Los Angeles has never been a stranger to gang violence, nor has it been a haven for racial equality in its past years, but just like a rose growing out of the cracked sidewalks of the city of angels, a rare relationship between Black and Latino gangs has risen and given way to a history of unity as well as violence.
Since the 1920’s, Latin American immigrants in and around Los Angeles have created gangs to protect their neighborhoods and themselves from other Latino gangs as well as black gangs(and vice versa…). The deep history of gang violence and racial animosity towards other gangs has made for a hostile environment in some areas of Los Angeles for African-Americans and Latinos. Although gang violence has declined since the late 90’s, the history of gangs killing other people for being the race of their rival gangs has embedded detrimental threads in the fabric of the relationship between minorities in Los Angeles. These tensions have made for continued violence and tragedy in past years, but newer generations bring new perspectives and ideas which tend to create bonds and relationships which couldn’t be inspired by past generations, leading to dialogue on events of the past and racial equality.
I was first introduced to this dialogue when hearing “Vato” by Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill’s B-Real. The song chronicles Snoop Dogg getting confronted by “A pack of guys and they act real hard.” and having to defend himself even though he would rather have peace in the streets rather than violent acts like the one he just committed. After this incident a Latino gang member who witnesses it gives Snoop a ride to evade the police as he explains the fact that he did it out of necessity but he won’t hesitate to do it again. A scene showing Snoop backed by black gang members, and B-Real backed by Latino gang members as they make peace is enough to realize the fact that this was an active effort to promote unity between minority gangs although it was disguised as- like some people would call- a violent gangster rap song promoting violence.
For a recent example of this collaboration of artist, we can look to YG and his 4hunnid partner Sad Boy Loko on the song Blacks & Browns. No stranger to activism through music, YG has raised controversy with his song “FTD” along with repeated attempts to unite gangs in Los Angeles. Being a Tree Top Piru, YG knows of the racial tensions between Blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles and Sad Boy Loko being from Santa Barbara has also experienced the same things. Directly addressing issues like black on black crime, racial inequality and the systematic oppression of colored people, YG and Sadboy don’t hold back in saying what they need to say and using music like music should be used.
Recently fired up by Donald Trump’s election as president, YG has not kept quiet about political issues that affect him and his city, leading to this attempt to unite his people along with his 4hunnid contemporaries Sad Boy Loko, and Nipsey Hussle. On Blacks & Browns, Sad Boy Loko addresses illegal immigration, the mistreatment of Latinos and he treats the topic of violence as a problem that needs to be helped and it can’t be helped if Blacks & Browns don’t come together. Lines like “My flag is green, white, red, in the center's an eagle Brown Pride, fist high, this is for my illegals.” remind me of the activism from the 60’s when the Black panthers and Brown Berets came together to truly do something for their community because there were real problems in the communities. Although there has been violence in the streets of Los Angeles since the beginning, there is no doubt that there are people willing to come together and solve problems no matter their past, or what medium they use to get their point across.
article by: javier mencia
visual by: hypebeast