ago when Snoop Dog came to Auckland. The police poured into the concert to do a ‘routine check’, Snoop responded with the hip hop tradition of boasting, and the crowd cheered creating a momentary tenseness. From attending many concerts, it’s fair to say that this tension was a result of both the police and the performer in that particular instance.

However, the problem with multiple arrests in this instance is that they just reinforced the narrative of the performer: that the cops arrest lots of young brown people. These discourses in the US music are not just police-hating music, they are a social commentary on the high rate of black incarceration, the struggle of communities against the Miami model of policing used to deal with racial riots and now globalization, and the marginalization of these communities. These narratives have resonance in New Zealand because of the high incarceration rates of Maori, who constitute around 14% of our population and around 51% of the prison population.

It is quite obvious that the New Zealand police are terribly out of step with youth, and each advertising campaign appears to get more desperate of late. We’ve had the one where chasing criminals is merely the selfish pursuit of getting more work stories, the financial appeal of more bonuses and the bizarre recruitment campaign over the last month where the NZ police are just like cougars as they like ‘em young. The latter campaign is poorly pitched and likely to isolate women, proving that sexism permeates the police as much as it does our national airlines (something that could still do with some work after the whole Rickards affair). Surely exercising a little bit of restraint at these events does better for the police’s relationship with youth than sinking a load of money into poorly planned campaigns that prove how out of the loop they are?


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