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Geto Boys Week – Day 4: Blasting Scarface on the Floor of Congress

TO CELEBRATE THE RECENT RELEASE OF OUR 33 1/3 ON  THE GETO BOYS, WE’RE PLEASED TO BRING YOU THE FOURTH INSTALLMENT OF GETO BOYS WEEK BY AUTHOR ROLF POTTS!

One curious footnote to the controversy surrounding the 1990 release of The Geto Boys was a congressional hearing that happened a full decade later, in December of 2000. On the second day of the hearing, Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette brandished a CD copy of Scarface’s Last of a Dying Breed album and proceeded to blast the song “Look Me In My Eyes” for the assembled representatives and witnesses.

 

At the time LaTourette and other House Republicans were highlighting the D.E.A.’s attempt to link Rap-A-Lot Records to drug trafficking in Houston — though, at heart, it was really an attempt to embarrass then-Vice President Al Gore and California Democrat Maxine Waters, who had used the Rap-A-Lot investigation to raise racial profiling concerns with the Justice Department.

“Look Me In My Eyes” is a song about the anxiety and self-doubt that comes with presumed guilt — i.e. the psychological toll of racial profiling, Waters’ very concern. But House Republicans made a relentless (and dubious) case for how Scarface’s song was in fact a death threat against law-enforcement officials.

A decade and a half later, the transcript of the hearing reads like inadvertent exercise in comedy, as the aging white congressmen accuse “gang rap” and “rapsters” of inspiring a national crime wave. As it happened, the decade-long ascent of gangsta rap into a chart-topping flavor of American pop-music had coincided with the most dramatic fall in violent crime that century.

A PDF transcript of the congressional hearing is online here.

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