April 29, 1992: Sublime’s lyrics still a powerful time capsule of Rodney King beating, L.A. riots 20 years later

April 29, 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the day that a jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of beating Rodney King, despite a video that clearly showed otherwise. According to CNN, four white cops yelled racial slurs as they hit the 25-year-old black man more than 50 times with their wooden batons and shocked him with an electric stun gun, and outrage over the not guilty verdict caused nearly a week’s worth of insanity in the streets. “Can’t we all get along?” King famously asked, but the L.A. riots and violence in other cities led to more than 50 deaths and $1 billion in property damage.

The incident has been immortalized in several songs, but perhaps none more so than Sublime’s “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” from their 1996 self-titled album. Lead singer Bradley Nowell, who overdosed on heroin just months before the band’s breakout release, adds to the confusion of those riots by singing the wrong date in the lyrics — indeed, on the album most fans of the ska/punk/reggae group have, Nowell sings “April 26, 1992″ which is clearly a mistake but the band supposedly kept it because it was the strongest take. (He sings the correct lyric in the “April 29, 1992 (Leary)” version that appears on 2006′s 10th anniversary two-disc deluxe edition of the album, produced by Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary. Sublime with Rome sings it as “April 29,” also.)

The song includes samples of southern California police radios, scratched clips from rappers Doug E. Fresh and Mobb Deep, and describes a list of towns and cities where riots took place that week (starting with Miami). Though the pseudo-anthem troubles one writer 20 years later, Nowell brags about looting his local liquor store and stealing equipment from a music shop, “’cause everybody in the hood has had it up to here.”

“April 29th, 1992 (Miami)” lyrics:

(SAMPLE: “I don’t know if you can, but can you get an order for Ons, that’s O-N-S, Junior Market, the address is 1934 East Anaheim, all the windows are busted out, and it’s like a free for all here, and uh, the owner should maybe come down here and see if he can secure his business, if he wants to”)

April 26th, 1992
There was a riot on streets
Tell me where were you?
You were sittin’ home watchin’ your TV
While I was participating in some anarchy
First spot we hit it was my liquor 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
Next stop we hit, it was the music shop,
It only took one brick to make the window drop
Finally we got our own P.A.
Where do you think I got this guitar that you’re hearing today?

(SAMPLE: “Call fire and tell them respond local station out to meet us at Anaheim. It’s uh, flaming up good.” “10-4 Alamidos at Anaheim”)

When we returned to the pad to unload everything
It dawned on me that I need new home furnishings
So once again we filled the van until it was full
Since that day my livin’ room’s been much more comfortable
‘Cause everybody in the hood has had it up to here
It’s getting harder, and harder, and harder each and every year
Some kids went in a store with their mother
I saw her when she came out she was gettin’ some Pampers
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
In this f*cked-up situation and these f*cked-up police
It’s about comin’ up and stayin’ on top
And screamin’ 1-8-7 on a mother f*ckin’ cop
It’s not in the paper, it’s on the wall
National Guard
Smoke from all around

(SAMPLE: “Units, units be advised of an attempted 211 to arrest now at 938 Temple, 9-3-8 Temple,
thirty subjects with bats trying to get inside the CP’s house…he thinks out there trying to kill him”)

‘Cause as long as I’m alive, I’ma live illegal

Let it burn
Wanna let it burn, wanna let it burn
Wanna wanna let it burn
(I feel insanity)
Riots on the streets of Miami
Whoa, riots on the streets of Chicago
On the streets of Long Beach
In San Francisco
Riots on the streets of Kansas City
Tuskaloosa, Alabama
Cleveland, Ohio
Fountain Valley, Paramount, Victorville
Eugene, Oregon
Eureka, California
Hesperia
Santa Barbara
Winnemucca, Nevada
Phoenix, Arizona
San Diego
Lakeland, Florida
f*ckin’ 29 Palms

(SAMPLE: “Any unit to assist Frank-74, Willow at Caspian… structure fire and numerous subjects looting)
(10-15 to get rid of this looter”)

» Video: Rodney King looks back without anger
» Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin family urge peace on 20th anniversary of L.A. race riots

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