Sunday, 11 July 2010

Posr Amojo Posr- An interview

As I have previously babbled, I’ve developed a healthy obsession with a little known 12” by Posr Amojo entitled No Justice, No Peace. Released in the well known 1988 on the UAM label it’s an avant-rap monster- all cascading drum machine, vintage computer game FX and an amazing encoded conscious rap, pre-dating the likes of Anti Pop Consortium by nearly a decade.

I’d found some information about a Posr Amojo Posr and made a speculative post about the man and record. I thought that would be as close as I would get until I happened upon a Posr Amojo Posr online. A “I don’t suppose you made a record in 1988 called No Justice, No Peace” and a few subsequent emails later and I am the wiser.

First things first- the name. In 1987 at the time of his wrongful arrest on a march organised by the Listeners Action on Homelessness and Housing, Posr was known as Charles Johnson.

“I changed my name to Posr Amojo Posr in 1989. I went to court and paid for the name, so it is my legal name. Posr is an acronym for Prisoner of Self Respect. I decided to change my name at that time for two reasons- one, I didn't want to have a British name since I am of African descent and two, I was arrested at the homeless march and put in jail and I asked myself "why am I a prisoner?". I answered myself and said "Since I didn't let that cop just push me, like he did everybody else, I am a "Prisoner of Self Respect" thus Posr.

Amojo is from a Jazz song I heard. In the song the singer sings "I got my mojo working and it’s working out tonight"….you see “mojo" is like your rhythm, you know, when like everything is going your way.”

No Justice, No Peace was the first song that Posr committed to vinyl and, although it sounds like the-future-then, it is very much rooted in the events and climate of 1988. One of the recurrent lines I asked Posr about was “for Tijuana you know why”.

“I'm not saying "Tijuana". I am saying "for Tawana"…The rhyme was in support of a female of African descent, lineage North America, who claimed six white high level law enforcement members raped her”

The Tawana Brawley case was both high profile and highly controversial, and it saw a rise in organised black social activism, something Posr also celebrates in No Justice.

“The energy this Black Movement was creating hadn't been seen since the rise of the Black Panthers. A security force was called for and No Justice No Peace to commemorate the atmosphere.

The people in the movement gave the track much love. People not in the movement never really heard it because it didn't sell because I wasn't putting all my time into promoting it. I do believe it was too experimental for the time.

As far as influences, I always liked Schoolly D, Public Enemy, Run DMC, KRS- One.”

In 1991 Posr was awarded $77,000 (not $15,000 as I wrote previously) as a result of his wrongful arrest on the homeless march and he used the proceeds to record and tour (in Germany) an album - The Political Prisoner Tour. At that time he was using the name MC Shank. Unfortunately Posr no longer has a copy of the album so if anyone reading does please let me know and we can re-unite them (plus I’d really like to hear it). He told me about a track on the album- Shootout.

“Shootout was about a guy…Larry Davis. He later changed his name to Adam Abdul Hakeem. The police used him to sell drugs from maybe 11 or 12 years of age to 25 or so. When Adam decided he didn't want to sell drugs for the cops anymore, the cops he was selling drugs for attempted to assassinate him. Instead, with guns in both hands, Wild-West style he shot six cops and escaped. Many people from the ghettos hoped he would never be captured.

Believing he would be killed if caught, he turned himself in. Worse mistake he ever made. He was murdered in prison by another prisoner…Many suspect the killer was put up to it by police and guards who were waiting until a generation forgot about him to have him murdered. He was in a wheel-chair throughout his prison stay…I was a part of his support team.

Some said Adam was not really a political prisoner, but a drug pusher. I think it was a political decision to decide to say “I am not going to sell drugs for you anymore”. He wanted to do music. His story deserves to be known, for his courage.

The music of Shootout was certainly less experimental than No Justice No Peace, so I guess it was a great change of musical style and I liked the direction my music was going in. I was always learning new subtleties”

There have been no subsequent albums since The Political Prisoner Tour, although Posr’s activism has continued including legal work for fellow activists.

“At about that time (1992) I became interested in law. I didn't go to law school, but, dealing with activist people, I started, and still am, assisting them with their legal papers as well as my own, having been active on the level that I was on and still am.

I'm not planning any performances but socially, so much is happening that I feel I have to do something musical, but relevant, because the police state is growing tentacles in leaps and bounds and the youth need guidance through music because that is the news network for the youth; music.”

Of course there once was a time, back where we started when No Justice, No Peace was released, that hip hop was labelled the “black CNN” and a conscious message was as likely as any other. Whatever happened to Edutainment?

“Edutainment was co-opted by the major record companies who, when they realized they could not ignore hip hop into oblivion, paid and rewarded rappers to portray images in the heads of major record companies. Major record companies had negative images of the early rappers and "carrot and stick" led rappers to portray those images. So went edutainment. The early days of rap was so creative in all areas of life, not just gangsterism.”

No Justice, No Peace is a prime example of that creativity. I've said it before but it's an astonishing record so thanks to Posr for that, as well as taking the time to give me the lowdown.


mark said...

very interesting read! keep up the good work...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Is this the same MC Shank who wrote a song about Mumia Abu-Jamal being on death row? If so, he's very talented.

Also, I found this on youtube.

bobby corridor said...

It is the same MC Shank. Do you have a copy of that? I'd love to hear it.