Renewed Culture Wars Against Hip Hop – The Black Matrix
By N Oji Mzilikazi
March 22, 2012
(Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 05)
The Montreal Gazette of March 21 carried the article: “Pointe Claire bar agrees to ban hip hop and rap in order to get back liquor licence.” Though it came from the Régie des alcools, the hand of the police was all over it.
For the longest while the police have been aggressive in trying to shut down any bars, clubs or café where street gang members or people associated with them hang.
In June 2010 the police went before the Régie des alcools to have Café Bar Ferrari in Rivière des Prairies closed. In October 2010, the Régie revoked the licence of D-Lounge, an establishment in Rivière des Prairies. In April 2010, the police used the excuse of concerns for public safety to seek revocation of the bar licence for Club Temptation, a strip club on Ste. Catherine St. W. Its licence was permanently suspended in February 2011.
Joints run by the mafia, bikers, and other ethnic based criminal organizations are literally left untouched. The Consenza Social Club in St. Léonard was wiretapped from June 2003 to November 2006. Given the arrests coming out of those wiretaps, the police never sought to get it decertified as a mafia headquarters.
Given that racial profiling at its core is the criminalization of Blacks, the police see hip hop that came out of the Black musical matrix as engendering criminality. When it comes to rap, racism accounts for the deliberate conflating of lyrics with truth and or advocacy. It’s not the first time Montreal police have indicted rap.
In the early 90s, Claude-François Simard, the Québécois rapper known as KC LMNOP, and who once hosted MusiquePlus Rap Cité caught an armed sexual assault case. Lyrics from his album, “Ta Yeul” were used against him at his trial.
In April 2007 Daniel Topey was shot in the back of the neck by a police officer in a 4-man SWAT team operation. Topey was subsequently charged with attempted murder. Topey denied firing at the officers. Interestingly, only Officer Nicholas Brazeau heard and saw the shots Topey allegedly fired.
On September 29, 2009, I saw Crown Attorney Anne-Marie Otis on the CBC evening news (exactly 6:05 pm) saying that lyrics from a rap by Topey saying, “I wanted to kill a cop with a Glock” prompted the SWAT team to go after him.
Reports at the time specifically stated those lyrics were only discovered after Topey was shot and his residence searched. Even then, it’s the nature of artistic minds – singers, poets, and authors, to apply creative license.
Canadian Neil Young 1969 hit song “Down By The River” (I’m a fan of Buddy Miles’ version.) is a rock & roll classic. With lyrics, “Down by the river I shot my baby/Down by the river/Dead, oh, shot her dead,” the slow jam burner glorifies spousal/girlfriend murder. But no one looks at it from that perspective. When it comes to rap, its lyrics are to be seen as real.
In January 2000 Leslie Gero was on trial for procuring and living off a white prostitute. Crown prosecutor Josee Belanger positioned Gero’s tattoo, “A player 4 life” as proof positive he was a die-hard pimp. Gero’s tattoo was slang, but they had to make it more than it was.
In the culture of that milieu, a person couldn’t be a player or a die-hard pimp if they had only one girl in their stable, as was the case with Gero.
Music is my thing/was my thing. I’ve been a street deejay and a club deejay. I could tell a million stories; a million different police stories. I’ve worked in white clubs were coke was sold and snorted in the bathrooms and the police never paid a visit.
I was one of the house deejays at a club located at the corner of de Maisonneuve and rue de la Mountagne. It was also a hangout spot for the Irish mob. Rumour was – it was theirs. When they stepped into the club on a Friday or Saturday night, and the manager says to play a couple mob favourites like Frank Sinatra – it was done. And it mattered not that the club was packed, rocking and hopping to R&B.
Patrons who didn’t know the deal would look at me like, What A…! But ten minutes later, I’ll have them screaming and dancing their ass off. I never saw the police enter its premises.
Monday nights were Reggae Nights at Zoulou Danse Bar on St. Laurent Blvd. Ever so often the cops would make an appearance. The Club had a very good lighting system. I would immediately put the fog on, and full the place with smoke so whosoever were puffing on the herb could get rid of it.
On the other hand, when I used to go to Club Nubia in Atwater and even deejayed there as a guest, one could’ve gotten a contact high from the pervasiveness of the weed. And I never saw the police enter its premises.
As mentioned, music was my business, and when it comes to the nightlife business – drawing from my conversations with people in the know, the police, bikers, and the mob get paid. Sometimes the police served as enforcers.
A Haitian brother once opened a club on Crescent Street just above Ste. Catherine, featuring live bands that played pop, country, or rock n roll. It was the only club on the strip with a live band. I was one of the house deejays. I worked there on Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Cops would enter the premises and say that the music from the band was too loud so the doors to the terrace must be closed. If the doors are closed, passersby might be unaware that there is a live band inside and would gravitate to the already well-known and more popular spots.
The police would also wait for the club to be packed to make their grand entrance. Their mission: verify that the alcohol being served in the club was SAQ – legally purchased. The club patrons were 100 per cent white. Whenever the cops came, there was always a bee hive to the door. Within three weeks of regularly police checkups the club closed its doors.
There was this club on Park Avenue, and according to those in the know, the owner would refill SAQ bought alcohol with those from the reservation. Should any inspector query his lack of sales, the ready excuse was “Blacks don’t drink.” When I deejayed there – I never saw a police presence.
Law enforcement officials have a job to do. Their huge information network allows them to know who is doing what, where and when. They are also masters at exerting subtle or overt pressure. Also, there is a great amount of bias in the manner they do their jobs.
No one would ever want to be the focus of police attention, even when innocent. When I opened a business on Peel Street, between de Maisonneuve and Ste. Catherine back in the 90s, representatives from both the police and firemen association approached me to advertise my business in their calendar.
No business person would say no – to such a request coming from them. They don’t want fire officers coming on their premises to see whether or not they are in compliance with all the safety codes, be extremely stringent with them, turn miniscule into fault, and so on.
And giving my nightlife experience with how the police operate, I don’t want them in my ship. So you see, a simple request coming from those august bodies exerts a subtle pressure, and it’s not as if police and firemen aren’t aware of it.
My landlord owned a lot of prime downtown real estate. My name and reputation was always you know… When I told my landlord about their visit, he told me not to worry, and I never did. The cops never bothered me.
The bottom line is there are politics and politics, and circles within circles. Keep your eyes on the lines.