Nearly 80 protestors were arrested in a riot following the Oscar Grant jury verdict, and businesses in downtown Oakland are still recovering from the fall-out nearly two weeks later. The most lasting imprint of the controversial trial, though, has come from a number of Bay Area hip-hop artists.
Grant was shot in the back and killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit Police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year’s Day 2009, and the incident was captured on video by a bystander’s cell-phone. Mehserle claimed he thought he was firing his Tazer and not a loaded gun, and was found guilty of only involuntary manslaughter, the least serious of four charges he faced.
Now, the Bay Area’s long tradition of providing the soundtrack for political unrest continues with hip-hop artists channeling their frustrations through the mic. Mistah F.A.B. released the tribute song “My Life” and the hip-hop group the Native Guns reunited to produce a call-to-arms anthem, “Handcuffs.”
LaRon Blankenship, a friend of Grant’s, was on his way to Youth Movement Records in Oakland when he heard what happened. He’s since worked with YMR, a nonprofit that gives Bay Area youth music production experience and a creative outlet, to produce a song and short-film. Check it out: