MTV’s prank-based reality show Punk’d is one of the best in the business – its nothing shy of hilarious.
For example, I loved when they played the prank on R&B singer Brandy, and her younger brother Ray J. The staged skit had Brandy pleading with an African American police officer who pulled them over. But, suddenly a White officer enters the scene and discovers that Ray J, who is in on the joke, is in possession of presumed “stolen” diamonds. Well, at that point Brandy, ever the actress, starts crying and appeals to the laws for mercy, using every ploy possible. Eventually, the cameras come out of the shadows, and the starlet realizes she is the victim of a now-classic MTV/Aston Kutcher practical joke.
However, after the Punk’d episode with Bizarre of D-12, many started to feel differently about Punk’d hoaxes. Although funny, it was becoming sad and not so amusing for those that dug beyond the surface of the show. For those unfamiliar with the situation, Bizarre was set up by his homey Proof [also of D-12] in an apparent scam at an ATM. Suddenly the police swarm. Bizarre, the wild-n-crazy rapper is suddenly caught with his chubby hand in the cookie jar! Soon, he begins to tear up [read :cry]. He explained the total situation to AllHipHop.com for clarity.
A friend hits me up and we notice a trend with many of these Punk’d episodes. Rapper Chingy, actor Mekhi Phifer, artist Outkast, Mario, basketball hoop-star Carmelo Anthony, Ciara, Kanye West, and others in the entertainment industry had encounters with 5-0, or some similar sort of faux authority. Not to put total blame on law encounters, because certainly there were episodes such as Jadakiss’ traffic/taxi cab fiasco and Vivica Fox’s pregnancy prank that had absolutely nothing to do with the Po-Po.
When researching the majority of African American stars involved in pranks, why are so many “Punk’d” by law-like figures of authority? There are a number of ways of seeing it, but let me speak from my own perspective as a young Black male.
As I see it, Punk’d is a show that, despite its seemingly unpredictable nature, is very much controlled by those pulling the strings. When it comes to “punking” Hip-Hop minded African Americans, what’s the best way to control them? COPS! Now, when they pranked UK singer Joss Stone, she agreed to watch another person’s child and the boy broke some pricey vase in a retail store and ran away. Do you think a rapper is going to care about that? Imagine DMX like, “Yo, son…I’m sorry about the vase, dog. Gosh, I could pay for it even though it wasn’t my fault.” A rapper is going to mess up the climate control and leave that stupid vase in a million pieces. At least, that is what one would expect.
Like many people, I have had numerous run-ins with the police and I expect to have many more. No, I’ve never been beat down like Rodney King, but I’ve been in situations where I felt that my safety was on the line, should I decide to make a false move. So when I see a fake cop in the Bizarre and Ciara’d Punk’d skits, keep his right hand on his fake gun, I wonder how I would act. Would I cry? Not likely. Would I be fearful? Absolutely!
There are only a few ways to intimidate African Americans, because we have been through so much historically and continue to be the subject of assaults by the police. Certainly, we can’t forget the most recent report of 10 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who rained 120 rounds hurricane-style on an unarmed motorist in Compton?
Whenever I get pulled over, I am automatically thinking, “Hey, I might die…let me be cool. I’m not quite ready to die at the hands or gun of a cop.”
And that seemed to be the approach that Mekhi Phifer adopted as he assumed “the position” so that he could be easily cuffed by the Punk’d cops. The thing is, the issue of these pranks isn’t really a racial statement, but it’s more of an observation. There are often Black fake cops in these practical jokes and plenty non-Black subjects. See, they are as frightened of legal prosecution as we are – it’s just a different type of apprehension.
But, then there is that old fear of the wild out. For example one attempt to use officers to “punk” the Black Eyed Peas, regarded widely as a softer rap act, resulted in the group’s entourage actually fighting the cops. They didn’t know that it was a joke. Somehow, there is a certain amount of unpredictability with rappers and those that capture that Hip-Hop ethos. We’ll go to war with each other, but when it comes to the law, it’s a far cry from the echoes of NWA’s “F**k the Police,” or Ice-T’s “Cop Killer.” Both songs cry against police brutality despite propaganda.
So, when you see Bizarre drop a tear or two when the police ask him to step slowly out of the car, its not because he’s a punk or been “punk’d”…Its probably that he doesn’t want to be Rodney King’d, Abna Louima’d, or Amadou Diallo’d.