The founder of New Haven’s Zulu Nation returned home to catch a George Clinton show—and ended up under arrest.
Switch on the mic and turn up the bass.
He said he’s now looking for a “Jewish lawyer” to help him out of a legal jam here. And he said he plans to turn the ordeal into fodder for a track on The God Factor, an album he’s recording in New York on his Hipstep Records label. (Click on the play arrow for his version of the incident.)
Izlam, who’s now 46, was a leading figure in New Haven’s early 1990s hip hop scene as the founder of a music-activism organization called Zulu Nation. At the dawn of community policing, in between getting into trouble with the law himself, he helped then-Chief Nick Pastore broker gang disputes. The nation read about the pair’s exploits in Parade Magazine.
Until recently Izlam hosted an LA-based radio show and podcast called The Hipstep Lounge for three years. Now he’s on the road working on the recording among other projects, he said. His shtick: Hipstep, which describes alternatively as funk-flavored “American jungle drum and bass music” and “the world’s progressive hip-hop electronic multimedia eco-green movement.” Or: “Hip is the vibe. Stepping forward is the movement.” (The video at left offers a sample of what it sounded and looked like in Atlanta in 2012 when Izlam held an event there.)
On Sunday Feb. 17 Izlam passed through town to visit his mom and stepped forward into a show at Toad’s Place featuring one of his musical heroes, George Clinton of Funkadelic fame. Clinton was in fine form, he reported; the band, kind of lame. (“Maybe it was the indoor sound check, they didn’t click with the sound engineers.”)
Afterwards, past midnight, Izlam went downstairs to say good-bye to a friend of a friend who was checking coats. That’s when the trouble started.
According to Izlam, a drunk young woman yelled at him to stop bothering her drunk boyfriend.
“This guy starts elbowing me, man. ‘What are you doing, man?’ I see this guy is drunk. ‘Hey, chill.’ I’m like saying good-bye to Adam [the coat-check guy]. This guy’s still elbowing me. I turn around to move him. His girlfriend’s like, ‘Get your hands off my boyfriend!’
“She is pulling that card: The drunk white girl, the drunk white guy boyfriend, the sober black man—I’m ‘accosting’ her boyfriend.
“To make a long story short ... A fight broke out. He swung at me. Next thing you know I got somebody in front of me by the stairs. I’m trying to get out of there. And get to safety” and “protect my home girl.
“Someone comes behind me and grabs me. I didn’t know it was a Toad’s bouncer until I got outside. I’m laying on top of him stretched out like Jesus Christ. ... Next thing you know they arrest me.”
The bouncer, Gregory Hannah, told the cops that he had approached Izlam to grab him and “escort him out of the club” when Izlam “turned around and began shoving” him, according to the police report of the incident. The bouncer, who’s 26, “stated as he tried to gain control, [Izlam] put his fingers into [the bouncer’s] mouth in an attempt to either choke him or put in him in a choke hold,” according to the report.
Other bouncers arrived to assist, and they brought Izlam outside, according to the report. The report stated that the initial bouncer’s mouth was cut and bleeding; the bouncer asked to have charges pressed. So police charged Izlam with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace, both misdemeanors.
Izlam posted bond. He called the arrest “Django shit.” He appeared in Superior Court Monday and is scheduled to return on March 19.
After his court appearance he told the Independent he will fight the charges—and make a hipstep track out of it.
Something George Clinton would recognize.
“It’s got to start,” he said, “with the funk.”