Dawn-Elissa Fischer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at SFSU, where she teaches courses on black popular culture, information technology and visual ethnography. As a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, she is completing two manuscripts entitled Blackness, Race and Gender Politics in Japanese Hiphop and Methods to Floss, Theories to Flow: Hiphop Research, Aesthetics and Activism. She co-directs the award-winning project BAHHRS (Bay Area Hip Hop Research and Scholarship) with Dave “Davey D” Cook.
"Bay Area Hiphop Politics and Police"
From “Sound of Da Police” to “Mrs. Officer,” law enforcement referents are oft cited elements in Hiphop music and culture. Police codes move stories along as numbers such as 187 and 5150 serve as lexical interventions to authenticate stories from the streets. Police representations abound in narratives of dissent as well as narratives of despair. The Bay Area remains salient in historical as well as contemporary representations of Hiphop and Police. From Kevin Epps’s documentary Straight of Hunter’s Point to uprisings protesting deaths of Oscar Grant and Kenneth Harding to media attention concerning participation from MC Hammer and Boots (The Coup) in the Occupy Oakland movement, the Bay Area has been a site where discourses of Hiphop and policing coalesce and explode.
This paper examines the nexus of policing and popular culture in Bay Area Hiphop. It deconstructs perceptions of police in Hiphop media and performance and introduces conversations that attempt to unify shared political frames from representatives of both the Hiphop and law enforcement communities. Despite the seemingly binary oppositions presented in national and even international media coverage of Bay Area Hiphop and policing events, there are moments where critical conversations illuminate shared struggles and political philosophies. This paper contextualizes such moments in an effort to identify and build common ground for increased social justice.