Delray Richardson came home recently, promoting a new hip-hop project that connects a notorious moment in Annapolis history with national issues of race and justice.
On its cover, “Master Mason In Hip Hop Grammar” pays tribute to Richardson's godfather, William “BoBo” Butler.
Butler was the city employee and master mason who cemented the second plaque dedicated to Kunta Kinte at City Dock — after the first one was stolen two days after it was dedicated in 1981.
In its place was a card with these words: “You have been patronized by the KKK.”
The cover photo of Richardson’s album captures that moment, showing Butler — cigar clenched in his teeth and a sledgehammer and chisel in his hand.
But Richardson also has — sometimes in explicit language — has a political message.
Tucked between 12 songs with titles such as “Master Mason” and “Illegitimate President” are a dozen, brief “interludes.” Richardson discusses U.S. Supreme Court decisions that dealt with how police and the courts deal with African-Americans.
“It’s ‘edu-tainment.’ It’s not just entertainment,” Richardson said. “It’s going against the grain.”
There’s Utah vs. Strieff, a 2016 decision on the use of evidence discovered by police during a traffic stop determined to be an illegal search — when the driver or passenger turns out to be wanted on an outstanding warrant.
Kimbrough vs. United States is in there too, and Richardson explains how it confirms federal judges’ discretion to impose sentences outside federal sentencing guidelines in cases involving crack cocaine. Until the 2007 decision, sentences for those convicted of crimes tied to crack cocaine — often African-Americans — were often 100 times higher than for possession of powder cocaine.
“Yo, what I would have told them was, um, you know, I would have quoted Supreme Court case United States vs. Johnson,” Richardson explains in “Case 1 Interlude.” “I don’t know if you know but a smell is not sufficient enough, ah, to give a police probable cause to search your vehicle ...”
Richardson, 44, attended Annapolis High School while growing up in Robinwood, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. He headed west to pursue a career as a musician, singer and songwriter. In that time, Richardson co-wrote songs with legendary names in hip-hop: Tupac, Melle Mel, Eminem, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and The Game.
Now living in Long Beach, California, he released his first solo effort, “From Robinwood to Hollywood,” on his own recording label, Delfunkboy Music, in 2005. More recordings have followed, with “Master Mason” released in October.
He returned to Annapolis last week to attend a debut party and check in with family.
His new album isn’t for everyone and comes with a “parental advisory explicit content” label.
Songs “Illegitimate President” and “Brainwash Mind Control” make it clear he doesn’t like the political status quo.
“Our government’s been bought and sold ...”
The plaque Butler put in place is still there, marking the arrival of Kinte’s arrival in Annapolis aboard a slave ship. He was sold into slavery on Sept. 28, 1767.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley made the moment famous in “Roots,” the 1976 book on his search for family history later made into a television mini-series. A statue of Haley reading to three children has been added to the spot, along with several more plaques telling the story.
Before he flew back to the West Coast, Richardson attended the ball celebrating the inauguration of Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley. As some guests swirled around in black tie or cocktail attire, a casually dressed Richardson sauntered through the packed crowd greeting friends and former neighbors.