NJ cop stops hip-hop producer Just Blaze, asks whether his car is “legit”
When a police officer in North Jersey pulled over hip-hop producer Just Blaze Thursday — the day after the aftermath of a police-involved fatal shooting of a Minnesota man was livestreamed — he reached for his cell phone and began recording.
"I think ultimately this will be fine, but given the environment we're living in now, I obviously am not taking any chances, this could happen to anybody anywhere as we all know," the Paterson native whose real name is Justin Smith says in the video.
Smith, who has produced songs for Jay Z and Beyonce, first tweeted at 4:18 p.m. Thursday that he was being pulled over. He then used Periscope to stream part of the encounter with an unidentified sheriff's officer.
The officer then had Smith drive two blocks and pull over. Smith said the officer told him he was missing a front license place — though Smith notes the police car pulled behind him at the car wash and likely observed that later. The officer ran Smith's license and registration and let's him go with a warning about the missing front license plate.
"Here you go partner," the officer can be heard saying as he hands Smith his paperwork. "You're all good, alright. Checked it out. Just do me a favor get that front plate, alright? Have a good day."
"Crisis avoided, no issues," Smith says before shutting off the video. "However I do suggest any time you get pulled over keep your wallet right next to you, don't keep it in your pocket, keep it next to you."
Following the encounter, Smith recorded a longer video on Periscope explaining what happened and sharing his feelings on the encounter and questioning if he would have been stopped and asked if his car was "legit" if he was white.
Smith explains in the second video that he keeps his wallet in the seat next to him because of a old Richard Pryor bit.
"I always just loved that album because it was funny but in today's climate those words ring so true," Smith said in his second livestream, urging others to heed Pryor's advice.
But he adds that he was concerned about getting his other documents out of his glove box. "I don't want to be an accident."
Smith said he was perplexed by the encounter with the officer, who didn't ask for his license or registration — which show he recently purchased the car — before implying that the vehicle was stolen.
He described the neighborhood he was in as "an urban area, but it's not really wild." He said he was in "the hood" the previous night and didn't encounter any issues, just a few people remarking on his Lamborghini.
He tweeted that he later received an apology, but only after someone who knew both he and the officer contacted the department.
Smith says he isn't political and usually doesn't make public statements, but he felt the need to elaborate on his earlier livestream.
"I'm not someone who has a problem with all cops. I have very good friends who are like family members who are cops and I trust them with my life," he said.
Smith says he expected to get a ticket for failing to affix the front license plate to the luxury car, he didn't think the officer would suggest he stole the car. He said the officer also told him his registration wasn't valid, even though he had just purchased the car and registered it. The officer later told him he was mistaken.
"Given the climate of what is happening today and the way race is permeating society and idiots rearing their heads, and we just lost two people of color to senseless murders and killings," Smith says. "I'm not saying don't approach me if you think something might be up, but approach me with a little bit of respect."
He adds that the officer was also a minority.
"You know what's going on with our people right now, why wouldn't you address me more as an equal in terms of you being a human being and me being a human being. Instead I'm a suspect off the bat," Smith says.
The traffic stop comes the same week that Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile were killed in police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively. Thursday night in Dallas, five police officers were killed and six wounded during a peaceful protest over the deaths of Sterling and Castile.