I spoke with Ishmael Butler (Shabazz Palaces, Digable Planets) earlier today via phone. My interview will run in full before Shabazz Palaces' date at the Bishop in Bloomington. But I wanted to segment this portion where Butler responds to a question I posed about a panel on hip-hop, violence and race that I attended earlier tonight. I asked him: if he was on that panel, what would he say? That led to a conversation about this week's events in Ferguson.
"The power structure has really solidified the notion of categorizing as being something that's viable. These categories have these characteristics and these results and include these people. But it's not real. It's bullshit. It's not even based on anything. So we go into this whole hip-hop thing, [saying] 'Hip-hop is going to do this, this guy played a hip-hop song and that resulted in these people being shot or stabbed or dying or whatever — but that's not the case ...
"George Zimmerman don't listen to hip-hop and he's a cold-blooded murderer. The policemen in St. Louis, they don't listen to hip-hop and they're cold-blooded murderers. This country is full of killers. And we see things in terms of, 'This person is going against me,' so one viable thing that we think — a choice we can make — is to kill. Or go get a gun and threaten or harm somebody. This is who we are. We see things in a violent and murderous way. So to try and make it seem like it's about hip-hop and race .... it's just preposterous.
"The thing with the police killing [in Ferguson] ... everybody just contextualizes this: what is the law enforcement allowed to do? And then we look at it through that lens. So they'll go and say, 'Well, we thought this, this or that.' What we've got to understand is, there's a history behind this execution that no one's ever going to investigate because we're looking at all these other things. It's not that. This man was killed for a reason, by these people, because in the end, in these little ass cities, even big cities, police is a gang. An organized crime gang. They sell dope. They sell guns. They fix trials. Of course they're battling with other gangs. But we're looking at it like, 'Oh, it's law enforcement, so we gotta watch what they do.' But who's going to watch the watcher? It just gets lost in a bunch of bullshit. And they know it. They play up on that. They know how to work the system. They authored it. Of course they can kill people whenever they want to. And when people get up in arms, saying, 'This is crazy, and we gotta stop it.' It's not going to be stopped until we realize what's actually going on. I don't know how we can stop something and not know even what it is."