May 9, 2014 was no different than any other day that I get prepared to go back home to Detroit to play a show…. While I normally start to feel pumped up for a show soon after soundcheck …when I know i’m going home to play?!?! I’m hyped up ALL DAY. It’s the “big game” for me… HOME. A melting pot of family, folks who I used to play baseball with, grew up with, those who have been in my corner from day one ……….and a few folks who may have no idea who the hell I am, but they scream loud as shit just because I’m rocking an olde English “D” on my hat. But since I moved to Maryland in 2006, every single time I go back home to play, it’s an outpouring of LOVE. And everyone who knows me is well aware of why I get so amped up when Detroit is on the schedule.
We were coming off of a hyped up crowd in Cleveland the night before and a 10-hour drive from Boston just two nights prior, so the actual 2 1/2 hour drive to Detroit was kind of an afterthought. Turnpike, to 280, 75N… We’re there. Simple, right? ….Well, the Turnpike was simple, as was I-280… We merged onto 75 North and coasted into Michigan. As many times as I have driven into MI via I-75, I can usually calculate pretty accurately how much time I have left to drive and at this point, I was getting even more hyped up because we were making great time. Word up… Get to the hotel, check in real quick, iron my clothes, hit the shower and be ready to roll out to soundcheck…………………
Until I looked in my rear view mirror
Normally, I’m pretty good at spotting the cops while on the freeway…. But this state trooper literally came from nowhere. I was in the far left lane and he was following behind me. I glanced down at my speedometer for a quick second and saw that I wasn’t speeding, thankfully… So I did what 98% of folks do when a cop gets behind them on the freeway…….. I changed lanes to the right so that he can pass by me and leave me the hell alone – and he did that. The state trooper rolled by me at a fairly high rate of speed, but kept it moving, no problem………… But I’m no idiot. I kept an eye on his patrol car just as a precaution. Plus, I didn’t know why he sped past me like he did – something didn’t feel right. I even told everyone in the van that I was gonna have to watch dude simply because I know that cops need zero excuse – they’ll pull you over and formulate a reason while they walk up to your car. As I continued driving, in the distance I could see the state trooper pull off of the right side of the freeway and set his car up as if to catch people speeding. Once again, no problem…. I wasn’t breaking the speed limit or any other law for that matter. But what folks fail to understand is that sometimes all you have to do is pass a cop in your car and it’s over for you ……and your record.
So, you know when you pass through a neighborhood you haven’t been in before and the older brothers sitting on the porch follow your car down the street with their eyes trying to figure out who you are and why you’re there? Well, when we passed the state trooper, I could see that his eyes were LOCKED in on our van exactly like that…. and then he merged back into traffic. As soon as I saw this, I announced to the van…..
“Maaaan, he’s gonna pull us over.”
Here’s the scene…. I was driving, Phonte was in the front passenger seat, Carmen Rodgers and bass player, Darion Alexander were sitting in the back. Four Black folks in a van with out of state plates (the plates on the rental van were Illinois)………. traveling. That’s it, that’s all. But sometimes, that’s all you need. Because when I looked up in my rear view mirror again, who do you think was there?…… AGAIN. So, again….. I changed lanes to the right and happened to pull behind a big rig. The trooper remained in my blind spot for about a half mile or so, in which I imagined he was running the plates. Then he also changed lanes to the right to follow me. By this time I was doing about 65 in a 70 and I told the crew, “If I change lanes again and he follows me, he’s gonna pull us over.”
I changed lanes to the right again…. He followed, again……
Lights went on.
I pulled off the road immediately.
The trooper walked up to Phonte’s window and while asking for license and registration proceeded to tell me that the reason he pulled me over was because I was “following too closely behind that truck.” Remember the big rig I pulled behind the second time he was in my rear view mirror? ….Yeah. THAT one. I was quickly reassured how bullshit this claim was when he said…
“Get out of the car and sit in the patrol car, please”
Hold up, go sit in the cop car for following too closely behind a damn truck? So, I got out, went up to the rear passenger side of the patrol car and went to open the door and the officer said, “No! The FRONT seat!” Go sit in the front seat, huh? I was thinking to myself, ‘NOTHING good can come out of this scenario.’ The trooper also got in the car and while running my ID and Phonte’s ID proceeded to ask me question after question…..after question…. after fucking question. Some questions he repeated to see if I would give him a different answer. Man, I had nothing to hide… We were just trying to get to our hotel and if the interrogation lasted any longer………… soundcheck… hell….. the SHOW.
Is this your van? No, it’s a rental.
Where are you going? To our hotel, we’re part of a band.
You have a show? Yes.
Where at? The Magic Stick.
Is that in Detroit? Yes.
What’s the name of your band? The Foreign Exchange.
You ever been to Michigan before? Yes, I’m from here.
First time playing here? No. (why would it be my first time playing in my HOME STATE?)
Where are you playing? (for the second time) The Magic Stick
In Detroit? (again) Yes.
**Looks at my license** How long have you lived in Maryland? Since 2006.
Is everybody in the van from North Carolina? No.
What does everybody do in the band? There’s two vocalists and a bassist in the van with me.
How long have you been in Maryland? (for the second time) Since 2006.
At this point I was thinking… He is just REALLY fucking terrible at asking questions. Notice how none of these questions have anything to do with what he claimed he pulled me over for.
Then the tone shifted as he began asking what he really wanted to ask me from the jump…..
You have any weapons in the van? No.
Guns? Knives? No.
Any contraband? No.
Do you have any crack in the van? *record scratch* No.
Did he just ask me if I had CRACK in the van??!?!?!
Do you have any cocaine in the van? No.
What all do you have in the van? Luggage, a keyboard, a bass, and food.
Do you have an arrest record? No.
You ever gotten a ticket before? Yes, for speeding in January of last year.
Real quick… And may be I’m wrong simply because I’ve never transported drugs before, but uhhh… What trafficker transports drugs while driving four deep in a rental van with out-of-state plates on it?! Then again, four Black folks in a van with out-of-state plates on it traveling through Monroe, MI is usually four too many, so… But anyway, he then says….
“Ok, well I’m gonna let you go… Just wait here.”
I didn’t believe dude. He got out of the car, walked over to our passenger side and instructed Phonte to get out of the van. He then cross-referenced all of my answers by asking him similar questions while standing on the side of the freeway. Even after ALL of our answers matched up he asked Phonte if he could search the van. He then went to go get Darion and Carmen’s IDs. When I saw that shit, that’s when I thought to myself…. We may now miss this show because of this dude. He’s trying to find ANYTHING HE CAN right now. All I pictured was us sitting on the side of I-75N for hours with all of our shit out on the road being run through. He came back in to the patrol car, handed me everybody’s IDs and just like that….. he let us go, finally. The entire ordeal lasted about 30-45 minutes. To anyone who has ever had a cop harass you before, there’s always a few minutes of silence in the aftermath where you’re just kinda sitting there like, “What the fuck just happened?! …And WHY?” Never in the history of anything has being questioned by the police for absolutely nothing made anyone’s day better. Needless to say, I was PISSED and could not get into the right frame of mind to perform until we were actually announced on stage… It helped that the show was sold out and crazy as hell, particularly since my family and friends were all in attendance, but MAN. This has become our reality though – traveling between cities in a van, usually with an out-of-state license plate… I guess this qualifies us as suspects. We were followed behind and had a cop ride up on the side of us for about 2 or 3 miles when we drove to Memphis a couple weeks ago. I also thought we were gonna get pulled over during the final TEN minutes of our 12-hour drive from Denver to damn Brownwood, TX. The cop hit a U-turn and followed us loosely for about a mile before turning off. That would NOT have been a good situation at 12:30a.
So, officers…. If you happen to spot our van riding through your town four deep en route to the next city, there’s no need for alarm…
We’re just touring.