Kamau’s Video for ‘PohLease’ Explores Police Brutality With Nuance and Rage

Kamau’s “PohLease” video opens with two young black men walking down the street pulling off hoodies to reveal dress shirts, ties and slacks. They’ve stripped themselves of the garment white males can wear without hassle, but is often deemed “thug” attire on black male bodies. (See: Trayvon Martin.) They’re in the drag of respectability. It ultimately won’t matter. To the accompaniment of the sound of synchronized marching feet, the duo walk to a corner store, buy something, and then proceed to walk down the sidewalk as Kamau raps on the audio track, “As a Black person in America, when you see the police / Say a little prayer to the Shepherd: Who let the wolves guard the sheep?” A layered chorus of voices asks simply: “Who police the police?”

Kamau, courtesy the artist.

Kamau, courtesy the artist.

A police van pulls up and two cops, one black, one white, jump out and start harassing and shoving them, arrests them for no reason, and throws them in the back of the police van. (See: Freddie Gray.) The whole time, Kamau is spitting on the audio track:

It’s been a while since the KluKlux
Looked like the KluKlux
You ain’t gotta glue clues
As common as glucose
To glimpse them a blue cloak
Welcome to America
The new coke
A cola coated with a bit a codeine
Cope with or decode it
Children of the corner
Get no dosage from the club
Club full of killers
Killing Cubs just because
Color is a credible cause
To make the bird caw
Incredible cost to a mother
To get that cursed call
That’s a curb stomp to her
That’s as common as condiments
That’s the kind of incompetence
That’ll conjure a conflict
We’re at war with security
After we built the company…

The two young black men, fledgling hashtags at this point, are taken to an undisclosed location (see: Chicago’s Homan Square, where over 7,000 people have been unlawfully detained and often tortured) where they’re violently beaten, the cops pull their guns, and one of the black men ends up cradling his friend’s lifeless body. It’s painful, ripped-from-the-headlines viewing, with the video illuminating the lyrics in a necessarily literal way. The clip ends with a roll-call of victims of police brutality being recited. The list is long – and incomplete.

Top photo by Arturo Olmos.