In my efforts several months ago to research information surrounding the last year in the life of Tupac Shakur for an article I wanted to write, I came in contact with a number of youtube videos. It was then that I became immediately aware of D.J. Vlad. I learned that Vladislav Lyubovny aka D.J. Vlad has over three million subscribers to his youtube channel. And, based on the wide array of people he’s interviewed on his channel, its not hard to understand why he’s attracting people. Everyone who had any knowledge and involvement around the shooting of Tupac Shakur has been interviewed on Vlad T.V. He interviewed the Southside Crip who admitted during the interview, that he was in the car that fired the shots that ended Tupac’s life in September of 1996. He interviewed the Los Angeles and Compton cops who investigated the shooting as well as people who knew Orlando Anderson (Baby Lane) who was the person stomped in the MGM Casino that led to the Tupac shooting. As I got further involved, I discovered that entire generations of popular rappers have been on Vlad T.V. Actors, athletes, all types of people who are household names.
I watched a number of these interviews and eventually, my interest expanded beyond just information about the Tupac situation. One thing that started to become evident to me was how Vlad constantly made the point during his interviews to point out how he was “down with” or “friends” with the people he was interviewing. I’m talking about people who had established and well documented histories of gang banging in Los Angeles. Compton Mob Pirus who served as security for Death Row Records throughout the 90s. Southside Crips and other allied Crips sets who were connected to Orlando Anderson, the person widely believed to have killed Tupac. Many of these interviews came to the point of becoming uncomfortable to me as this person used his “close relationship” to these people he was interviewing to openly express his perspectives on what gangs should be thinking and doing. In one interview with a former Compton Crip, Vlad questioned why African “gangs” are “disorganized and not able to unite.” The interviewee - Al Hassan Naqiyy, born as Arlandis Hinton, and more popularly known by his Nutty Blocc Crip name “BG Knocc Out” expressed clear frustration about Vlad’s attempts to define and characterize African “gang” culture. He protested repeatedly during that interview and during another where Vlad questioned Naqivy’s assessment of “the gang mentality.”
My issue with these interviews is just because this European sits down and talks to these people doesn’t mean he understands inner city life and street organization culture. We know of absolutely no qualifications he possesses to question and/or challenge the practices of African street organizations. Plus, the danger here is the millions who are watching probably aren’t thinking about the need to ensure any assessment of African street organization life is inclusive of a clear analysis about the political and economic conditions that create that street organization life to begin with. In other words, the methodology from which his interviews take place suggests that our young people are savage, unable to function in productive ways, and without a broader analysis of the contradictions, the inference is that something is just wrong with us. That’s the same old tired analysis being projected onto our people that needs to be shut down everywhere it raises its head. Need further examples? Contrasting Vlad’s approach to former African street organization members, questioning them without a complete analysis of the conditions they faced, Vlad’s interview with retired L.A. police detective Greg Kading took on a completely different approach. Kading investigated the Tupac killing and after he retired, he wrote a book about it. At no time does Vlad question the morality of a European writing a book to profit off of murder and destruction in African communities. He doesn’t even question why an L.A. police detective became the central investigator in a crime that happened in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.? Instead, he accepts everything Kading says, never challenging him the way he challenges the Africans he interviews.
I don’t know why Naqivy, Mob James, Daz, Tray-Dee, etc., permit this Vlad person to talk to them the way he does. I don’t know why they don’t just tell him he’s crossing a boundary and that he’s talking about things he doesn’t understand. Naqivy, to his credit, makes an attempt to do that several times. And, maybe, they all do, but its edited out. Regardless, they have to know that what these interviews are being set up to do is make us look weak and useless to broader society. Its ill responsible to talk about Suge Knight (Death Row Records CEO), Tupac, Dr. Dre, the MOB Pirus, and the fall of Death Row without also talking about Time Warner which ultimately owned Death Row (with Interscope being a distributing company in between), and how and why it is that the European capitalists media corporations turned out profitable from the era of “gangsta Rap” while Knight is in prison, Tupac and Biggie are dead, and many, many more Africans, such as a number of MOB Pirus are dead. You could probably make an argument that Knight and the others got what they deserved, but you cannot conclude that European corporations have the right to profit off of all of that carnage. All of the people previously mentioned have a responsibility in this also. I don’t know what if anything they were paid from those interviews and/or whether that had anything to do with how they react in them. I do know that Bay Area Rapper Lil B has a point when he calls all of them out for working with Vlad T.V. and doing those interviews.
In those interviews, all of them express some level of regret for the destruction they participated in during their street organization tenures. All of them express a desire to see African people recover from those traumatic years. They have to recognize that the way they are being used by Vlad in those interviews does as much to continue our pain as it does to heal it. Another despicable example of Europeans taking our suffering and figuring out ways to profit off of it.