Imagine filming a music video in broad daylight … and seconds later you’re handcuffed and surrounded by LAPD officers. Even further, imagine being pinned down, interrogated and searched for 30 whole minutes, even after the cops realize the gun is fake.
This is exactly what happened on a random Tuesday in the Washington/Fairfax area in Mid-City. South L.A.rapper JAG was shooting a music video for his new record “The Kapernick Effect,” which, befitting its name, brings to light the very injustice that soon befell them. With his manager, Patrick, holding the fake gun to JAG’s head as they shot the scene, a passerby was alarmed enough to call the cops.
It was only a matter of minutes before seven undercover LAPD officers arrived with their guns drawn, ordering JAG, his manager and the person filming to drop the weapon — the $20 prop gun his manager had picked up at a Hollywood costume shop prior to the shoot.
JAG hails from the streets of South L.A. and is no stranger to being victimized by the police. But what happened next was something no one is ever really prepared for. As JAG continues to propel his way onto the rap scene with his vicious flows and substantial lyrics, he and his team were ready to take “Kapernick Effect” to the next level.
“We wanted it to look organic,” JAG says. “We didn’t wanna chase any wave or anything, as far as somebody getting killed and we going right behind it and putting the video out for views. We planned to put it out when nothing was going on. The message was to keep the message alive. We're not equal out here as much as they say, and I’m actually from the ’hood. I live in the ’hood. I’ve been stopped by police numerous times not doing anything. I’ve been shoved, pushed, grabbed the wrong way, talked to the wrong way — it’s just disrespectful. I had guns held to me, so everything I was speaking in there was realistic. That’s why it felt like that.”
With a selfless approach, this powerful record proved to be about more than JAG's career. This is far beyond a buzz — this is a message that needs to be heard by the masses.
“I used that name because of all the stuff that was going on with [NFL player Colin] Kaepernick at the time and him standing up for something that he believes in,” JAG says. “And everybody treating him like he’s the bad guy now. He’s the bad guy and nobody’s backing him because they’re scared to lose their job. Well, I don’t have a corporate job, so I don’t mind backing him. I don’t mind speaking for the streets. It was perfect timing because we weren't chasing the wave. We weren't following another artist, trying to do something that they were doing. Everybody always asks, ‘How can you be different?’ Well, we're just gonna talk about something that’s real — music is not real anymore.”
As JAG recounts the play-by-play, vivid memories of the incident come flooding back.
“Well, before, everything was lovely,” he remembers with a laugh. “During, the video had got cut — somebody had called the cops while we were filming. A whole bunch of cops came, like excessive. 12 to 13 cop cars, shotguns, helicopters — everything. It was kind of weird that it happened like that and then the video came out. I know some of the cops have probably seen that video. It’s a powerful thing. They didn’t know what we were doing at the time. I had to really tell them. It’s just a realistic situation that still goes on in the ’hood, and we actually got a chance to experience that while shooting the video.”
And still, the reality in the turnaround time for LAPD to show up remains baffling.
“They were super-quick and that’s kind of weird,” he says. “Because I live in the ’hood and I’ve seen people get shot before and they never come, or they take their time to come. Ironic that a white guy has a gun to a black guy’s head and they show up in 20 seconds. They don’t know what was going on, but they came instantly and was ready to act.”
While this particular instance may seem out of line, let's not overlook the positives: On the flip side, if this were a real situation where a gun was pointed to a civilian’s head, the LAPD were actually doing their job.
“Yeah, definitely, but I don’t think they had to bring the whole force out for that,” Jag says. “They could tell we were shooting a video. Actually one of the cops had said that from the chopper. They had called them down, ‘Oh, it looks like they’re filming.’ So they knew it was a possibility that we were filming. They still came with the whole force, kept us in cuffs longer than they needed to. They checked everybody’s IDs. We all were clean, too. That was the problem, too, why are we still standing here in cuffs? Why are we still standing here in cuffs and we clean? They just keep on going with it…”
Although Jag and his team have been scheming the video since November, it wasn’t until a young male took it to Facebook that it became viral. Thanks to a repost by Ty Dolla $ign, the clip now has more than 1.3 million views and 37,000 shares and counting.
“The goal was to get it out to the world,” JAG says. “Yeah, I definitely did know that it was gonna do what it did. I’m speaking real. The state that music is in right now… hip-hop — it’s all clubs. It’s all drugs. So I knew this would stand out. That was my point. I wanted to give a message. What’s the message that you gonna put out into the world and everybody’s gonna know you for? That’s the message that I wanted to put out.”
While there are many takeaways from this experience, JAG makes a realization about the music industry itself.
“A lot of these hip-hop blogs and companies that back up hip-hop are afraid to back up realistic topics,” he says. “And they’re backing up a lot of stuff that’s fabricated and making people believe that this is what the real is. I’ve seen that because we haven’t gotten any writeups on what’s going on, but we're viral. It’s amazing how you can have millions and millions of looks, and people sharing — thousands of people sharing. And people from different countries, A-list artists hitting you up, and no hip-hop blogs have written up anything. Nobody’s even reached out. It’s kind of funny that’s going on. I just want the real to come back, where music made you feel a certain type of way — where Tupac was able to talk about real topics and it got played on the radio. When ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ got played on the radio. Music is different now.”
Although his disappointment with the media remains, what truly matters to JAG is the respect and acknowledgment he's received from his peers — the same peers who are known, respected, admired and praised for their efforts in using their platform for a greater good.
“I’m getting a lot of love from the artists,” he says. “Shout-out to T.I., YG, Trey Songz, Ty Dolla $ign — that’s my big bro — Cassidy, Crooked I, the list goes on. So many artists have shown love. And these are the artists that speak on real topics. Every artist that I’ve named is somebody who spoke on a real topic before. People, like I said, their job is not really solidified. So a lot of people are gonna be scared to say anything because they don’t wanna lose their job. That’s not the guy that I ever wanted to be. I wanna speak out at all times. That’s what we got this platform for — music — so you can speak to the world.”
While his encounter with LAPD might have been traumatizing for most people, JAG uses it as motivation to go even harder. And it didn’t fall upon deaf ears. One look at Spotify’s Black Lives Matter playlist and you’ll see “The Kapernick Effect” sitting in the No. 2 spot, between Buddy’s “Black,” featuring A$AP Ferg, and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.”
“We're gonna keep doing what we're doing,” Jag says. “Keep pushing. Putting the message out to everybody that we can. We know the buzz is gonna come, so we're not thirsty for a buzz off of this. We're thirsty for getting the real message out. Whatever happens with that is gonna happen. We’re not expecting some type of money to come right here from this. We’re just looking to get the message out, and hopefully people wanna hear another message from us. That’s the plan. And just keep talking the real.”
With these types of situations actually taking place here in America, JAG sees no hope for gun control. That said, he's not in favor of taking guns from the people, either.
“Nah, as long as Donald Trump is here, I don’t see anything happening the right way,” he says. “So if they wanna take guns from everybody … I see that’s just another message that they’re putting out to us that they want to run everything. I feel like if you take that away from everybody, something is gonna happen to where the government is gonna end up coming in here on some martial law type thing, making everybody do what they say. That’s why I feel that they wanna be able to take that away from people. Of course, kids don’t need them. Teenagers don’t need them. But that’s just like drugs. That’s just like alcohol. Of course, there needs to be a limit on something, but I do feel like people — if it’s legal — should be able to carry a firearm.”