Before I get into the review, I want to say that although I am far from a fan of the 5-0, there are times when I do feel sympathy for them. They are hated by practically everyone until the moment that they are needed, and that sucks. By no means would Iwant to live a life like that. I also believe that just like any profession, there are good police officers and there are bad ones. There are good and bad doctors, lawyers,accountants, CEO’s etc… So why wouldn’t that apply to cops? Still with that being said,the police in the Bay Area (and Oakland specifically) have a long history of brutality and excessive force, corruption, and general illegal action. That doesn’t mean that I condone and am in favor of someone like Lovelle Mixon, who killed three Oakland cops and injured two others in 2009. Yet at the same time, I do get outraged when I hear about incidents like that which happened to Oscar Grant. And I strongly believe the policeofficer responsible deserves the strictest punishment.
For those of you unaware of what happened to Oscar Grant, let me give you a quick recap: On New Years Eve, leading into 2009, BART Police (the police department responsible for the local Bay Area train system) responded to reports of a fight on a train returning from San Francisco. At the Fruitvale stop in Oakland, a group of police officers detained Oscar Grant (it is still unclear if he was actually part of the fight) and a few other suspects. Long story short, during the detaining, while two police officers were holding Grant face down on the ground, which included a knee on the back of his neck,despite the fact that Grant showed very little, if any sign of resistance, Officer Johannes Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot Grant in the back once. Grant died soon after. In the modern era it is no surprise that this, and another officer punching and kneeing Grant in the face while calling him a “Bitch Ass Nigger” was entirely caught on cellphone cameras. Mehserle claims he was reaching for his taser, and in the confusion ofthe event, accidentally drew his gun. Which has always led me to the question, even if this was true (which I don’t believe), what was the purpose of the taser? You had two police officers in the process of cuffing a man laying on his stomach. In my mind, that is far from indicating any need for a taser. To conclude this horribly sad tale, Officer Mehserle was only convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which pretty much means the court took it as an accident. At minimum Mehserle could be sentenced to 2 years (which means with good behavior he could get out in less time than Plaxico Burress got for shooting himself in the leg), but at maximum, due to the fact that a gun was involved inthe murder, he could receive 14 years. Needless to say this entire incident has been devastating, destructive, and divisive for the local Bay Area community.
I recounted this horrible event because it is necessary background to appreciate the newest release from Young Gully, one of, if not my current favorite Bay Area MC. As the title and cover suggests, The Grant Station Project, is an album dedicated to Oscar Grant. The music struggles with the events that took place that night, and the overall feelings it brought out about the endless war that goes on across the nation between the police departments and residents of low income communities. It is available at whateverprice you wish on Gully’s Bandcamp page (http://younggullyyh.bandcamp.com/album/the-grant-station-project), and all proceeds go to the family of Oscar Grant, so I strongly urge you to go and cop it. Musically it’s dope and really powerful, and financially, the money (which can be as little as $1) goes to a legitimate cause.
Throughout Young Gully’s recent career, he has continuously shown that lyrically and content wise, he is more than just the average street rapper. Additionally, while he has shown an ability to address serious issues in a thoughtful manner such as on tracks like “The End” with Chris Tha 5th off of his Tonite Show with DJ Fresh, and “I Love Where I’m From”
off the first of his Hustla Movement mixtapes,nothing in Gully’s catalogue has matched the music on The Grant Station Project interms of social commentary and inquisitive thought. People often talk about the social power that music has, but it seems like over the past 10 years, that power has rarely been used for anything other than influencing consumerism. The Grant Station Project is one of the few musical explorations that focuses on an issue that affects the masses world wide (police brutality by no means is limited to the U.S.) and begins a debate. From start to finish every song is packed with observations, emotional reactions and questions, all having to do with Police relations. Gully verbally paints the picture of the interaction between the police and his community, and then asks the listener how this could not be considered a serious problem that not only needs to be recognized, but addressed with intentions of genuine improvement as well.
After those words, I’m sure a lot of you may be imagining a Dead Prez or Immortal Technique esque album, and luckily for many, and unfortunately for many others, this is not the case. The Grant Station Project, isn’t really radical, revolutionary,or filed with conspiracy theories. I believe the success of the album largely lies in the lack of these characteristics, which to many are very alienating. For example, “Here I Am” is a track full of observations about the realities of the way people in Oakland, but really globally, are treated by the police force, in addition to the thoughts and mentalities that a lifetime full of these observations creates. There’s no talk about the illuminati, or white people trying to get rich off the poor, or burning down the white house; just the observation that Cops are shooting and harassing everybody, whether innocent or guilty, with impunity, and for those not wearing a badge, the result of that is distrust at best, and utter and complete hatred at worst. “Black Killa” continues the above sentiments, but in a more inquisitive tone. Over a really dope and soulful organ heavy sample, rather than direct his questions at the listener, Gully speaks directly to the police. It’s his way of demanding an explanation from the boys in blue for the fucked up ways that they treat people. “What If” features Frisco’s Roach Gigz (one of the Bay Area Freshman 10), and continues the line of questioning, this time asking the police to consider being in their victim’s shoes.
This song stands out largely because it’s not what you would expect from Roach Gigz. It could be a testament to the impact Oscar Grant’s death has had on many, or credit could go to Gully for his dedication and vision, but on this track Roachy Balboa transforms himself from the self-indulgent and cocky life of the party that the Bay has largely embraced, into an MC comfortable dealing with human emotion and serious issues. Yet if any song stands out as my favorite, it would have to be “By Any Means”.
Despite the fact that it reuses the sample from one of my favorite Dru Down tracks, “Weak Moves”, the production offers an updated take on it, and Gully hit’s his aggressive peak. Threatening to spit in the face of Oakland’s mayor, pull out choppers at Cali’s governor, and killing judges and cops takes some serious balls. Yet at the end of the day, that is truly how people feel, and it needs to be known in order for these real problems to be addressed. My only worry is that the last time I remember a bay area MC calling out police officers and other government officials by name, it was done by the Mac named Dre, and as a result he served 5 years in prison for a crime he clearly did not commit. I keep my fingers crossed that something similar doesn’t happen to Young Gully, because the re-emerging Bay Area hip-hop scene needs his voice badly.