We don’t judge all heavy metal by the antics of Metallica (well, not all of us, at least). Therefore it follows we shouldn’t judge all hip hop by 50 Cent et al. Why not allow me to play the role of Lou Koller, as Demon Pigeon scratches the surface of this often misrepresented genre and its attendant culture, to see what’s crawling around in the independent hip hop scene?
(NB: I once saw Lou Koller dislocate his shoulder halfway through a gig and just carry on as if nothing had happened. After the gig I noticed that someone had been sick on my leg. Draw your own conclusions.)
Hip hop is political, relevant, inspiring, fiercely DIY and punk as fucking fuck. Today we shall explore the significant body of work, and the body, of Providence, Rhode Island rapper and activist B. Dolan.
Film The Police
Let’s take an easy route in. I’m sure we’re all familiar with NWA; particularly their love letter to the boys in blue, Cannon and Ball.
Hip hop is so self-referential at times it feels like Oroborous in a shell suit. Also, I learned about Oroborous from a rap song, so hip hop is educational too, kids! Rap songs are typically filled with references to other rap songs, and occasionally someone will even re-work an entire song, which is what B. Dolan and friends have done here, updating a rap standard to be politically and culturally relevant to contemporary times. This song came out when the Occupy movement was at its height and takes the raw anger of the original and updates it to create the perfect post-millennial protest anthem.
They’d rather see me in a cell /Than me and my cell with a different story to tell. /Camcorder by the dash. Next time you get stopped, /Reach for the celly if you wanna shoot a cop.
We’ve gotta’ exercise our right to shed light in the dark. /There is an army on the march that doesn’t want you to watch. /You’ve got a weapon in your pocket whether you know it or not. /We, the people, are the only real media we got.
Good stuff, innit?
Hang on, is this a rap song about the 1984 Bhopal disaster where a chemical plant leaked 32 tons of toxic gases with an estimated death toll of 20,000 bystanders?! Is B. Dolan reading out the addresses of Warren Anderson, the CEO of Union Carbide who was responsible for the disaster but fled India without ever standing trial?!! Does that make this the most punk rock rap song of all time? I think it unequivocally does.
40 tons of lethal gas leak from a factory in Bhopal /Safety catches turned off by the company boss /More than 20,000 dead and negligence was the cause /and 100,000 more were injured and stillborn /and the rat fuck to blame for it all /ain’t never had a day in court.
Supposed to be in hiding but thanks to the DMV /the location of his snake den is still public information /got with any car registration /so you ain’t hard to reach… /Run and tell the State Department: “No justice no peace!” /For the Butcher of Bhopal and all killer companies /R.S.V.P.
Which Side Are you On?
Dolan pins his colours to the mast in this one and asks you to do the same. The second verse directly addresses homophobia in hip hop. I really wish someone would do that in metal. The video contains footage of demonstrations in support of CeCe Mcdonald, a woman who survived a brutal racist and homophobic attack and was then charged with manslaughter.
Who wrote the greatest lines of our generation, /but couldn’t get from under their own small-minded hate trip? /The same rappers say they’re trooping the frontlines, /and casually use the word ‘faggot’ as a punchline. /That’s not a man, that’s not a tough guy. /That is a sucker and a fraud to the culture.
If those three songs weren’t enough to convince you that hip hop’s got more going on than jewels and ladies, B. Dolan also runs the website knowmore.org, shining a light into the shady dealings of corporations, and he’s currently on tour with Circle Takes The Square. So you know, punk rock.
Oh and what’s this? It appears to be a version of B. Dolan’s excellent Fallen House, Sunken City album entirely remixed using sludge and stoner samples.