A new video by the rapper-activist Jasiri X takes on the New York City Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, by flipping the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ten Crack Commandments."
The song, "#10FRISKCOMMANDMENTS," mimics the structure of the Biggie Smalls classic. In Biggie's version, the rapper lays out some basic rules of drug dealing, like not involving one's family in the trade and never acquiring narcotics to sell on consignment. Jasiri X's version echoes the song's structure, but lays out rules for people of color who are stopped and frisked by police: Don't talk back, always comply and videotape the encounter.
"I'm a huge Biggie Smalls fan and '10 Crack Commandments' is one of his best songs," said Elon James White, the comedian and radio show host who directed and edited the video. "It's also one of the most problematic songs because [of the subject matter]."
The idea for the video was first floated during a conversation between the two at Netroots Nation, the annual gathering of liberal bloggers, journalists and activists. In an odd coincidence, White says that Jasiri X was stopped and frisked by the police on the way to the convention.
Under stop and frisk, police officers can stop, question and pat down people they deem suspicious. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have credited the program with reducing shootings and homicides in the city because it makes the risk of being arrested too high for people carrying illegal weapons.
“If we stopped people based on census numbers, we would stop many fewer criminals, recover many fewer weapons and allow many more violent crimes to take place,” Bloomberg told a black church congregation in Brooklyn in June.
But the policy has come under harsh criticism from activists and citizens who say that it violates Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. Others say stop and frisk is tantamount to racial profiling, as 87 percent of the 684,000 stops were of blacks or Latinos, even though whites who were stopped by the police were more likely to be found carrying illegal weapons. Only about 12 percent of the stops resulted in arrests or summonses. The number of shooting victims in the city has remained virtually unchanged since the policy was enacted in 2002.
A new study of the policy by WNYC also found that most of the illegal weapons found by stop and frisk were discovered during stops outside of the areas where police have focused.
The video, White said, is a way to reach audiences who fall out of traditional activist circles. "In this realm, a lot of the time you see marches and stuff," White said. "But there are so many people it doesn't reach. And it lives up to the true spirit of hip hop in general, when you talked about what was going on and you still bop your head to it."