When Baton Rouge rapper Boosie Badazz pressed play to witness the death of Alton Sterling, he was not surprised.
Unfortunately for his Louisiana hometown – and many other neighborhoods around the country – relations between law enforcement and citizens have been far from pleasant. Having had run-ins with police since the age of nine, Boosie was released from his most recent stint in prison in 2014. Since then, he has denounced the glorification of prison, but he has also stuck to his “f**k the police” mantra. And tragic instances like Sterling’s death are his reason.
“We’ve been going through this a long time with law enforcement and a lot of stuff in Baton Rouge. With it being a small city, it gets swept under the rug, but man I can go way back to 1989.”
In a story Boosie has recounted before, a man he considered one of his “childhood role models” was killed by Baton Rouge police after being gunned down. In his own later years, he would face many instances of being stopped by officers, during which he underwent unlawful search procedures. Recalling Sterling as a beloved member of the community who gave free CDs to his children, Boosie now plays a dual role: a mourner as well as one of the slew of hip-hop artists calling for change. And while Sterling’s killing may have surprised American citizens who haven’t been screaming “Black Lives Matter” for the past four years, the rapper insists that he’s been aware.
They don’t hear him though.
What was your reaction was when you first saw that video of Alton Sterling?
My first reaction was like, ‘I told you so.’ That’s basically what went in my head. I’ve been saying this for years. What’s been going on with the police, the acts that they’ve been pulling off and getting away with. When I saw the video I was like, ‘Thank God they have cellphones.’ But it’s been going on.
What would you say is the relationship between law enforcement and people of color in Baton Rouge?
It’s distant because we have so many problems with law enforcement. We’ve been going through this a long time with law enforcement and a lot of stuff in Baton Rouge. With it being a small city, it gets swept under the rug, but man, I can go way back to 1989. One of my childhood role models, he got murdered by the police and it's just steady been going on. We don't have good relationships with the police in Baton Rouge because the length of history of not being able to get along with [because they’ve been] doing too much and stepping over their grounds and not being punished for what they’re doing. So, it’s a distant relationship in Baton Rouge.
So when that distant relationship is taking place between the people of the community and law enforcement, what effects does that have in the community?
It’s going to have an effect either way because the victims, most victims don’t even go to the police because they feel like they’re not gonna solve the problem anyway. I can’t go to somebody and ask them for help when they bringing hurt to you also. And they’re the ones [who are] supposed to protect and serve. So it’s really a no-win situation in Baton Rouge.The school systems are poor, they’re not at a good rate, there’s a lot of poverty out there. It’s a real distant relationship with the police. Not all police are bad, but there are a lot of people that are overly aggressive out there.
Did you, by chance, know anybody back home that knew Alton Sterling?
Yeah, I know a lot of people who knew the CD man like everybody knew the CD man. Alton Sterling, everybody bought CDs from him. Matter of fact, he used to give free CDs to my kids. You know, he was loved by everybody, like that store was basically his house.That’s where he was everyday, like the police saw him there everyday. For them to do that just that day, that’s some sick stuff. But yeah, I know a few people that knew him.
So many hip-hop artists are speaking up. So many social media posts and tweets and people reposting the video and just voicing their opinions about what happened. Do you feel good about that?
Yeah, it’s good. It’s good that they’re speaking out about it because hopefully one day it will change. When big things like this come and everybody sees exactly what’s going on. See, it’s different from hearing in my music. I’ve been telling these people for years and years about the police, ‘f**k the police,’ I’ve been telling them about this stuff, and now you see it with your own eyes. And video is different from music. When you see it with your own eyes, that’s when people are going to step up like, ‘Hold on, this is wrong.’ You know what I’m saying? Maybe it’s gonna stop, it’s going to put a change to something because now we got a lot of people seeing what’s going on in this city and it’s crazy man. It’s a crazy place to live, it’s dangerous. It just needs help. We need help from the government, just all kind of help right now.
And do you yourself personally remember your worst interaction with law enforcement back home?
Ah man, I’ve been going through it so much with those police. I got stopped one time in my Bentley, and they cut my back seats open with a knife. They shredded my back seats up with a knife. I ain’t have nothing on me, they just stopped me when I was in the car in the hood, and they cut my back seats open. I done had cops raid my home and just steal pieces from me, jewelry from me, diamond rings. S**t, when I was nine years old I had an altercation with a police. He gave me a wedgie, held me up and I went to court for that. All kind of s**t is happening out there. Kinda lost a lot.
This climate, it can bring about a sense of hopelessness. Do you feel like that or do you feel like there are still things that we can do to change this?
As far as the police, the things they’re doing right now, they’re in their prime. So I don’t think it’s gonna just stop right now. Like, you know, and then not getting convicted. So if you not getting convicted for something, nobody’s being taught a lesson. If someone starts getting 99 years like we get 150 years, then maybe it’ll start slowing down and then they’ll be like, ‘Hold on.’ But what I think it is is 70 percent of police officers come on the job scared already.
If you come on the job and you already scared and you got a gun, you’re dangerous. You’re dangerous if you already come on the job and you’re 75 percent scared. Every stop you make, you’re shaking. You see a guy with a bandanna on, he Black or something, you’re shaking, you’re shaking. Your hand already shaking on the gun. So basically, we need to put a damn heart rate or pulse on these police when they go into the academy and seeing how scared they are. Take ‘em on some runs in the ‘hood and see how scared they already are. If you a scared person with a gun, bad things happen. Period.
And as a father, what are you telling your children? What do you say to them?
Basically I’m telling my kids, if they get pulled over by the police, just keep their hands up. You know, I always tell ‘em if they get stopped in a car or whatever, put the camera on and record. Even when I ride with my kids, I always got the camera on. So if we get stopped, we put the camera on the glove compartment, we put the camera under the seat and show that we don’t have nothing in the car, so if anything come in the car, we’ll know that something has been planted. It’s just really like a course you have to deal with your kids right now with the police. And I even refuse to buy my kids cap guns. They’re not allowed to get them in my family no more because so many little black kids are getting killed for having pop guns. So it’s big in my family as far as the police, ‘cause my kids done seen me get pulled over. At one time, when I came home and I moved to Atlanta, my kids were like ‘Daddy, we don’t never get pulled over no more.’ We used to get pulled over everyday in Baton Rouge and you just gotta separate yourself from that kind of living. But those who can’t separate themselves and are not successful enough, I just pray for ‘em and just hope they stay alive out there.
And what do have to say to critics who bring up “Black-on-Black” crime? What is your answer to that?
Black-on-Black crime, we need to stop that also. But I think in order to stop that, you gotta get the government to give these people more jobs. You gotta put more recreation in the neighborhood. You gotta give these kids something to do. ‘Cause if they can’t go nowhere, the only person they have to take the crime out on is each other. They got a lot of senseless Black crime also but black crime does not have to do with someone who is designed to protect us. See, it’s a bigger problem when those who designed to protect us are killing us too. You know? It’s supposed to be more likely for someone in your race to kill you who’s just an ordinary person on the street. But when the police is killing you — someone who you call when you’re in trouble, 911 — it’s a whole different mess. It’s a whole different ballgame.
Do you have anything to say to your city that you haven’t already said?
I just basically gotta tell my city to stay strong and try to stay out the police way, because we know what’s going on. Everybody see what’s going on and I just tell my city stay strong and just try to stay out the police way because we’re losing right now and they winning. So I just tell ‘em stay out they way, just stay strong and pray. Pray about it.
(Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images, Alton Sterling via Facebook)