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Afroman put home footage of a police raid in music videos. Now the cops are suing him

Afroman, pictured performing in 2018, made music videos featuring home video footage of a police raid of his house last year. Now some of the officers are suing him, and he plans to countersue.
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Afroman, pictured performing in 2018, made music videos featuring home video footage of a police raid of his house last year. Now some of the officers are suing him, and he plans to countersue.

After police in Ohio raided Afroman's house last August, the rapper — known for early aughts hits including "Because I Got High" and "Crazy Rap (Colt 45 and 2 Zig-Zags)" — decided to make something out of it.

Law enforcement had searched his home on suspicion of drug trafficking and kidnapping, but found no evidence and filed no charges against him. He says they kicked down his door, broke his video surveillance system, stole money from him and frightened his family.

Afroman, whose real name is Joseph Foreman, told NPR in a phone interview that what he did next was his "smartest, most peaceful solution."

"I asked myself, as a powerless Black man in America, what can I do to the cops that kicked my door in, tried to kill me in front of my kids, stole my money and disconnected my cameras?" he says. "And the only thing I could come up with was make a funny rap song about them and make some money, use the money to pay for the damages they did and move on."

He released an album with songs about the raid and made music videos out of the surveillance footage. He created merchandise and social media posts calling out the officers who had been involved.

Now, some of them are suing him, his label, and a Texas-based music distribution company for invasion of privacy.

Four deputies, two sergeants and one detective from the Adams County Sheriff's Office are accusing the rapper of profiting from the unauthorized use of their likenesses, at their personal and professional expense.

In a complaint filed in an Ohio pleas court last week, they say it's been more difficult and dangerous to carry out their duties "because of comments made and attitudes expressed toward them by members of the public" who have seen the videos.

They say they have received death threats, and also suffered "humiliation, ridicule, mental distress, embarrassment and loss of reputation."

The plaintiffs are seeking all of Afroman's profits from the use of their personas — including proceeds of songs, videos and live events, as well as Afroman-branded merchandise such as beer, marijuana and t-shirts — as well as a court injunction to take down the music videos and social media posts.

"Unless Defendants are restrained, Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury to their reputations, their mental health, and their legally protected rights as Defendants continue to willfully and maliciously violate those rights," they wrote.

The plaintiff's lawyer and the sheriff's office have not yet responded to NPR's requests for comment.

Afroman says his immediate reaction to the lawsuit was "a drop of anger, disbelief and a little anxiety, followed by tons of laughter."

"I was thinking, these big bad cops ... are being beat up and bullied by those little corny rap songs I made about them," Afroman says. "I'm like, 'Oh my god, are you letting me know that my raps are working on you?'"

He says he was already pursuing a defamation lawsuit against the police, and that they have made that process easier because now his legal team just needs to countersue, which they plan to do soon.

"I want to sue them for stealing my money, I want to sue them for writing 'kidnapping' on a warrant and making me suffer financially in my industry because just that accusation makes people raise an eyebrow about you," he adds.

Police scoured the house with guns drawn

Officers obtained a warrant to conduct a search of Afroman's residence on August 21, 2022, according to the complaint.

A copy of the warrant, obtained by Cincinnati FOX affiliate WXIX-TV, alleged that there were drugs, drug paraphernalia, money and weapons associated with drug trafficking and kidnapping.

Afroman told NPR that he has no idea where the kidnapping accusation came from, and had nothing more in his house than the ends of a few blunts and unused pipes made for him by fans.

In his Wednesday post, he accused a "racist judge" of signing a "fictitious false warrant."

Afroman was out of town on the day of the raid. But his ex-wife and kids, then 10 and 12, live nearby and came over when they saw the police presence. She recorded parts of the raid on her phone, while other scenes were captured by security video cameras around the house.

No charges came from the search, but that wasn't the end of the story.

Afroman says he had to repair his door, an external gate and his security system wiring, which cost him nearly $20,000.

He also accuses police of stealing from him. The officers had confiscated more than $5,000 in cash during the raid, which Afroman says were earnings from performances.

It was eventually returned to him, but with $400 missing. Just last month, an investigation concluded that deputies had miscounted the original amount — a claim that Afroman continues to dispute.

"They became thieves and stole my money," he wrote on Instagram. "After they stole my money they became criminals. After they became criminals they lost their right of privacy."

"Lemon Pound Cake" came as a form of revenge

Afroman released an album called Lemon Pound Cake just a month later. Two of its songs reference the raid and include home footage in their music videos.

One of those songs is the title track, inspired by a moment during the raid in which an officer, walking through the kitchen with his gun drawn, broke his focus to look down at a cake dish on the counter.

It tells the story to the tune of The Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk."

"Mama's lemon pound cake, it tastes so nice, it made the sheriff want to put down his gun and cut him a slice," Afroman sings at one point, before comparing the officer to Family Guy's Peter Griffin.

Afroman's online merchandise store peddles sweatshirts (currently sold out) and t-shirts showing Griffin and a large lemon cake, surrounded by black-and-white images of the officer from the video, with the names Afroman and "Officer Pound Cake."

The video for another number, called "Will You Help Me Repair My Door," is a montage of clips from the raid.

It shows officers standing outside of his house and kicking down his door, as well as combing through his closet, turning over his CD collection and flipping through a wad of cash.

"Did you find what you was looking for?" he sings. "Will you help me repair my gate and door?"

Afroman also created dozens of videos and images of the officers' personas and posted them on social media sites including YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok.

The lawsuit points to several of those posts, many of which have since been deleted. Based on descriptions in the complaint, many of them promote the Lemon Pound Cake album and merchandise.

They also disparage the judge and officers involved in the search: comparing an officer to Quasimodo (the Hunchback of Notre-Dame) and the judge to the cartoon character Droopy, accusing the cops of theft and referring to them as "KKKops" from "Adams KKKounty."

He says he didn't set out to make a hateful album; he just wanted to laugh about it. That's brought him a sense of victory, he adds.

"Me laughing at them, making songs about them, is more powerful than their authority," he says. "It's more powerful than their assault rifles, it's more powerful than what they got because I got these big bad tough guys crying and whining about my songs, on my page, in my world."

Afroman is doubling down

Afroman says the response from fans and venues has been positive.

"My biggest fear was all of this being a big deal to me but not to my fans — my fans being like, 'So what, you got raided dude, shut up and sing 'Because I Got High,''" he says.

In fact, he says it's only led to more exposure and opportunities. Afroman says he's getting calls from people he hasn't heard from in years — or at least since a few months ago when the raid happened.

"These guys are once again making me a bigger star," he says of the police. "I don't want to pay these guys nothing, but worst case scenario if I had to pay them, off the publicity and fame they gave me it might be fair just to shuffle them a few coins."

He's thinking of working on another album, with a name like Lemon Pound Cake Part 2. Most albums have 7-10 songs, he says, so he would write one about each officer "and see how good I could humiliate them."

Afroman says by making merchandise and cracking jokes, he turned a bad thing into a good thing. And he hopes others can apply that lesson in their own lives.

"I just want people to do the best they can," he adds. "I want to see people look at me and say what a sport, what a good peaceful positive move to make under such bad circumstances."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.