Mysonne sat down with EBONY to discuss being arrested for protesting Sept. 4 at the confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. The rapper-activist was escorted from the Washington, D.C. courtroom as he yelled, “He is a threat to this democracy!” about Kavanaugh.
— Justice League NYC (@NYjusticeleague) September 4, 2018
The Bronx, New York-born MC rose to prominence in the late ’90s when he secured a recording deal with Def Jam’s Imprint Violator Records. Unfortunately, at the height of his rap career, in 1999 Mysonne was sentenced to 14 years in prison on two counts of armed robbery. To this day, he maintains his innocence. Upon his release in 2006, he gained a better understanding of the power of sacrificing for the greater good including for social justice. “People have sacrificed before; Dr. Martin Luther King sacrificed his life. He was arrested over 50 times in a far worse climate than now. I spent seven years in jail for something that I didn’t do and that I didn’t believe in,” Mysonne said.
With a heightened sense of purpose and after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012, Mysonne was pushed to “use [his] voice, platform and knowledge to change things” for his children.
“Watching the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case and watching George Zimmerman go free just clicked [on] a light for me,” he said. The father of three Black boys questioned how he would have a conversation with his then-10-year-old son about the law deeming him “not fit to live.”
Mysonne is willing to act to ensure a better future for African-Americans and other people of color. Speaking out against Kavanaugh and his history of White supremacy is something he feels obligated to do. His recent arrest in D.C. was not his first for protesting. In February, he was detained while speaking out against. In February, he was detained while speaking out against President Trump’s repeal of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
“I am willing to die and give my life for freedom and liberation,” he declared. “My children cannot live in the same conditions that I did, and their children can’t, either. Someone must make that conscious decision and be willing to deal with whatever it is.”
He protested in the D.C. courtroom to let politicians such as Sen. Cory Booker, who risked expulsion from Congress by sharing Kavanaugh’s classified documents, know that he supports their mission to properly vet Kavanaugh. The rapper also compared his plight with that of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“I look to [Kaepernick] and the ad he did for Nike, which reads, ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.’ That is how I live my life, anything that I believe in I am willing to go wholeheartedly [for]—win, lose or draw. I believe that liberation is an action word. I take that ‘act’ portion of activism very seriously.”
Although Mysonne is making a name for himself as an activist, he is still working on music. Last year, he grabbed the attention of rap fans young and old with his viral freestyle on Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex Radio Show, during which he spit bars about the hypocrisy of the street code, systematic racism and the need for prison reform. Now, the 39-year-old is using his music as a political vessel to educate the people in his community.
“It’s a transition and evolution. People think there is a difference between being an activist and a regular civilian. You are always an activist; you just don’t realize you are fighting against the powers every day, [including] when the police pull up on you and you haven’t done anything,” Mysonne asserted.
“We have normalized this level of abnormality. We normalized poverty and being overcriminalized because we deal with it every day . . . like people joining gangs because they don’t want to be mistreated or they’re tired of living in poverty. Other people who decided to sell drugs or to do crime to try to fight their way out of the hood . . .you [need to] explain to them why they live in poverty or explain it’s important to focus their energy into something more positive.”
Mysonne continued, “When you start to educate them and you put it into a musical form they can grab onto, you find yourself with the Huey P. Newtons and the Malcolm Xs, and we have to understand that. There is no real difference; it’s all about translating the information [in such a way that] they understand they are activists and they utilize that same energy in that [manner].”
He wants people to understand that Black men and women are targets and it is in the community’s power to stop that at a ground level. The rapper is working on an upcoming project titled Sell Hope, which will include a minimovie and is scheduled for release later this year.
For Mysonne, it’s justice or else.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.