Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

“Sound of Da Police”

This blog is the first in a series related to the inaugural season of the Oxford Centre for Criminology Podcast.

Episode 1: “Sound of Da Police”: Exploring the Relationship between Black Creative Expression and Criminal Justice Systems (featuring Dr. Lambros Fatsis)

As part of the University of Oxford Centre for Criminology Podcast developed by MSc students in the 2021-2022 academic year, Ella Joshi, Paviter Juss, Ikran Jama, and Iulia Vatau produced an episode on the criminalisation of Black cultural expression and artforms.


Iulia Vatua
MSc student in 2021/22


Time to read

2 Minutes

Blog by Iulia Vatau

Drill and rap lyrics have been used across the U.K. and the U.S. as evidence in criminal trials. Most recently, the ongoing RICO case against Young Thug and Gunna has garnered national media attention, and the prosecution has received backlash for using the music of the defendants to substantiate claims of criminal conduct in their indictments. These practices and attitudes have contributed to the endurance of over-policing, discrimination, and oppression of ethnic minorities.

In a gripping discussion with Dr. Lambros Fatsis, this episode draws attention to the vast social and political repercussions marginalized communities are exposed to as a result of this criminalisation, simultaneously looking at ways society can take action. Dr. Fatsis is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Brighton. His research focuses on police racism as well as how forms Black creativity, particularly music, are targeted by law enforcement. In his 2019 article titled ‘Policing the beats: The criminalisation of UK drill and grime music by the London Metropolitan Police’, Fatsis explores how these genres are framed as stimulators of criminal behavior, allowing state authorities to remove violence from the wider systemic context of deprivation and continuous marginalisation. In this work, racial neoliberalism is used to contextualise the policing of drill in wider discriminatory politics. The concept emcompasses how an individualistic free market agenda serves to solidify existing hierarchies of racial ordering by assigning blame to disposed groups for their structural disadvantage, while, at the same time, allowing for those at the top to ignore the absence of investment in welfare.

It is this idea of racial neoliberalism that serves as the starting point of this podcast episode. The discussion with Dr Fatsis highlights how this socio-economic order has contributed to the policing of Blackness itself. It explores the different repercussions white and minority ethnic defendants are exposed to, while, at the same time, dismantling the myths of culturally-induced violence that stand at the forefront of a racialised penal and political rhetoric. Dr Fatsis considers both the lack of action of the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK, as well as some recent measures taken in the US, including the Rap on Trial Bill proposed by the New York State Senate. By closely considering these two cases, the discussion evidentiates how isolated reform has limited impact in preventing the policing and general discrimination of ethnic minorities through the criminal justice system. It thus reminds the general public how deeply embedded racism is in the structure of the system.

Yet, the discussion does not remain isolated to jurisdictional contexts in the Global North. Fatsis equally scrutinises how the legacies of imperialism have facilitated similar forms of policing through cultural censorship in post-colonial societies, with one of the most notable examples being the murder of artist Sidhu Moose Wala in Punjab, India.

While drawing attention to the magnitude of artistic policing and its systemic roots, this podcast episode signposts the audience towards educational resources. Among these sources, Fatsis notably recommends KRS-One’s Sound of da Police (2015), a strong historiographical critique of the colonial roots of policing. 

You can listen to the full episode here:


How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

I. Vatua. (2022) “Sound of Da Police”. Available at:https://blogs.law.ox.ac.uk/centre-criminology-blog/blog-post/2022/09/sound-da-police. Accessed on: 24/05/2024