Thurz: The L.A. Riots Were The Most Historic Event In The City's History
[Editor's note: All this week West Coast Sound is speaking with rappers and writers whose work has been influenced by the L.A. riots, to coincide with their 20th anniversary on April 29.]
Few speak more passionately on the L.A. riots than rapper Thurz, the former member of U-N-I whose well-reviewed 2011 concept album L.A. Riot features songs with titles including "Rodney King." The work also features clips of residents recounting their experiences, and lyrics detailing the events surrounding the events. We spoke with him about the album, his memories of the time, and other subjects.
Where were you when you learned about the riots?
I was driving from my grandmother's house. She lives on 55th and Central and we were coming west off of Slauson, passing Normandie. And when we reached that intersection, on the southeast corner was a line of police in riot gear with guns and looking crazy. On the opposite side of the street were a lot of angry people from the community. And I saw some news vans and all that. I was like six or seven, and I just remember people walking in the street and it was kinda hard to drive through.
Somebody was throwing something and almost hit my mom's car. But we made it through. You know, we get home and we looking at the news. And we're seeing a lot of pandemonium in the city. And you start hearing about buildings burning and you see footage of it all on TV.
You interviewed people in South Central for your album, right?
We talked to people in the community, recorded a lot of conversations. And we also had people calling in to give us their stories regarding the riots. And when you listen to the album we use a lot of inserts of these audio clips from our research.
I'm referring to my friend Tomas Whitmore. He's a creative director and we do a lot of filming together. He helped out on the L.A. Riot projects. So me and him -- and another friend Daniel Figur -- we were all together, gathering all this data...We had to make it as real as possible, and as detailed as possible. So we had to go that extra mile for it to be okay to call an album LA Riot. So that was our main reason for just going door to door, gathering all the data. It was just to make it as real as possible and to make sure it didn't come across as just an album that's using this historical event to sell records. We wanted people to make sure we were paying homage to the most historical event in Los Angeles history.
When I saw it, I was like, "Wow, this is crazy." I didn't know it as gonna look like this. It was like starting a drawing that turned into a beautiful painting. That had so much meaning to it.
What do you think was accomplished by the riots?