We Check Up on the Long Beach Addresses in Sublime's Riot Song "April 29, 1992 (Miami)"
Yesterday marked 20 years since the acquittal of four LAPD officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King incited several days of violence and looting in South Central Los Angeles. But it's also been 20 years since a similarly motivated uprising erupted in nearby Long Beach, resulting in numerous arrests and causing extensive damage throughout the central and northern parts of town. This rarely gets mentioned in reports of the infamous L.A. Riots.
Chuck D of Public Enemy once famously said that rap music is the black CNN, but in the case of this civil unrest in oft-forgotten Long Beach, it was local ska/punk/reggae/hip-hop/everything band Sublime's song "April 29, 1992 (Miami)" that became the city's own news network.
Released on its 1996 multi-platinum self-titled album, the song reports on the burning buildings and felony committers of the band's hometown in the days following the not-guilty verdict. Using actual Long Beach Police Department radio transmissions and verses that describe personal involvement in the pillaging, it gives a localized account of the Long Beach riots (complete with street addresses of the destruction).
To some, it might seem inflammatory that pseudo-reggae white boys would write a song about participating in racially motivated violence and looting (our friends at the SF Weekly recently wrote that they were "piggybacking on a riot"). But the rioting Sublime writes about is not the iconic Normandie and Florence chaos that continues to define the days following the end of the Rodney King trial. The song is about how the riots affected them and others in Long Beach, a city nearby yet worlds apart from neighboring South Central (and its pent-up racial tension). If you've ever been to the mostly working-class port city of nearly 500,000 people -- which remains the most statistically diverse city in the country -- you know what we mean.
So when Nowell sings, "'Cause everybody in the hood has had it up to here," he's not only talking about disenfranchised blacks or mistreated Hispanics. He's also talking about himself and the rest of the people in Long Beach that had suffered through enough of "this fucked-up situation and these fucked-up police."