It's not often we get to throw the phrase "racial profiling" around the Tiny Mix Tapes field of play. It isn't intentional... it just doesn't come up that much. Or maybe we're like the Canadian government and choose to turn our heads the other way when the subject arises, as more and more people are arguing. On January 12, Jerome Almon, head honcho of Detroit/Toronto-based Murdercap Records, filed a $900 million lawsuit in Michigan against the Canadian government and charges 95 Canadian border guards with repeated and deliberate harassment and "wholesale profiling" of rap artists and African-Americans at the Canadian border. Almon, who also produces under the pseudonym Slikkfordays, claims to have been stopped, pestered, or held for lengthy second inspections 117 times out of 120 attempts to cross Canadian customs between 1998-2004, usually at the Detroit-Windsor checkpoint. This seemingly strange and exorbitant lawsuit contains a somewhat disparate but high-profile witness list which includes U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, rappers 50 Cent, DMX and Diddy, Colin Powell, and a handful of Canadian politicos and former Ministers of Parliament (MPs). After a couple of botched telephone hook-ups, we decided to fire off a few questions for Almon to answer via e-mail. His answers show him to be passionate, pissed off, and prepared to fight.
Why did you file the suit now? Was it a particular recent incident that prompted it or has it just been building from your past border incidents and those of other black rappers and entertainers?
I filed the suit to bring attention to the issue of censorship and profiling at the border and show - as politicians condemn the Taliban and Al Queda for being backward and against freedom - we have become more like them than they have like us since 9/11. The situation has been building, it is strange how DMX and 50 Cents have the red carpet rolled out when they are putting $50 million into the economy and weeks later they are banned as the worst guys on the planet. The move SHOWED what they are rapping about and it was banned from being shot in Canada. Similarly, I was allowed to record the CD (D-Town to T-Town/Porno Star) in Toronto, pay the fees to register MURDERCAP RECORDS - and I get a tax bill annually - but when I come to benefit from all the investment I am banned. Why lure me in and then stab me in the back?
A lot of bands and musicians have border difficulties though. What about your case makes you think it's systematic and deliberate in regard to black musicians at the Canadian borders?
Canada has a racial profiling problem that the powers that be don't want to face. Report after report, incident after incident in Canada has proven this to be systematic and prevalent. Then you have all these Black rappers targeted AFTER they have the permits and you know what is going on. It sounds like something out of the America of the 1960's. There is a saying, "Nothing in politics happens by accident." Why isn't his happening in Australia or the EU? Once you have your permit in either country you are quikly processed unless you have contraband on you - no one has been accused of that. How long does it take visiting NBA or NHL teams to get processed? You tell me when athletes get held up - it doesn't happen.
You have mentioned Wilson Pickett before in statements and discussed his difficulties with overly tough Canadian border employees, but it seems like it is mainly rappers who are getting singled out. Is the Canadian government reading too much into lyrics, news stories and perceived reputations here?
The govt (government) is looking at rappers as the epitome of Black and the worst of American culture - aggressive, violent, and a bully. They said the same thing about Elvis and the Rolling Stones. Rappers are an easy target - you go after them and claim that the music is causing gun murders and people just might accept it and NOT ASK WHY OUR POLITICIANS CAN'T DO THEIR JOBS. They don't want that to happen so they look for a scapegoat - like the Bush admin did on 9/11. Most Americans think the hijackers came to the US through Canada when we actually let them right in the front door.
Is the Canadian government racist or is it overthinking everything to a degree that it is clouding their judgment, border practices and training?
It's racist. I know people don't like the truth but that is the facts. You read the Ontario Human Rights 85 page report on racial profiling in the province and it sounds like a bad KKK movie. Wilson Pickett is not a rapper -- he was targeted, 1 in 50 Canadians are Black but how many of the stops, searches, and the people that got the drugs planted on them were Black? A totally disproportianate amount. And I have been told the CD in question (again, D-Town to T-Town/Porno Star) is "too gangsta," audio porn. It's both.
It seems the problem is getting worse over the past ten years or so. Has the increased power and stature of rappers over this period of time threatened the Canadian government's comfort zone? Or has this profiling problem been around for ages but been made more public as of late?
That is a good point - a lot of it is hating. I come over the border with 2-3 fine Canadian girls and I get pulled over everytime bringing them back home - you can just see it in their faces. I have been called a pimp twice - seriously. That is messed up. But yeah it has gotten worse. You got the Canadian govt retaliating for Bush targeting Canadian Muslims, and then you have gang and gun violence in TO (Toronto) and Vancity (Vancouver) jump off the hook and someone has to be blamed - so they resort to junk science and say it is The BLAKKATTAKK or 50 Cent or DMX-when it is social thangs that are causing the problems. How many times was the official cause of death in the murders "death by CD?" How many of the victims were killed by rappers from the US? It's BS simple and plain. It is also hypocracy - here (Canadian Member of Parliament for Ontario's York West region) Judy Sgro is banning us out of the country for rappin' about pimpin' and all the time she IS pimpin! Let's work this out Gorgeous J - one player to another.
A lot of people will look at the $900 million and think it's over the top...how did you arrive at the amount?
People have to understand that the top guys in the rap game - P Diddy, Jay Z, and so on gross that type of bread yearly. The critics and the streets from Germany, Australia, TO, to the States have said we are the best Hip Hop crew to ever come out of Detroit, the new NWA, the Led Zeppelin of rap-and we are. The crew is something magical - we set out to make Hip Hop's Led Zeppelin I and we did it! So since 2003 I have been banned out of the country (although I was in in August 2004) that is serious money that has been cost me and when we drop the CD "D-Town to T-Town/Porno Star" it will change not just rap but change music and will knock the guys on top right now of the mountain. It is that good. So the figure is reflective of losses. But it is not about the money - it is about whether we are like the people Canadian and US soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan or are we free. You can't be a little free - no more than you can be a little pregnant.
And obviously it's not everyday a witness list includes people like the U.S. Secretary of State on it. It's easy to see why you included people who have had first-hand dealings with border inspections -- like 50 and X --- but how did you decide on who to include on the witness list? Was it a case of trying to push as far and as high up that you could to try to make more people take notice?
It is important that people see WHO is on the list. You tell me-why hasn't any other country pulled this? Are Canadian border guards smarter than EU or Aussie guards? No just more racist. If the US pulled this on hockey players like what has happened to rappers - (Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs) Peter McKay would have sent in the army to straighten the US out. Don't people think it is RIDICULOUS that you have this number of high profile people being nabbed? What are the odds on "random selection" in all these cases? The answer is it is impossible. Terrorist are welcome - but THE BLAKKATTAKK isn't? That is f'd up man. All these people should stand up and say something too - they owe it to the people before us like the Stones, NWA, Beatles, Prince, and The Clash.
You said to me previously that the problem is on both sides of the border, how much of this has to do with payback for some well-publicized incidents of Canadians being stopped, harassed, and/or denied entry at U.S. borders and how much of it is downright racial profiling and stereotyping rappers?
It began with profiling and it is still the major factor but it is followed very closely by payback and hating on rich Black guys with all the girls. Don't be mistaken the government in Ottawa resents Bush and his policies against Canadians. And look at the fight over Maher Arar to learn more about the absurd Maher Arar case, [click here. They are saying to Bush, "You profile OUR Arabs - we will profile YOUR Blacks!"
At what stage is the lawsuit at now? Are you just past filing the suit and waiting for a response and dates?
Yes it is just the initial phase and I am waiting on dates but I got a surprise coming for the Canadian BSA (Border Services Agency) and all those Ministers that lied - get ready for Maher Arar 2.
Do you expect the lawsuit to make it to court?
I can tell you cases with far less justification against countries has made it to court. People say I cannot sue a country from the US - yes I can. The Foreign Soverignty Immunity Act has 1 paragraph in it that allows me to do this. The US INSISTED that when it came to interrupting commerce or business deals a country can be held responsible - or if the act is a violation of the law in that country. I got them on both - my business is officially registered as MURDERCAP RECORDS with Canada Customs and Revenue - they send me a tax bill every year. They also let me sign numerous contracts with Canadian businesses that I HAVE TO HONOR but are blocking me from servicing them for no good reason. I have a letter from the Commissioner of Customs, his assistant, and a Minister for Immigration stating that if what I described were true it would be a violation of my rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I can prove absolutely that the CHRC (Canadian Human Rights Commission), several MP's, and other Canadian govt officials absolutely know they have WRITTEN false statements in this case to cover up their involvement and the profiling at the border - in THEIR OWN handwriting. Keep in mind - I only need a majority of jurors in Detroit to say what I am claiming is likely true - the evidence proves it is absolutely true. But I am going to give the Border Services a big surprise. I am going to hold a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC and present my entire case before the world's media. I will put them and the State Dept on trial, and both will look like RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) Chief Guilliani Zaccardelli AFTER the files came out on he knowing that Maher Arar was not a terrorist at all - although he told that lie for 3 years. Imagine if Zaccardelli was STILL telling that story after his signature was on the report that lied on Arar? People would think he was insane-well my advesaries would be in the same position. Get ready to be shocked!
What the best and worst outcomes you can conceive coming out from all of this?
There are no worse. I got the info out and they can't put that Genie back into the bottle. They are outed like Liberace and they are scared as hell -that's why you haven't heard them say anythang. Why not just call me a liar? Why not just put the evidence on the table? Because the evidence convicts them - they are my best witnesses. The best outcome is ending this BS and people remembering WHY we don't like censorship and dividing people along race or ethnic lines. It is backward and ultimately comes back to haunt you in the worst of ways - like Bosnia, Afghanistan, 9/11...
Thanks Jerome. Keep in touch. We all are looking forward to see what comes next.
Yep, thanks. It is sad to say that in the 21st Century we still act this way in North America. Bush banning M.I.A. for making a song about her FATHER! What a sick joke. But people have to stand up or we will lose ALL our freedoms bit by bit. You would think it was 19 rappers led by me and my label on the planes on 9/11 - instead of the terrorists that actually did it. Peace.