Keith Jones interviewed Leroy Moore Jr. for the Disability Visibility Project™ at StoryCorps San Francisco on July 20, 2016. In this clip, Leroy and Keith talk about their experiences being Black hip hop artists living with Cerebral Palsy. Keith and Leroy share about how they got involved in the New York hip hop scene in the late 1970s and how their love of hip hop plus the discrimination they face moved them to create Krip Hop Nation. Leroy and Keith also describe how they grew up and their experiences of police profiling.
♪ now, you listen ♪
♪ and you listen good ♪
♪ now, you listen ♪
♪ and you listen good ♪
LEROY MOORE: I grew up when Hip-hop was on the corners in New York. So I used to go to cyphers. You shoulda saw me going down to the Bronx with my walker. So a cypher’s like a big circle, and there’s a DJ on the side [record scratch]. He’s scratching stuff. But back then, they took the electricity from the poles. I could come out with my walker, click, click, click! And seeing these big brothers in a circle, muscles and stuff, you know? And I was like, oh no. I’m not getting in there, and with my skinny legs and my walker! So I just stood out and seeing people go and say, “Hey, hey, Leroy! You gonna be our eye for the po po this time?” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Back then, it was so diverse. You had women, you had people on crutches in the cypher. And back then, it was more a street culture.
KEITH JONES: In the ’80s and the ’90s, we put on step shows and parties, but in college, one of the teachers was like, “I wanna be your manager.” So he took our demo tape into New York, and they were like, “This is amazing!” Yes, one of the guys as a disability [screeching brakes]. It was like once they found out that I had the cerebral palsy, it was like, “Oh, this one do a good little rap!” I made beats with my feet! I rocked, and then the beat dropped.
♪ when lyrics need showcasin no chasin ♪
♪ hoping to catch up even with the slow pacin ♪
♪ Leon Soze Fezo’s alter ego ♪
♪ wherever he go we go ♪
KEITH: I mean, yes I’ve been Black and crippled a long time, but I wasn’t like deep in the whole disability rights movement because there was no face that looked like anything remotely I could attach a connection to. There was no Black anything. There was no Black leadership. All this history that we have in the disability rights movement is white disability rights movement history. When you talk about police profiling, that should be a significant issue within the disability rights community. Nobody’s talking about it.
LEROY: So you were profiled in Boston by the police.
KEITH: A friend of mine–one of my old college roommates–had drove. He was an exchange student from Sweden. He was driving around the country, and he ended up in Boston, and he called me. He was like, “Yo, Keith, let’s meet. Let’s have a couple of drinks.” And so we went to the bar around the corner from my house. I said, “Well, where did you park?” He said he parked in the Boston Commons. I said, “Ooh, that’s all bad.” I said, “Maybe you need to go get the car.” So he walks off, and he comes back maybe 15 minutes later beet red, flushes, “Oh my god! Keith, Keith!” I said, “What happened?” Somebody had thrown a brick through the backseat back window and stole his luggage. So the back window’s broken. So it’s me, him, and our other friend. Both of them, like they looked outta “Thor,” you know what I mean? They have the blond hair, the blue eyes, the whole Nordic mythology thing. And he says, “Keith, here. I’m gonna put my wallet in the ashtray. Can you come up here, sit in the car while we go look for the luggage?” That’s my man, actually dawg. So I’m sitting in the car, and I see two white couples walking. And you can hear them, and then they’d go silent because they made the eye contact with me. And then they see the back window broken out, and they hurry they asses past the car! And I just got this feeling. I was like, it’s about to go down. 30 seconds later, you hear [siren]. They pulled up in a paddy wagon, Leroy! They tried to shoot me in Boston Commons sitting in the car for my friend. They said, “Put your hands up.” Now, as a person with cerebral palsy, my hands are not going up above my head. So when you say to me, “Put your hands up,” aw. I remember I heard it. I mean he cocked his gun. And I tell him. I’m like, “This is my friend’s car. They broke the back window. Here’s his wallet. He’s walking around Boston Commons because somebody stole his luggage. I’m not on drugs. I have cerebral palsy.” “Somebody said you’re stealing a car.” And at this time, Peter’s coming out of the Commons. He sees all this commotion ’cause at this time, the paddy wagon showed up. He called for backup, so it’s like four cars around me now. Peter comes out. I’ll never forget this. He walks out. He goes, “Oh my god!” And he’s thinking something happened to me! ‘Cause he left me in the car with the broken window. He’s like, “Oh my god! Oh my god, Keith! Are you OK?” Everybody puts their gun away and says, “Oh my god. We thought he was having a medical emergency.” Like legitimately. If I had twitched one way or the other, it was a rat. And they woulda said, “He was trying, he was stealing a car.”
LEROY: Oh my god, yeah.
KEITH: “And he was resisting arrest. We told him to put his hands up.”
LEROY: I think Hip-hop, especially now, it tells a story. Just like poetry, it tells a story of like, oh this is the avenue where I can come tell my story, my Black, disabled story through Hip-hop.
♪ Yeah I’m a Black man ♪
♪ Known about racially profiled ♪
♪ Two Black hotel workers ♪
♪ Same race but in my face…. ♪
Music Credits: (“Alter Ego” by Fezo aka Keith Jones and “Disabled Profiled” by Leroy Moore.) All songs included with permission from the artists. Sound effects under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License
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Disability Visibility Project™. (2017, February 24). DVP Interview: Keith Jones and Leroy Moore Jr. Retrieved from: https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2017/02/24/leroy-moore-jr-and-keith-jones/
A photo featuring Leroy Moore Jr. and Keith Jones was taken on July 20, 2016: close up portrait of two men, standing together and slightly angled to the right, both facing the camera. The man on the left, Leroy, has close cropped hair, and a trim mustache, goatee combination that is slightly graying. Leroy identifies as Black and is wearing a dark brown button down with a black fleece vest over the top. Leroy smiles at the camera with his mouth slightly open. The man on the right, Keith, has his head and face cleanly shaven. Keith identifies as Black and is wearing oblong wire framed glasses and a black t-shirt. Keith stands facing the camera smiling.
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project™ by Yosmay del Mazo and Alice Wong with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com