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Sunday Song Lyric:
Fifteen years ago today, a jury in Simi Valley, California, acquitted three Los Angeles police officers charged with using excessive force against motorist Rodney King. (The jury failed to reach a verdict on the fourth officer charged in the incident.) As news of the officers' acquittal broke, riots broke out in Los Angeles and elsewhere.


References to King and the riots became a staple in popular culture. Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell penned a song about the riots, "April 29, 1992 (Miami)," that was included on Sublime's self-titled album, the recording that catapulted the band to stardom. The band's catchy punk/ska/reggae blend, reportedly powerful live performances, authenticity, and social consciousness created a devoted following that continued long after the Sublime disbanded. Nowell would never see the album's commercial success, however, as he died of a heroin overdose shortly before the album was released, and the band broke up soon thereafter.

April 29 may not be the best song on the album, but it's timely, was recommended by a reader, and a Sublime lyric has been overdue. So here's a taste (the full lyrics, which include police radio chatter, are here).

April 26th, 1992
There was a riot on the streets
Tell me where were you?
You were sittin' home watchin' your TV
While I was paticipatin' in some anarchy.

First spot we hit it was my liqour store.
I finally got all that alcohol I can't afford.
With red lights flashin' time to retire,
And then we turned that liquor store into a structure fire. . . .

They said it was for the black man,
They said it was for the Mexican,
And not for the white man.
But if you look at the streets
It wasn't about Rodney King,
It's 'bout this f**ked up situation
And these f**ked up police.
It's about coming up and staying on top
And screamin' 187 on a mother f**kin' cop. . .
Although the song is called "April 29, 1992," Nowell sang "April 26th" when the song was recorded and, according to this account, the band kept it because they liked the track.
M-Kel (mail):
Wow, that song brings me back about 10 years. Definitely not the best song on the album, but a phenomenal band overall. Thanks for the nostalgia, Professor Adler!
4.29.2007 11:07am
Fub:
It's about coming up and staying on top
And screamin' 187 on a mother f**kin' cop. . .
4.29.2007 12:17pm
speedwell (mail):
Fub, that 187 link doesn't seem to pull up anything.
4.29.2007 1:54pm
TribalPundit (W&M 0L) (mail) (www):
187 is the California police code for homicide.
4.29.2007 2:51pm
Visitor Again:
California Penal Code 187. Not Police Code.
4.29.2007 3:13pm
Fub:
speedwell wrote at 4.29.2007 12:54pm:
Fub, that 187 link doesn't seem to pull up anything.
Hmm. Worked when I posted it. Now it doesn't. Oh well. Here's the relevant text from the www.leginfo.ca.gov server in the link:

CALIFORNIA CODES
PENAL CODE
SECTION 187-199

187. (a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought. ...

4.29.2007 3:18pm
PubliusFL:
"California Penal Code 187. Not Police Code."

Police code is correct, too. Because when California police are responding to a homicide report, the code "187" is used to describe the situation on the radio.
4.29.2007 3:27pm
Adam K:
Quite a coincidence; this morning I put that very CD on for the first time in well over a year.
4.29.2007 3:49pm
Visitor Again:
"California Penal Code 187. Not Police Code."

Police code is correct, too. Because when California police are responding to a homicide report, the code "187" is used to describe the situation on the radio.


Nonsense. The police did not come up with 187. The codifiers of the California Penal Code did. 187 as used by the police on the radio refers to the section of the Penal Code.

The question is where did the 187 in the song come from. The singers weren't portraying themselves as cops, were they?
4.29.2007 4:59pm
K Parker (mail):
Ummm, these lyrics are worth of mention why???
4.29.2007 5:42pm
Hoya:
The singer is portraying himself as someone involved in the riots and judging that they were not a black/white things, but a police/nonpolice thing.

Sublime is terrific. For years I had their album 40 Oz. to Freedom just sitting in my CD pile -- just listened to it for the first time a couple of months ago. Unbelievably strong. First seven tracks are as good as on any album I know of. What a waste of talent.
4.29.2007 8:06pm
Bottomfish (mail):
Supposedly eloquent testimony to the fact that you can blatantly violate the speed limit, get arrested, fight with the police, and not be held culpable for any of it.
4.29.2007 8:22pm
BGates (www):
VA, my interpretation is that they're singing about murdering a cop in that lyric. Part of their celebrated social consciousness. It's too bad that guy died of an overdose, without ever having his home broken into and burned to the ground.
4.29.2007 9:26pm
Recovering Law Grad:
BGates -

Please give us a break. Please.

Thanks.
4.29.2007 10:07pm
Tom Tildrum:
The phrase "news of King's acquittal" is a typo; it wasn't King who was acquitted.
4.29.2007 10:57pm
BGates (www):
Recovering Law Grad - the part of your post between 'please' and 'please' does not express a thought. Sorry your recovery isn't going better.
4.30.2007 12:26am
Jacobus:
BGates: I'm curious as to what neighborhood you grew up in. Long Beach, California, or somewhere a little less terrifying?

I'm just guessing that your interactions with police officers have been a little less intense than those of a person who grew up in South LA in the late 80's/early 90's. Soooo...maybe a little more understanding about an expression of angst *in a song* by someone with a different upbringing than your own?
4.30.2007 1:14am
Robert Corr (mail):
I don't think BGates's interpretation is right. It seems to me that "screaming 187 on a cop" translates to "calling a policeman a murderer".
4.30.2007 4:49am
James Fulford (mail):
Correction: Not charged with using excessive force against "motorist Rodney King. " Charged with using excessive force against "intoxicated, speeding, paroled armed robber" Rodney King, who resisted arrest, fought police and who has repeatedly been in trouble with the law since the incident.
4.30.2007 10:48am
PubliusFL:
"Nonsense. The police did not come up with 187. The codifiers of the California Penal Code did. 187 as used by the police on the radio refers to the section of the Penal Code."

It IS "used by the police on the radio." So it IS a police radio code, although the original source IS the Penal Code. Both statements are true. Codes such as radio codes don't have to be made up arbitrarily.

"The question is where did the 187 in the song come from. The singers weren't portraying themselves as cops, were they?"

No, they were portraying themselves as opposing cops. Note that they included sound clips of police radio chatter in the song, rather than clips of someone reciting sections of the California Penal Code.
4.30.2007 12:25pm
Visitor Again:
"The question is where did the 187 in the song come from. The singers weren't portraying themselves as cops, were they?"

No, they were portraying themselves as opposing cops. Note that they included sound clips of police radio chatter in the song, rather than clips of someone reciting sections of the California Penal Code.


Sorry, that was a rhetorical question in aid of my point. Of course the singers are not portraying themselves as cops and hence their 187 reference does not come from the police code but from the Penal Code. On second thought, it's a weak point and not needed in any event.
4.30.2007 1:07pm