Rap Sheet: Hip Hop and the Cops Documentary Review

Irv Gotti being arrested on the charge of money laundering

Irv Gotti being arrested on the charge of money laundering

            In the early 2000s, when even the best hip-hop artists were facing numerous charges such as drug trafficking and money laundering, first time director Don Sikorski decided to speak with prominent artists such as Snoop Dogg and Kanye West in order to try to find out why hip-hop moguls and law enforcement seem to be entailed in a never ending war. The film is an 80-minute cultural documentary that premiered in 2006 at the IFC Center in New York. Sikorski’s film includes footage of questionable police activity and interviews with some of the biggest names in rap. They insist there are “hip-hop cops” violating their civil liberties, while various former law-enforcement officials say the authorities are drawn by criminal elements in the rap world. It was the memorable indictment of money laundering charges Irv Gotti (found of Murder Inc. Records) that began Sikorski’s journey.

            Sikorski spent three years exploring deep into the conflict between police and the hip-hop culture. He delves into the mindset that made “stop snitching” a slogan, follows leads implying that cops follow rappers, and discovers some persuasive evidence of coordinated law enforcement activities: namely, a 500-page dossier, obtained from Miami police through the Freedom of Information Act, that contains profiles and personal information of hundreds of rappers. The dossier included mug shots, criminal records, addresses, license plate numbers, names of associates, and much more personal information of the time’s biggest hip-hop stars. Sikorski interviews many artists trying to find out their point of views. Many of the artists were upset, and many were not surprised. Former cops say they’d be stupid to ignore the references to crime in rap songs. Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons counters by contending, that rappers are simply poets shining light on the social conditions that exists in the hoods and ghettos they came from. Former Fugee Wyclef Jean notes, “Country music is way more violent than hip-hop.” Sikorski reveals that he was followed by law enforcement while on his way to conduct interviews on a rooftop in Los Angeles, where someone photographed him from the top of an adjacent building.

            The film was sort of neutral, but also showed strong conviction in the fact that police really DO target many of hip-hop’s biggest names. Sikorski’s effort to speak with as many artists as he did was a positive of the film. It was good because he received many different views and reactions, which didn’t make the film too one sided. However, the flow of the movie could have been a little more organized. Overall, it was a good documentary for it being Sikorski’s first film. Although, I wouldn’t say it was the best.


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