Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COINTELPRO Part I
For years, while I was in the music industry I would hear stories from so-called “conscious” artists about how the government had effectively neutralized and destabilized various pro-Black, Progressive and Civil Rights organizations through the FBI’s Counter Intelligence program (COINTELPRO). Then they would inform me that they “knew” that COINTELPRO-like tactics were being exercised today. Nine times out of ten after I asked them a question or two I realized two things immediately 1) how little they actually knew about the FBI’s programs and its aims and objectives 2) these artists wouldn’t recognize COINTELPRO today if it hit them in the face. It is not just artists who suffer from this problem, most Black people today don’t have a working knowledge of exactly what the U.S. government did to destroy Black organizations and discredit Black leaders. And the many Black intellectuals that I have met, who seem to know COINTELPRO inside out, don’t seem to be able to identify aspects of the programs existence today. I really came to realize this through their inability to see how the phony East Coast - West Coast Hip-Hop “War” of 1995-1997 had been fabricated and perpetuated by the media, police departments and yes, even the FBI.
Virtually everyone who was in the Hip-Hop industry during that time frame knew that there was no real war of East Coast Rappers Vs. West-Coast Rappers. There were a few personal problems between parties on both coasts but there was no organized conflict as the media portrayed it. Yet everywhere I went, I was constantly asked about this supposed war. Clearly, the Black Community fell victim to the propaganda. I was always saddened that the people who had been the greatest victims of misinformation in the 1960s had fallen the hardest for it in the 90s. It was just a small indication, to me, of how little the Black Community has really learned of and from what went on in the 1960s and 70s, in particular.
When the Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in 1997, the LAPD, NYPD and even the FBI fed reporters stories about the possibility that Biggie had been murdered as a result of a “rap feud’. If you can, go back and read the first stories 1 week within the murder, in N.Y. and L.A. papers first and then other big-city newspapers and you will be able to see the numerous “sources” of reporter’s stories on the murder that furthered this line of argument and spread it throughout America (and don’t forget that the media advanced this argument after Tupac was murdered the year before). If you do a little more research you will see that the whole time Biggie was in L.A., he and Puffy were under police department and FBI surveillance. They were even under surveillance on the very night Biggie was killed. The question that has never been investigated properly by the media or raised by Hip-Hop writers, Black intellectuals and COINTELPRO experts was why were Biggie and Puffy being watched by the FBI and why hasn’t anyone been arrested for Biggie’s murder if the government had been watching their movements that closely? Did they see everything else that Biggie was doing but just happened to miss who killed him?
In 1999 when I first heard that the FBI was investigating the supposed possibility that Death Row Records head Suge Knight was involved in what happened to Biggie I didn’t believe it. I immediately dismissed that allegation, which was blasted throughout the media, MTV and Black radio in particular. I especially found it odd that the news of this “new” development was dropped right around the 2nd anniversary of Biggie’s death. It seemed it had been done for “maximum impact”.
I did not accept that it would take the FBI 2 years to figure out who killed Biggie especially if they had been watching him when he was killed. They are not that stupid, something else was going on, I figured. Then late last year the LA Times drops this story that supposedly links a few individuals to Suge Knight for some “murder for hire” scheme.
Now, it turns out, according to Brill’s Content in a story that we ran on BlackElectorate.com two weeks ago, that the whole story was a fabrication with no documentation. And that certain editors at the LA Times tried to cover up the fact that they knew the story was bogus. They very quietly tried to counter the original story with another one but the damage had been done to the reputation of an innocent man who may be suing the paper as a result.
But what I recognized in the Brill’s Content story and media coverage of the misinformation the L.A. Times spewed out was little or no mention of the fact that the original story and media hoopla surrounding it supposedly linked Suge Knight to the murder of Biggie. Virtually no one has brought up this fact in Hip-Hop media circles. Again, another indication of the indolence of the Hip-Hop community and a sign of how little supposedly “conscious’ individuals know about the history of the “struggle” they claim to represent. At times it is as if the Hip-Hop community is asleep.
So, who was really behind the attempt to link Suge to Biggie’s murder? Was it simply the error of a reporter? The original story refers to the LAPD as “sources” of information for the story. And what has the FBI been doing watching not just Biggie and Puffy but several Young Black Hip-Hop label Executives and Artists? These are questions that should have been asked by the Hip-Hop Community and its media outlets. And certainly by Black intellectuals who claim to be such authorities on the government surveillance programs of the 1960s and media misinformation. Surely they, if no one else, should have seen a pattern developing.
Next week will get a little deeper into the possibility that the FBI has and is trying to destabilize the Hip-Hop community.
But in the interim I ask that everyone read up on COINTELPRO at:
As well as Brill’s Content’s expose of the LA Times misinformation on Biggie’s murder at:
Please Read It. You have a whole week!
Friday, June 9, 2000