After twelve years of Bloomberg, New York City is about to get a new Mayor. With the Democratic primary election around the corner and the next debate set to air tonight (September 3), New Yorkers have been seeing plenty of the Mayoral hopefuls lately. Surprisingly, the NYPD’s controversial use of stop-and-frisk tactics has become one of the hottest issues on the table, and the candidates are talking non-stop about just how far they will go to reform the abusive practices.
Of the contenders, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has by far been the loudest voice against stop-and-frisk, which was a big part of why Peter Rosenberg endorsed him on Hot 97 last week (in addition to de Blasio’s stance on marijuana and his son’s now-famous afro). Rosenberg invited de Blasio to stop by the station for a second interview in the days leading up to the election, saying, “I think that you would be the favorite candidate from our audience, and I think more people need to be aware of what you’re doing and what you’re saying.” According to campaign staff, de Blasio is hoping to take Rosenberg up on the offer.
From elsewhere in the hip-hop world, Russell Simmons has long been a committed supporter of de Blasio’s candidacy. Simmons recently explained his endorsement to XXL: “With significant issues affecting our community, from stop-and-frisk to our failing schools to a depression-level unemployment rate for African Americans in New York City, it is time to vote in a champion of the people as the Mayor of our city. I have known Bill de Blasio for a long time and he is the only real progressive in the race. I have always admired his commitment to the underserved communities across all five boroughs and it is time we show that our vote can not only elect a President, but it can also elect a Mayor.”
This past weekend, de Blasio took time off the campaign trail to answer some questions from XXL, covering everything from his history with Russell Simmons to his plan to oust Ray Kelly to his favorite Wu-Tang member.
It’s GZA, if you were wondering.—Katie Moore
XXL: The NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics has become a prominent topic in the Mayoral race. But as Public Advocate, weren’t you already tackling the issue?
I’ve been a strong voice on the need to reform stop-and-frisk for many years now—long before it became a hot-button issue in the Mayoral race.
As NYC Public Advocate, I released a report that showed that stop-and-frisks of African Americans in 2012 were barely half as likely to yield a weapon as those of white New Yorkers—and a third less likely to yield contraband. Despite this evidence, the vast majority of those stopped are young Black and Latino men. This stark disparity in stops shows that racial profiling is alive and well. There’s absolutely no justification for tens of thousands of young men of color being stopped repeatedly without cause.
What is your plan to change or abolish stop-and-frisk?
I am the only candidate who supports all three reforms necessary to truly end the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk. As Mayor, I would replace Commissioner Ray Kelly, create an independent Inspector General to monitor the NYPD and enforce a strong racial profiling ban.
Bill Thompson opposed both bills to create an independent IG and a racial profiling ban. Christine Quinn would keep Ray Kelly (the architect of stop-and-frisk), and voted against the ban on racial profiling.
You have a broad plan for creating a safer, more peaceful New York City, from more after-school programs to changing the leadership of the NYPD. Do you see a way that the hip-hop community could be a part of this?
Absolutely. Everyday New Yorkers have been shut out during the Bloomberg years. From providing universal pre-K for our children to saving our neighborhood hospitals at risk of closure, the hip-hop community could play a pivotal role in mobilizing the support we need to make this vision a reality.
Russell Simmons is a very vocal supporter of yours. Can you tell us about your history? How did you meet?
We met years ago through our shared activism. Russell is a strong supporter of the campaign, who believes deeply that we need to combat income inequality in our city and heal the divide between communities and police.
Russell’s the son of two city employees and a native of Hollis, Queens. I admire not only his social justice work on education and equal rights, but also his success as an entrepreneur and businessman who has never forgotten where he came from.
Are there particular issues you and Mr. Simmons plan to work on together if you become Mayor?
Universal pre-K and after-school programs, ending racial profiling and the overuse of stop-and-frisk, and combating inequality, to name a few.
Are there other artists you would like to team up with in the future?
Russell is my most prominent supporter from the hip-hop community, but I’d also love to connect with Talib Kweli. He grew up in Park Slope, where my wife Chirlane and I live and where we raised our two children, Chiara and Dante. He has a strong social conscience.
You grew up right alongside the birth and evolution of hip-hop. Did you ever get into the music or the culture?
Big fan of Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, all the old-school artists. The movement started in NYC, so it was always around.
Who’s your favorite New York rapper?
Jay Z, hands down. From growing up in Marcy to his rise to become one of our country’s leading artists and entrepreneurs, his success and hard work is an inspiration to all New Yorkers. He’s still going strong after all these years—how could you not have respect for that?
What about your favorite Wu-Tang member?
GZA. Not only is he a great lyricist, but I also admire his work to engage African American and Latino students in the sciences.
Are your children into hip-hop?
Chiara’s a Wu-Tang Clan fan (36 Chambers) and considers them major revolutionaries of the genre. She also likes Nas and Big L because their music realistically depicts their lives and circumstances.
Dante likes Public Enemy, particularly the way they were able to discuss social issues without compromising their musical abilities. They had a message of activism that hasn’t been forgotten and which runs through our family as well.