April 29, 1992: Ten Songs About The L.A Riots

It was 19 years ago today that the Los Angeles riots began after four white police officers, caught on videotape beating the African-American Rodney King after a drug-fueled high-speed chase, were acquitted by a Simi Valley, Calif. jury.

The rest of the world watched in shock and sadness as buildings were burned, people of all races beat one another (some to death) and local businesses across South Central L.A. were looted and ravaged in retaliation for what was perceived as an unfair verdict.

Musicians, at least, chose to take their frustrations on the incidents out in a studio and not in the streets. A glut of songs were released in the wake of the riots tried to make some sort of sense of what happened that week.

Today, the physical scars on the city of L.A. are largely gone, but the emotional scars on the people who lived through nearly a week of mayhem remain. Although many believe that the country is on the brink of something of this magnitude or worse almost daily, it was the last big violent uprising in American history.

At the time, rap music was still very much known as the "Black CNN," so Ice-T, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube were some of the first artists to get their words down with beats attached. Since the riots were very much centered on the predominately black parts of L.A., those rappers had a very inside perspective of what occurred that week.

Punks and metalheads lived in those same poor neighborhoods so they also were effected, and bands like Sublime, Bad Religion, and others would release songs about what they saw. This wasn't just a black issue, it was a people issue in L.A. Everyone was touched by the events, some more than others.

Even Tom Petty wrote a song about the riots, "Peace In L.A."

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty