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Venezuelan Hip-Hop Takes On Police Corruption

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A music video made in Venezuela this year calls attention to a special kind of crime: corruption by Venezuelan police.

Two rappers who go by the names Apache and Canserbero show themselves driving a beat-up Lincoln, maybe from the 1970s. They're pulled over at a checkpoint by cops who want cash.

The video, "Stop," has been played 1.6 million times on YouTube. It strikes a chord in a country suffering from severe crime and corruption. Morning Edition heard about the video as it was released this spring, and sat down with both men in the eighth-floor office where they work.

They're low budget. They share space with an industrial design company that makes giant posters and signs. It was in this cluttered space that they planned a video on a subject Canserbero says is obvious to Venezuelans: "You just have to live in the country, and it's gonna be enough [to understand the video]."

Of course, it's not unusual for rap lyrics to question authority, but "Stop" is notable for its light touch. The video shows the rappers trying to turn the car around while police shine flashlights in the window. Something about the spinning car, and the increasingly annoyed officers, almost makes you laugh out loud.

In real life, both men say they've been stopped and shaken down by police, especially Apache, who's darker-skinned and tattooed. The week before he sat down and spoke to us, he said, it happened four times — in one day.

The rappers, ages 25 and 30, say police search for contraband such as drugs, and then demand money to overlook it. Apache says he was once asked for the equivalent of $50 and his iPod, but plea-bargained to keep the iPod. The men say they have also given officers their own music. Some even liked it.

"Stop" portrays the police as crooks, but also as human. Graffiti artists disrupt the police shakedown by spray-painting the cops' van and then torching it. One of the frustrated officers shrugs — and then lightens a lousy day with a breakdance.

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