Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COINTELPRO Part II
Last week we raised the possibility that an organized attempt had been and still is being made to destabilize the Hip-Hop industry and thus the community. We briefly looked at the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. and raised some unanswered questions surrounding his death; introduced some important background information regarding the FBI’s COINTELPRO which was dedicated to destabilizing Black and progressive organizations, especially in the 1960s and 70s; and posed a challenge to Black intellectuals to apply their knowledge of the tactics used by the U.S. government to oppose Black leaders, to Biggie’s murder in particular, and to the Hip-Hop Industry/Community in general. We also pointed you to a Brill’s Content article that shows how the L.A. Times has been involved in disseminating false information regarding Biggie’s murder. We also took pains to mention that it was this story and one prior to it that brought Suge Knight’s name into the mix as allegedly involved in Biggie’s death. We openly questioned that if the L.A. Times article is misinformation wouldn’t that point to Mr. Knight’s innocence and we asked who was the original source in the FBI/LAPD that fingered Suge Knight? What was their motive for doing this, through the media? I hope that some of you, in your study of COINTELPRO and other programs, are familiar with the manner in which the FBI and CIA used reporters and media outlets, print and TV, to plant stories, have articles written and spread malicious lies – much of which was directed at getting groups that otherwise could have worked together to fight one another.
Last week, I also openly stated that it was my opinion that the image and rumors of an East Coast – West Coast Hip-Hop “war” were a fabrication of the media and perpetuated by local and federal police departments prior to and during the investigations into Tupac and Biggie’s murders, in large part via information fed to reporters in various media outlets. We will conclude this series next week on this crucial point of the role of the media, in particular its role in COINTELPRO of yesterday and its possible continuation today. This week we take a very brief look at a more recent situation in Hip-Hop that again raises the possibility that the Federal Government has ill- intentions for the Hip-Hop Community.
A few weeks ago, the Village Voice published an article alleging that over the last year a white government informant was in some capacity representing members of the multi-platinum group, Wu-Tang Clan, while the group was under criminal investigation. After reading the article, it is readily apparent that it was a sensationalized story designed to reflect negatively upon Wu-Tang. The story also appeared to be crafted in great part because while the headlines emphasized the supposed connection between this white individual and Wu-Tang, the article deals more substantively with the individual’s alleged real connection to white organized crime figures in New York and Miami. The individual is reportedly a government informant in a case involving Mob figures in New York and Miami. So while real evidence allegedly links the individual to Mob figures, the Village Voice cover and headlines and subtitles focused on a very unclear connection between the “informant’ and the Hip-Hop group. Most of the information on that front is anecdotal in nature that informs the reader of little.
The real story is this individual’s relationship with white underworld figures and the feds yet the Village Voice markets the piece, which was picked up by news services all over the world, as quality reporting that somehow connects this individual’s relationship with the U.S. Government with his relationship with Wu-Tang. The piece doesn’t live up to that billing. It never connects the dots but to an unsuspecting and innocent reader, it does open the Clan up to suspicion not only in terms of a link to the feds but also in terms of criminal activity. I found that to be peculiar and yes, the deliberate intention of the Village Voice. In the weeks that have followed the piece, many people have spread more rumors, gossip and innuendo regarding the Clan over the Internet and many people seem to have only read the sensational headlines but have not analyzed the story or the motive behind it with a critical mind.
To me, the aim of the Village Voice and/or whoever may have helped them craft the story, was to discredit the Clan inside of the unforgiving world of the New York Hip-Hop community and to discredit them among their core group of fans. It also attempted to portray the group as unintelligent but it definitely did not seek to prove that the individual was really working on behalf of the government specifically against the Clan, though the article and headlines imply otherwise. This is one of the factors that makes me believe that someone bigger than just the Village Voice may have been behind the story – how else could the government come off clean and the Clan looking rather uncomplimentary. Remember, the story is supposed to be about feds, Wu and this informant but it ends up really only being about the informant and Wu. What happened to the feds?
The reason why I stress that point is because I believe the writer(s) could have proved or disproved whether the informant was working against the Clan if they so desired and from reading the piece, I believe that the writer(s) has discussed the government’s surveillance of Wu-Tang with enough people in the know, to be able to determine whether or not this government informant is directly working against Wu-Tang or if he is only with the group strictly for business purposes as he gives evidence on the alleged Miami/New York crime figures. The writer(s) simply asks why the informant was working with Wu-Tang in any capacity and spends the majority of the article lampooning and mocking the group. And again, he leaves the feds unscathed.
The Village Voice sought to harm the group’s reputation by negative implication and innuendo. The story, to me, seemed designed to destroy the Clan’s street credibility not prove any thing about this informant working for the feds against the Clan. If they had done that (proved the informant was working against the Clan) the Village Voice would have proved the existence of COINTELPRO. No, the informant angle is the hook that draws you in to read garbage about the Clan. And I found it very interesting that no one in the community that prides itself on its “consciousness” came to the defense of the Clan, even to intelligently alert the public to the possibility that the Village Voice article may point to something bigger than Wu-Tang.
This could have helped others even those who I know do not like Wu-Tang personally or what they represent in music or ideology. If you are in the Hip-Hop community, personal dislike of the Clan won’t cut it on this one. The Hip-Hop community owes it to itself to defend itself from what many people, more than just myself, know to be a deliberate attempt to destabilize and destroy the real and potential cultural, economic and political impact of Hip-Hop. From my limited vantage point, everyone seemed caught up in the sensational aspects of the story and not the potential threat it posed to the entire community. This is another aspect of the indolence of the Hip-Hop community that I referred to last week.
I personally served as management to Wu-Tang a couple of years ago. I no longer do so. To the best of my knowledge, which I think is pretty good, the Clan was never involved in any of the criminal activities that they were or are currently under investigation for. I do not and never have, for one moment believed that they are guilty. Of course, I did not see everything that everyone was doing but I am confident that I was certainly in a position to know whether or not a gun-running operation was being organized and ran by the group. I am not afraid to go on public record in defense of the group or the truth of what I know.
But the Federal Government wants to pin these charges on the Clan. What I can tell you that the Village Voice did not tell you, is that several individuals who have been arrested and/or charged with crimes in New York City and who have never had any affiliation with the group, have been offered reduced sentences or no time at all in exchange for either saying that they were connected with Wu-Tang when they committed their alleged crimes or in exchange for directly infiltrating the music group. This is a fact. A fact that the Village Voice should know about with all of its connections in the entertainment community and law-enforcement. And these individuals being approached are young Black males not an alleged white informant who is linked to some white mobsters in New York or Miami. That is the real story if the Village Voice is so interested.
The goal of the Federal Government, the FBI included, is to lie and link Wu-Tang and others to a supposed Hip-Hop industry- wide crime network. I know that as early as 1995, several young Black music executives, other than Wu-Tang, and their actual places of business were under surveillance and “investigation” by the Federal Government allegedly for committing various crimes. Not only have individuals under the supervision of the criminal justice system been approached in an effort to make cases against high-profile individuals in the industry but so have white lawyers and white music executives who deal with these individuals. This is common knowledge inside of a few circles in the music industry; even marketing plans of certain artists have been taken by federal investigators. We also know that the IRS has been and is unfairly targeting several Hip-Hop artists and their business enterprises for audits. One day, this will all come out.
For those who persist in wanting to see all crime-fighting efforts as above reproach and legitimate, I can tell you that for whatever illegal activities that may or may not have been perpetrated by various individuals in the music business, the Federal Government has gone above and beyond what is fair in their investigation of the Clan. Asking individuals to straight up lie and say that they are connected to crimes that never occurred and to make up affiliations and even to ask suspects to infiltrate Wu-Tang is not legitimate crime fighting. I also do not see it as simply a case of a “few bad cops”. I see it as a deliberate attempt to destabilize and discredit not only an influential group but also an entire industry and cultural force. To me, it is certainly reminiscent of COINTELPRO where the goal was not to arrest guilty individuals but to arrest a cultural and political movement. For those who have studied COINTELPRO, it is interesting to learn of all of the Black celebrities and entertainers who have/had government files. I hope everyone in the Hip-Hop community will become much more alert and those who have first-hand knowledge of what I am talking about will begin to compare notes with one another. This isn’t a game or fantasy although some will persist in doubting to the very end. Next week at http://blackelectorate.com/ we will look at some historical evidence that shows that the FBI and CIA used reporters to spread pieces of misinformation to the public and actually helped journalists write false stories. Could this be happening today?
Friday, June 16, 2000