by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Soundtrack to La Revoluci & oacute;n & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & omething happened a couple weeks ago in Olympia that has forced me to rethink a column I wrote about how music at worst reflects destructive behavior but doesn't incite it.
Undie rap duo Dead Prez played a gig at Evergreen State College on Valentine's Day. The group self identifies as "somewhere between N.W.A. and [Public Enemy]," meaning they're politically motivated like the latter -- seeking an end to institutional racism and political disenfranchisement -- but, as with the former, they aren't above the counterproductive nonsense of rapping about jacking cops.
Sometime after the group made overtures to "f--k the police", (captured on a YouTube video), campus security attempted to arrest some kid on misdemeanor assault charges, at which point the crowd surrounded the campus officer's police car, the real police were called, tear gas was sprayed, a Sheriff's cruiser was flipped over, the riot police showed up and everyone pretty much went back to their dorms or tents feeling like they'd totally accomplished a great act of civil disobedience.
No one was seriously injured, but kids were sprayed and rocks were hurled. It wasn't Watts, but it was definitely a riot. So: Was it the music's fault?
My initial reaction--"Yeah, of course. Had to be"-- is waning gradually, being replaced by, "Eh, it didn't help."
Music was undoubtedly part of the equation, but by no means was Dead Prez's rhetoric the flash point that incited the vandalism. The raps stoked the douchebag fervor that led the little rasta Maos on their misguided pursuit of La Revoluci & oacute;n, but nothing actually happened until the police tried to arrest someone. Even then, things didn't heat up until the pepper spray flew.
Judging by the video, these little white suburban pricks have been spoiling to stick it to the man since well before they ever heard Dead Prez. Though if I may adapt a truism from my pal Chuck Heston: Rap didn't flip the cop car. Stupidity and probably drugs flipped the cop car.