Public Offenders
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Public Offenders

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2003 | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2003
Band Hip Hop R&B



The best kept secret in music


"Davey D's Hip Hop Corner"

When many of us who don't live in the South, think of rap music coming from that area we sadly associate the music as being less then conscious or socially uplifting. And while it is true there are some artists who may just spit lyrics around the topics of bling, fancy rims and their pimping abilities, such topics were not created by Southern rappers nor are those topics their exclusive domain.

To the degree that one might label such topics as ignorance, bear in mind ignorance is everywhere. Its in New York-the birthplace of Hip Hop. It's in Cali-home to numerous socially conscious movements and organizations. Its found in mainstream rap and its found in the underground. Let's not get it twisted.

With that being said, it's important that we take time out and focus on those who are challenging our perceptions and more importantly doing the work. Deep in the heart of Texas are 5 individuals Black Prophet, Yoli, Lyricist, Phenom and Gator who is no longer in the group, who collectively are known as Public Offenders. They've broken the stereotype of southern rap and then some by not only coming to the table with something meaningful to say, but by also walking the walk as activists.

Their latest album 'Drop Jewels' has the foursome hitting us all upside the dome as the tackle the issue of domestic violence from every angle imagineable. They didn't rush off to the studio and record a couple of songs when word of the violent incident centering around singers Chris Brown and Rihanna first surfaced. The group has been rapping about domestic violence and doing community work around the issue for almost 10 years.

Its not the only issue they have rapped about over the years, but last year they decided to do an entire album addressing this topic as a way to reach their peers and leave little to no stones unturned. The group was impacted by 2 heavily publicized domestic violence incidents including the killing of of a high school classmate named Trella Mosley by an estranged boyfriend. Group member Yoli found herself in an abusive situation before she joined the group and as she explained in our interview her fellow band members played a pivitol role in helping who pulled her through. The group clearly understands that domestic violence is not a trendy news story that gets resolved when some famous superstar sits on Oprah's couch and talks about it.

Public Offenders wanted to take awareness of this issue to the next level. Hence, they teamed up with domestic violence organization 'A Call to Men' to do this album and in many ways set a good example for others to follow as to how artists can work with community organizations. We talked about the groups activism during our interview. They explained that they will be participating in a national conference on domestic violence later this month (May 2009) in NY and that they had already done so the year before in New Orleans. The album Drop Jewels provides information on domestic violence orgs including Call to me who are listed as the presenters.

In our interview we spoke with the group members about a number of things.

We started off talking about the dynamics of being in a group and how each member creates space for themselves while simultaneously creating synergy and cohesiveness. Far too often, we have groups that look like several individuals on stage rapping but there's very little word play and exchange. PO tries to go beyond that.

We got a run down of Austin's Hip Hop scene as group members explained that while they are just a two hour drive from Houston, they have a different sound and overall swagger. They were influenced heavily by H-Town's independent scene which is why the group is indy now.

We spoke with Yoli about the importance of the female voice and if she thought there was a fear of female emcees. We talked about how the industry has not aggressively gotten behind intelligent women and how PO was committed to breaking that mold.

We dug a bit deeper with Yoli and spoke to her about the challenge she had a victim of domestic violence and what lessons she would pass down to young women to help them avoid similar pitfalls. She talked about looking for an array of signs indicating that one may be a cry for help. They included the way one dresses, how they are being isolated from friends and being withdrawn. She also talked about how we as a community should be careful not to start blaming the victim which has been a disturbing trend with the Chris Brown/Rihanna situation.

We spoke with former Austin Slam champ Black prophet about the intersection between emceeing and spoken word. We talked at length about Austin's rich spoken word scene and the role that artists like Zel Miller, Blacklisted and former PO member gator (Black Prophet's brother) played in getting the group to elevate their lyrical craft. We also talked about the importance of writing vs. freestyling.
****see full story with audio file here
http://hiphopandpoliti - Davey D

"SXSW 09 Picks"

SXSW 09 Picks 2 Click

A septet of local acts with (inter)national appeal


Photo by Sandy Carson
Public Offenders

ATX hip-hop's call to action on the positive tip

The phrase "It's bigger than hip-hop" gets more use in the rap game these days than it probably should, but it's a sentiment that rings true with Public Offenders. The Austin quartet – Quincy Ockletree, Damien Williams, Yolanda Zapata, and Drailand Bell – makes music as a vehicle for something much more important: putting an end to domestic violence.

"We've always dealt with community issues and things that involve real life," says Zapata, a victim of abuse. "We lost a good friend through domestic abuse, and she's been a big inspiration for us. We're trying to give the message to ladies that you can prevail and make it through."

The foursome's road to the present has been a short and hectic one. After co-founding East Austin community activist organization the Cipher with Shannon Sandrea in 2007, the Offenders were tapped to perform at the STAR Conference, an annual local gathering focused on combating family violence. In attendance were Ted Bunch and Tony Porter, the co-founders of the New York-based A Call to Men, who asked the group to perform at its national conference in New Orleans.

"It's definitely been a stepping stone," says the group's leader, Ockletree. "We're already in contact with other organizations on the positive tip, but that's the aim we've taken on. We want to be speaking out on these issues, like poverty and oppression, that affect our people."

In that vein, they put together January's Drop Jewels, an 11-song call to action released through the A Call to Men organization. The album, which takes more from the positive aspects of Tupac Shakur's work than the Outlawz's entire post-'Pac catalog, is one of the most focused local hip-hop releases in recent memory.

"What separates us from others is the message that we bring," suggests Ockletree. "Everyone who's touching on the same thing is only following the industry. We're doing shows that have never had hip-hop at their events. That's what's keeping us alive in Austin. We feel it's our duty to keep pushing for people who are looking for this voice."

The members have been so committed that Ockletree's brother Christopher left the group after Drop Jewels came out to focus on running the Cipher organization. Don't expect the other four to follow suit.

"We're gonna keep the movement going until the day we drop in the casket," announces Williams. "We're already planning the next album, which will be called Permanent Oppression. As long as domestic violence is around in this world, PO will be around."

SXSW SHOWCASE: Thursday, March 19, 10pm @ Karma Lounge

- Austin Chronicle

"Phases and Stages 1/23/09"

Public Offenders 1/23/09

Drop Jewels (A Call to Men)
The Public Offenders' nods to Tupac Shakur extend far beyond "A Girl Named Brenda" on the Austin quintet's socially geared Drop Jewels. The late figurehead's prophetic message is tattooed across the Offenders' debut LP like the ink that covered his body. Drop Jewels is "A Call 2 Men," most sincerely those guilty of committing domestic violence. Over a slew of beat variations, some bringing to mind latter-day Talib Kweli/Hi-Tek collaborations ("Public Offenders") but most souling out on slow piano rolls and mellow bass walks ("When Is Daddy Coming Home"), the Offenders prove themselves middle-of-the-road lyricists with a knack for the hook. That's aided in part by heartfelt contributions from wailers RB, TDG, and Tje Austin on five tracks and because the Public Offenders understand the ingredients of song. Such perspective makes for a well-realized effort that should be praised for its focus and admired for its intentions.

- Austin Chronicle

"Public Offenders"

The history and message behind Public Offenders - Castleview Productions

"Texas Top 10"

Austin Chronicle
Music Critic Robert Gabriel- Hip Hop Top 10 Albums

9) Public Offenders & Da 2-3 Mic Breakaz, All Black (New Generation of Kings)

Best Local Show:
Music Critic Robert Gabriel:
Public Offenders, Momo's

- Austin Chronicle

"Life Is A Rhythm"

Austin Chronicle
Life Is a Rhythm
A moment of truth in the 2-3
Life Is a Rhythm
A moment of truth in the 2-3
By Robert Gabriel

Pulling up to the Northeast Austin intersection of Rogge and Manor Road, an SUV settles at the stoplight, three members of the Public Offenders rap group sitting in back. A hurried yellow school bus screeches to a halt next to them and empties out a couple dozen Pearce Middle School students onto the sidewalk. As one of the boisterous students spots Gator, Public Offenders' most recognizable member thanks in part to his Black Panther-esque afro, a full-fledged frenzy ensues as 15 or so of the students rush to the vehicle to slap hands and exchange enthusiastic words with their latest neighborhood heroes. Holding up traffic for an entire light cycle, the fanatic scene underscores a reality where proximity and kinship often serve as the most electric of social commodities.

How is it that a local rap group could be so popular within its specific neck of the woods – enough to sell 1,200 copies of their most recent album by hand and foot in the span of four months – yet hardly register outside the 78723 ZIP code? It certainly helps that Gator, otherwise known as Chris Ockletree, served as senior class president at Reagan High School a couple of years back and now spends much of his time pounding the pavement for activist causes. Still, a proper answer transcends the Public Offenders' story alone, treading deep into the history of a neighborhood that's grown accustomed to a relationship between isolation and self-sufficiency.

The 2-3, as it's known by its youngest inhabitants, is bordered by I-35 to the west, Ed Bluestein Drive on the east, Highway 290 to the north, and the intersection of Airport and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards to the south. During the course of the 1970s, the central 2-3 neighborhood of University Hills absorbed a significant influx of African-American home buyers, who were for the most part relocating from nearby neighborhoods including Clarksville, downtown East Austin, and St. John's. The children raised by these proud, middle-class families discovered common footing at Andrews, Harris, Blanton, Winn, and Pecan Springs elementary schools, Pearce and Kealing middle schools, and Reagan and LBJ high schools.

"Back when I first started rapping," explains former LBJ High student turned Austin wordsmith Mirage, "there were only maybe five or six kids in the entire school who could really do it. We used to skip our lunch periods and go and battle in the courtyard at Kealing. It seems that every generation since then has carried on that tradition. Nowadays, I substitute teach, and I often get kids in class beating on tables reciting rhymes. I want to stop them in order to get them back on their work, but sometimes I just sit back and listen because, more often than not, they're undeniably amazing with it."

As hip-hop culture began revealing itself outside the confines of lunchrooms and schoolyards, Dottie Jordan and Bartholomew parks emerged as prime breeding grounds for enthusiastic MCs and dancers. The emergence of Jam City on access TV in 1983 provided the initial vehicle for showcasing local youth caught up in an emerging hip-hop whirlwind. Once KAZI moved its public radio station to the corner of Loyola Lane and Manor Road in '84, the University Hills community enjoyed its own intimate outlet for rap music all too often ignored by commercial stations around town. Well-known for its open-door policy, KAZI became a much-needed refuge for kids who often stopped by on their way home from school in order to listen to their favorite jams in the air-conditioned lobby of the station. As Austin groups, including Project Crew and Lady IC & MC KB, scored homegrown hits, the 2-3 scene coalesced into a tight-knit family of neighbors who weren't all that bothered that people from other areas of the city hardly ever came around to experience their mastery of hip-hop autonomy.

"Back in the day," relates former Reagan High student Tee Double, "there was a real nurturing effect where cats that were doing it big would take a youngster under their wing. DJ Cassanova used to pick me up, bring me over to his crib, lock me in his studio, and tell me that when he got back I better have made five beats. I didn't even know how to use the equipment, so it forced me to figure it out."

In July of '88, the mighty Run's House tour, comprised of Run DMC, Public Enemy, EPMD, JJ Fad, and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, made a most-dynamic appearance at the Texas Exposition and Heritage Center. As an added bonus, KAZI, which regularly hosted barbecue jams in its parking lot, joined with local activists to organize a voter registration drive that was capped off with a free daytime performance by Run DMC.

"When I saw Run DMC do 'Run's House' on the corner of Loyola and Manor, it changed my entire life," claims longtime 2-3 resident Mr. Supreme. "Then two w - Austin Chronicle

"ATX Underground"

ATX Underground - The New Generation of Kings (Public Offenders 2-3 Mic Breakaz)
By Deborah Sengupta | Thursday, June 22, 2006, 02:05 PM

The first time I saw NGoK (New Generation of Kings (which consists of two hip hop groups from the same area- Public Offenders and 2-3 Mic Breakaz)at the ACLU-sponsored Racial Profiling Defense show at the Victory Grill. Standing 10 deep, they proceeded to throw down with a furious intensity. They blended layered harmonies into catchy hooks, and present in their rhymes were intelligent testaments about life in the hood, rich with youthful idealism, determination to overcome. I was very impressed.

A few weeks later I was at the KLRU-sponsored Chuck D lecture at the Paramount. In a Q&A session that primarily consisted of earnest gray-haired liberals debating the impact of modern hip-hop marketing on kids today, these two black youths in throwbacks and ball caps made their way to the podium.

"Yeah, we have a problem in this city with the police. They just took down another one of our own. We want to do something about it. What's your advice?"

All of a sudden the conversation took a dramatic shift.

Those kids were from Public Offenders.

But it was the afternoon family showcase on the back porch of eastside eatery, Gene's New Orleans Style Poboys & Deli, on Juneteenth weekend that cemented my opinion that if there's a hip-hop supergroup waiting to blaze out of the ATX onto a very, very big stage, it's these guys. First, there many of them and they're all young and hungry, so the sum of their energies has a palpable impact. It's on some new school, dirty South, Wu-Tang family vibe. You get caught up in it. Second, they sing. I'm all about the trend of lush melody re-entering the hip-hop equation, particularly when the melody is steeped in Southern soul. Hum-ability, after all, is what makes a hook stick. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they're smart. While they make music that's fun, it also has an agenda, elevating their people. While I freely admit a soft spot in my heart for booty-club jams and fluffy pop (your girl has been driving around town trying to find Chris Brown's "Gimme That" on vinyl) it's utterly refreshing to see a group of rappers intelligently crafting message music with broad youth appeal.

I've suspected for a minute that the new Iraq war generation, the kids coming out of high schools and watching their friends go to war, would develop a social consciousness that far exceeds that of myself and my peers. Watching them reinforces that belief.

- Austin Almost Urban

"The Cipher-Austin's Hip Hop Project"

Due to the photography in the article, please copy and paste the link below. - Goodlife Magazine July 2008


"Drop Jewels","Day Of Truth" and "All Black"(with 2-3 Mic Breakaz) LPs plus many promos, compilations, ad work and singles.In 2009 Public Offenders.completed an album for the national non-profit A CALL TO MEN. P.O. has recorded material for a nationally distributed DVD for the youth program X/Y Zone. We also have recorded a number of Public Service Announcements for various causes. Yoli was listed as 1 of 365 international women changing hip hop along side Lauryn Hill and Angie Martinez.  Public Offenders also made a recent appearance in the C3Presents/Roadwings Entertainment: ROAD TO ACL. Look out for "The Black Beatles" Dropping 2k17 !!!  Follow the hashtag #BlackBeatlesComingSoon for up to date info! #POLYFE PO!!!!



PUBLIC OFFENDERS stands for Poverty United Building Love in Inner Cities Our Future For Every Nation Does Effect Reality Situations- we strive to educate and unite people with our music and words. We don't intend to "offend" the public- only those that do not accept the truth.

Tupac said" I might not change the world, but I guarantee to spark the brain that will change the world"... with that quote our work began. Drailand, Yolanda and Quincy met on the northeast side of Austin,TX, attending Reagan high school, with no lunch money beats became eats, and the change in our pockets mattered less than the change that needed to happen in our communities. As teens a "Day of Truth"  was born, moving over 28,000 units by hand quickly caught the attention of local media outlets such as the Austin Chronicle(and put PO on the map as the new "Teacha(s)" of Hip Hop since KRS-One. As our stories grew so did the stories of others, bringing to light new issues for the offenders to speak to the masses. Giving those with no voice a choice, Police terrorism, domestic violence, Poverty and All forms of Oppression would not get off as easy in PO's flows as they did by societies standards.Public Offenders would then go on to release "All Black" and the highly anticipated worldwide release of "Drop Jewels". PO was able to spread their curriculum to Major associations like "A CALL TO MEN", and work with Middle/High school teachers as well as College Professors across the United States to use the universal tool of music to teach and create peace within the next generation of man, all the while keeping ya head nodding. Being able to grow with Hip-Hop  taught PO that Quality verses Quantity, was most important to  you the PeOple and for Music as a culture, Public Offenders are set to release the Best Album The Austin Hip-Hop Scene has Ever Heard, as well as casting no doubt that the New York influence has reached  further than the 5 boroughs. 2017 are you ready for "The Black Beatles"? #POLYFE 

Band Members