Stray Shots: Michael Brown's Death & Ferguson, Missouri's Eruption

This week, citizens in Ferguson Missouri protesting the killing of Michael Brown were met with officers wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles. Hip Hop asked, "What can we do?"

“I already know the deal but what the fuck do I tell my son / I want him living right living good, respect the rules / He’s five years old, and he still thinking cops is cool / How do I break the news that when he gets some size / He’ll be perceived as a threat, or see the fear in they eyes / It’s in they job description to terminate the threat / So 41 shots to the body is what he can expect…” -Talib Kweli, “The Proud.”

Each week, we can usually count on at least one rapper doing something that ranks between idiotic, inspiring or incredible. That’s what we hope makes Stray Shots work. Events happen and due to industry politics or just straight up cowardice, they seldom get a candid dialogue. We try to provide such a dialogue in both an informed and timely manner. This week, we’re taking a bit of a detour from the usual Stray Shots because it appears a member of America’s law enforcement community might get away with killing another young, unarmed person of color. And so the usual cycle we’ve witnessed with Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin (killed by a civilian under the same premise), John Crawford, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, and countless others is playing itself out. This is way beyond the scope of Hip Hop, but there’s also a direct correlation if you’re a fan of Hip Hop. So what do we do before the cycle of what appear to be innocent people getting shot by law enforcement officials with no repercussions repeats itself in the form of t-shirts, protests/candlelight vigils and the inevitable “(insert victim’s name here) freestyle?”

Andre: Donald Glover hopped on Twitter and gave what’s a fairly salient assessment of the current Twitter situation:

It’s complicated, right? These virtual spaces that we frequent have the power to make real change only when it spills over into the actual world. No one deserves to die because a police officer—allegedly—got upset that two brown people treated him like an equal and told him they were going to be at their destination soon. And the only way to impact that is real-life activism.

Omar: I agree. A few days before our country’s own citizens were getting gassed and shot with rubber bullets, we started asking artists about Michael Brown, who was the latest victim in a long line of young, unarmed people of color to die during what seemed like a normal run in with the police.

“I think it’s unacceptable,” Lecrae offered, in an interview with Emily Berkey that DX has yet to publish. “I think the government was created to serve the people, not to run the people. I think we’ve forgotten that the government works for us. They’re not in charge of us, we’re in charge of them and I think we’ve forgotten that. Some of us are under educated and we don’t know that. They work for us, we vote them in, we put them in their position, we create these laws, rules, and legislations and we have the power. I think we’ve forgotten that, it’s that slave mentality of, ‘Yes, sir. You win. You rule.’ Because of that authority we’ve given over, we’ve been taken advantage of. I don’t think that calls for street justice, I think it just calls for us asking for what already belongs to us. We’re law-abiding citizens.”

Andre: It proves there isn’t such a thing as a “normal” run in with police for people of color and police. And this is where Rap and/or Hip Hop comes in. African-Americans have always been outsiders in America. Hip Hop has been, in part, the voice that pushes back. It’s so interesting that, after the African-American civil rights era, we’ve come far enough to think of ourselves as ‘insiders.’ While there are no words to describe how people fought and died so we could participate in the democratic process, we are not necessarily (if you let history tell it) ‘of’ the democratic process, and these incidences serve as a reminder of the class of citizenship still occupied by black folks. Still, theoretically, he’s right, right? But it doesn’t feel like it. Remember when Kanye did this:

Tell me it doesn’t feel this way right now?

Omar: Ah, yes. I remember that moment very well. The thing is, as much as the police and other sectors of our government make me feel like they give less than three-fifths of a fuck about me as a black man, this isn’t limited to a black issue. At its best, we assume Hip Hop speaks for oppressed, marginalized members of society, but that’s only one of its many functions. And I think it’s serving in that function to a much lesser degree for a variety of reasons. This is a societal illness. To Lecrae’s point, when the adults we pay to protect us are killing teenagers, we have a serious problem. Education is definitely one key factor. I’d prefer if people research all the details of each case before blindly hitting Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with knee-jerk reactions. I’m fairly well-versed in some of California’s laws, and I still get visibly shook when a policeman follows my car for a couple blocks, because I feel I can still be beaten, killed or wrongfully cited even if I know my rights. The latter has happened to me before. And when you’re sitting there on the curb or in your car dealing with a mix of rage and remnants of fear, you realize just how powerless you can sometimes be. I think the solution starts with education and political mobilization. Where does Hip Hop fit into that equation? We asked Crooked I Wednesday, August 13.

“I’ve seen it,” Crooked explained. “Back when they were doing “We’re All In The Same Gang,” I was a baby. My bigger brothers was all gangbanging [along with] with my uncles, cousins, and all that. They were with that movement, like, ‘You know what? This is some shit that needs to change.’

“Hip Hop sparked that. With “Self Destruction,” Kris did that. Now, what can you do when the top men is only talking about twerking? Motherfuckers don’t really have it in their mind, and they don’t care about Michael Brown until it’s them. It can be you. We really need to organize and do something about that. I wish Russell was out there. When Russell [Simmons] was out there doing the Hip Hop Summit, I did about two of those. I was there. I’m not gonna say any names, but he was approaching rappers to speak on certain things on a panel, and they were like, ‘Nah, I’m not doing that, dog. I don’t get into politics or community stuff.’

“These were certain rappers that niggas respect and love right now. I’ve seen with my own eyes how everybody’s not willing to take action.”

Andre: Rappers can’t make certain decisions because they’re severely limited by structures they have fealty to. This is what it is to be an adult—for the most of us, at least. You’ve got a series of obligations that often conflict and tangle you in ways you had no idea you’d have to encounter. That said, people often think there are probably obligations to a sense of justice that overcomes those other obligations. I don’t know which one is correct. It’s really, really unfair for me to go tell someone to risk their career making comments that could alienate a certain segment of their fanbase. But being a POC has a kind of asterisk against it for that reason. It precludes a certain set of responsibilities separate from pure personal survival. It’s the idea that I’m not safe until we all are. So while I can’t think of Hip Hop consistently leading to political change, there’s no doubt that it’s an important tool in the arsenal. That’s what makes Kanye’s previous actions against old George so powerful, and that’s why probably only he can be a megastar and make a song called “Blood On The Leaves.” So while the desire to make these people we look up to because of their prodigious musical talents into ambassadors for social change is great, it hasn’t really been done right since It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, and that was some 26 years ago.

Omar: Some people will look to so-called conscious or militant emcees to articulate what we’re feeling because they have before. And there’s some merit in that. I’m not ashamed to admit I learned who Oliver North was because of listening to “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos.” But I also found out who Yusef Hawkins was by listening to Chubb Rock. I never paid attention to who C. Delores Tucker was until Tupac began dissing her. So I guess I’m saying these kind of events will let you know what side your favorite emcees stand on merely by their actions or lack thereof. And when the police are firing tear gas on media outlets and allegedly drawing weapons on credentialed reporters, you might not have the option of being picky about the source of the commentary. Those are moments when Hip Hop can be such a powerful tool. But much like school or church, Hip Hop can only provide so much, and the rest is up to us as individuals and members in our respective communities. I hope people are taking badge numbers, learning specific laws about how to assemble, stage peaceful protests and staying angry through midterm elections.


Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @omarburgess.

Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who's contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He's also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.


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  • Har-magedon. G.O.D.

    Peace to Man, Woman and Child Motherfuckers need to stop all that 'turn up' bullshit, wearing mascara and dresses and start to 'boss in' meaning do like the Asians , sacrifice and overtake whoever at their own game. Dumb fucks, imitating women, looking like slobs and expect people to respect you. Nah, respect starts with self. What the fuck happened to the Talented Tenth.? Oh, they are too busy 'turning up' and being 'hood.' And that's coming from a street cat that has seen it all and been through the bullshit. No more fucking excuses, the white man is this, the white man is hoo. Fuck the white man, he doesn't have that power over me. Motherfuckers are like pastors, they scream Satan's name more than God's name in their sermons. Fuck outta here. p.s. a real man has no business saying 'trun up' that shit is mad feminine

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Farrah Gray Asian Interviewer: "Can you address their concerns Mr.Chang?" MR. CHANG: "The concerns of Black people? Yes I can. The fact is, that we all live under a system of White Supremacy. We Asian people look back at our long history of conflict with the European. We observe their strategies and develop our own, in response and in kind. There is no need for loud mass movements on our part, because we intend to overtake them in time, through action and personal sacrifice". Asian INTERVIEWER: "And the Black man?" MR. CHANG: "He does not count into our situation. He is simply here. We do not hate the Black man. We just love the Asian man most. Real love--not cliche. We want to see Asian man happy, so we employ him. We eat together. We spend time with each other. We want his kids to be educated, so we invest in our own schools that offer our children the technical abilities to change the world's power structure in our favor. We want to see the Asian man safe, so we purchase and organize our own communities. We want him to remain Asian, so we reduce the outside influence of others ideologies and cultures. While he fought to sniff behind the White man, the Black man has had the opportunity and every right in the world to do the same, but he chooses to indict people like me for not hiring him over my own brothers. For me to do this would be foolish and that would not be Asian love. In contrast, the Black man will fight for the right to be up under everyone else other than other Black people who he should feel the most love for. If our indifference to their situation make us racist, then what would you call the Black man's indifference to his own situation?"

  • So Icy Boi!


  • eee

    1 less monkey who gives a flying cock

  • Anonymous

    American citizens are gun point

  • Anonymous

    hoodlum ass piece of trash got what he deserved. This cop did us all a service by ridding the streets of this piece of trash.

  • Anonymous

    All the comments down below are right...this repeated shit is started to make black people look weakkkkk. Stop bitching about kids who didnt listen to the cops (who did look pretty fucking mean to begin with) had a rep in there town Plus was sitting there cussing out the cops bitching about his skin color instead of shutting up and listening. The one thing I learned from black people was in front of a cop SHUT THE FUCK Up. but these days you guys never SHUT THE FUCK UP and its getting these kids shot cause you keep making them fear for there life from people who are there to protect them. Talib should never be a fucking parent if he plans on telling his kids to for their life. he should have DHS called and have them tooken away before they get shot.

  • morrtis

    Shoot loads not bullets

  • Anonymous

    this is America now ?

  • Anonymous

    we need some ethnic cleansing in this country. we gave the porch monkey's their chance to become human and its clear they don't want to.

  • Anonymous

    Hahahahaha of course no one on this site put the facts out there about what happened leading up the the incident. fucking disgraceful race of people. Cant wait until n!ggers eliminate themselves from this earth so the rest of us civilized people can start living

  • Tishauna

    EXACTLY! White rap fans are not allies. Only a few are. And there's not a lot of them. I remember tech9ne being asked about trayvon martin and he looked like a terrified politician who was just asked about immigration reform. Rappers are ruled by their slave masters money, and that's who they don't want to alienate. So they stay ho hum about topical issues. Golden era rappers would have been all over these cases.

  • Tishauna

    Most people who comment are white kids who wants to be apart of the culture but not down for the cause. Most white fans are HIGHLY suspect. And how come whits don't talk about all of this white on white crime???

    • Nez

      I'm white, and I stand beside ya'll, no matter what your color. Back in '07, there was a five year old white child who got shot by police, then there was a Hispanic man who was killed by officers this year. Both happened less then two hours from where I live. Neither made the news like Garner and others did, even though the situations were the same, because it wasn't white-on-black crime. I've seen first hand harassment from white police on white people. And I've seen white-on-black (in this case it was my friends being harassed), and black-on-white. It's not exclusive to one race, it's more about giving people power and them not being responsible enough to handle it. In the case of the five year old, the police officers never saw a day of jail, and one is still an officer (The one who's bullet killed the kid). I can't say enough how close to my heart this issue is. There are some whites who come on here and say racists things, but these issues affect them too. All of us, black and white and every other color, deserve to live in a system where we don't have to worry about the people that are supposed to protect us. If only more people were aware of the issues.

    • marcus45

      Saying this isn't race related is incredibly naive and frankly tyoical of whites who are "color blind"

    • rideonemfz09

      The cause? lol. I just like music, I dont need to be apart of any cause to listen to hiphop. I like EDM too, should I go to raves and pop molly? This issue has nothing to do with hiphop. It also isnt about race, which is why white people dont scream black on white crime, white on white crime, its crime. If a black cop shot this guy then it would be another murder. BUT, since its a white cop, its an excuse for people to ruin their neighborhood, destroy businesses, play victim, etc. I dont give a shit what color you are. Behavior dictates perception, period.

  • Torre

    By "alienating a certain segment of the fan base" you mean white people , I mean let's be real. Rappers are ruled by white people's money. We need more rappers like ice-t, public enemy, dead prez, Paris, 2pac, ice cube etc.... White rap fans don't care about the black community. So when they bring up black on black crime it's mostly disengenuous and a deflection.

  • Anonymous

    So in finally comes out that the officer who killed this kid is a BLACK policemen!!! Ohh the irony!!! Then the racists went silent!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous

      since the police are known to cover up their own shit, i dont believe what the police say. like why did it took so for them to release the cops name?? i still think the cop was white.

    • Tishauna

      Internalized racism is still racism

    • LawINFOrcement

      Says the anonymous guy! Sinister? LOL you people who try to sound like your educated are so funny. Half those kids your talking about were killed by BLACK cops! Its the corrupt police we should be uniting against, every officer should have to wear a video camera at ALL times!!! But instead people like YOU try to play the race card.

    • Anonymous Yes

      Is the following list "irony" or something more "sinister" and endemic ? You decide anonymous internet guy . Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford,

  • Anonymous

    ^ this dude above is soo right. They just keep bitching about black kids getting shot, but they dont change there ways at all. websites like hip hop dx and complex promote rappers and artist that say they hate police and that they want to shoot them. You got to change your ways from the fucking core that starts with your kids. if your kid gets anxiety filled when he sees a cop thats not good, itll make him freak out and not listen to instructions, and instead of shutting up and getting on the ground hes gonna cry and yell b/c of his skin color...(which is not following directions to get on the ground and shut up) which will get his ass shot. then they complain on these websites and shit...pathetic.

    • Scoob

      Zimmerman is half cuban/half white you fuckwit

    • Anonymous

      Actually zimmerman was mexican, but you know black people its always the white mans fault.

    • Anonymous

      Im the one who left the original comment. and I agree completely. America doesnt hate black people. we hate ghetto people who instead of trying to make themselves a better person they rather ruin the environment around them and not fucking listen. I cant say their spoiled cus they did have a hard life growing up. but they are spoiled if you think you should change a cops mind over your own...thats what got those kids shot to begin with. Trayvon started fighting a dude twice his size (which trust me If he wanted to get away from that situation he could have) but because he was so cocky he got some white dude who yes is a dumbass. but at this point if you wont stop calling white people dumb you better get used to it too. Either way its a black cop that shot this kid... I love black people, but they way they keep bitching about this shit is starting to get pathetic. I mean like absolutely pathetic. its not the fucking 90s all cops arent white if anything they are mostly asain and black in my area. and the area where a couple of those kids got shot FOR SURE I know cause ive been there and lived in 2 dif citys of 2 of those 5 kids mentioned.

    • rideonemfz09

      If a cop tells me to get on the ground, and I resist, then ill probably get shot. doesnt matter what color i am. I dont wanna say black people in general because there are many respectful responsible black people in this world that contribute. Most events where there is a shooting, brawl, tends to be instigated by ghetto acting black people. Why is that? Because we made them do it? NO! Because those particular black people are the ones who grew up in the ghetto, were taught ghetto manners (no manners) and act like cavemen. When I was younger two fights broke inside a movie theater within 10min of the movie starting, and the theater was mostly black people. Act like a disrespectful piece of trash, and get treated like one. Doesnt matter what color you are, just so happens that most ghetto people are black. I took my dog for a walk the other day and 5 black girls (10-12yrs old) were swearing more than a sailor at the park, talking about sucking dick, fuck you, etc. Really? Or go to the gym, groups of black guys sit around waiting to play basketball hitting on every piece of ass that walks by. Act like mature adults and learn some respect, stop whining, take control of your life and you wont get wrapped into a stereotype.

    • It's the way it is

      It will never change america hates black people

    • Anonymous

      I think your response is absolutely pathetic and goes to show things will never change . You say black people need to change from the core . How's about the racist police and society as a whole stops reacting in such a hostile way towards black people i.e every black man is seen as a potential threat .Social Engineering !! You then try to apportion the blame at certain ignorant rappers who play into the myth that all black men are walking talking dicks . You do realise that a lot of those teenage rappers are OWNED by predominantly 60+ white record label owners who have to answer to shareholders who monitize these artists pushing that ignorant thugged out agenda . And to think over the past 10 years thousands of black soldiers have died on foreign protecting a country and society that ABSOLUTELY HATE THEM BECAUSE OF THE MELANIN IN THEIR SKIN. Absolutely pathetic Honestly I'm pissed off at myself that i'm even bothering to reply to your racist and mentally ignorant comment. Peace

  • Anonymous

    These are dumb as shit. all those kids were threats. They didnt listen the cops. if a cop tells you to stop so he can talk to you or if hes running up on you DONT FREAK OUT. you need to stop telling your kids to be scared black parents and teach them how to conduct themselves in public life isnt about swag guns bitchs and drugs. And every kid on that list went for one of those....and thats what got him killed. Everyone with his skin color that they did trust pulled a colt 45 out on thier partner and blasted his fucking brains out. so if your black and you freak out to a police officer hes gonna freak out back. Just learn to keep calm and watch videos on how to talk to police. Instead of worrying how the police should be talking to you. This shits getting stupid thats the only fix, what else are you gonna do?!?!?!? exactly so stfu dumb ass comments nothing else is working.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed completely, but you guys gotta fucking get it. All cops arent white anymore the person who shot this kid WAS BLACK HE WAS BLACK HE WAS BLACK. its the cops fault. These people needs to stop installing fear in there kids so they obey the law instead of trying to "CHANGE" a cops mind. Work on yourself then others.

    • Anonymous

      It's not just one way though, both need to be respectful of one another. There should be no provocation from either side, just respectful dialogue.

  • What

    all i got to say is listen to Paris song it aint the same as the day of old

  • captain_ahab

    Ferguson is 67% black, the white mayor ran unopposed. 5 of 6 white city council members also ran unopposed. They don't even care to get involved in their own local government then they complain about an all white police force?

    • Anonymous

      All these dudes are gonna get rich quick, they don't have time for boring shit like community outreach or municipal politics.

  • Wake up

    Over the weekend 26 people were shot in Chicago. I understand that police brutality is a major issue and the killing of anyone innocent is an injustice but why is it that we focus on a handful of incidents when in cities like Chicago blacks are killing them selves in the thousands?

  • Anonymous

    Last nights protest seems to have gone off fine. It's good to see proper police oversight and them not acting like the military. It's good to see community leaders keeping the community away from rioting and looting. Both sides working together can and will make progress.

  • Anonymous

    "Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who's contributed to a few different properties on the web -" Stop trying to make "wrote for now-defunct sites" sound cool.

    • Anonymous

      "Stop making fun of this insightful article." - Andre Grant, Person In Article

    • Anonymous

      The bigger picture being??? The fact that the police can do whatever they want? The fact that race is the major factor being looked at when really it's our first amendment rights that are being violated? That we should all stand together, white & black, to repress against unlawful police enforcement?

    • Andre Grant

      Stop being cynical and picking out small parts of an insightful article. Stop detouring from the bigger picture.

  • Anonymous

    Sergeant Darren Wilson is black, how about that? Race is what has overshadowed this whole ordeal. It's not white against black, it's The People vs. The Police.

  • Anonymous

    "Hip Hop asked, 'What can we do?'" lol

  • Anonymous

    No justice no peace. Let's riot!

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, lets's spend another 50 years writing hash tags and tweeting & marching up and down without actually accomplishing jack shit.