Erie's Best MC Unleashes Emotional Epistolary
CEE Brown's 'Letter to the Police' rife with affecting imagery, lyrics
If it wasn't clear before, Erie rapper Charles "CEE" Brown is willing to go to bat for social equality.
Alternately reflective and impassioned, the 2013 40 Under 40 honoree and four-time Best of Erie winner for Best MC powerfully addresses issues of police brutality and social injustice in his latest single, "Letter to the Police" (ft. Anthony Rogers).
Its premiere was accompanied by a provocative music video shot and edited by Xhibit One Productions and directed by Brown himself. It grittily and realistically depicts (thanks to special effects makeup artist "Monster" Mark Kosobucki) an unarmed Brown being beaten by an officer in full riot gear (portrayed by Chris Drexel). Later, in slavery-era costume, Brown appears to himself as a vision out of time, gesturing for him to pick himself up and continue on.
Brown holds up protest signs used by local demonstrators throughout the video, which was filmed at Sam Jethroe Field at Hillside Park (named for Negro League player who would go on to break Major League Baseball's color line in 1947). The ending frames show brown about to flip up a sign, with the camera cutting before viewers see the written message, in the captivating and open-ended final shots.
Brown's lyrics — like the video's imagery — eschew subtlety for impact, channeling the frustrations of millions of African-Americans fed up with systemic racism. Speaking to the everyday experiences of many African-Americans, Brown asks:
Why am I paranoid when a cop car's behind me? Why am I trembling when there's an officer beside me?
It's probably because some encounters with law enforcement end up like this:
My hands are up
Still you beat me
Without an answer
As the "Star Spangled Banner"
Plays across every scanner
He wonders if things will ever change:
I'm just a stain to your flag
I'm just a part of your quota
I'm looking at my black babies
Worrying about where they grow up
In an incendiary statement, Brown appeals for the retirement of corrupt officers:
Like every minority seen as a problem child
It's time to take you pigs to the slaughterhouse,
How bout it?
In the video description, Brown clarifies that he respects many in uniform with the entire community's best interests in mind. It's those that wantonly and callously abuse their power that he's calling out:
"Though my sentiments are similar to many, this is a subjective musical briefing that is an opinion on our current events. I applaud the 'boys in blue' who stick to their duty of protecting and serving. The 'bad cops' who not only brutalize people with unnecessary force but choose to remain quiet when their colleagues engage in such acts are who I am addressing."
Let's hope his poignant message doesn't get lost in the mail.
Download or listen to "Letter to the Police" on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and GooglePlay.