Chicago Protesters Hijack Scanner Channel, Broadcast Tay Zonday's 'Chocolate Rain'

A viral video on social media this weekend seemed to show police scanners blocked with a broadcast of Tay Zonday's "Chocolate Rain" — and it might be real. A source told CBS Chicago that police in the city had difficulty communicating on Saturday due to targeted disruptions to their radio channels, including music. From the sound of it, the hackers may have been old school YouTube fans.

The source — who was not identified as a cop — said that "protesters" had overrun police scanners with random bursts of music "to prevent police from responding properly." However, as some listeners have pointed out, those bursts seemed to be chosen carefully. One video appeared to show police scanners playing N.W.A.'s "F— the Police," while the more viral one showed "Chocolate Rain." On top of everything else, this has viewers revisiting Zonday's viral classic.

Adding to the video's apparent legitimacy is the broken up voice of a dispatcher saying: "All units, the radio is being blocked, I can't copy anything that you're saying." Listeners laughed uproariously as these words were interrupted by Zonday's deep baritone. Some online speculated that the hacktivist group Anonymous might be responsible for the broadcast, but others noted that no technical skill was required to override the transmission — just a "stolen piece of hardware."

"Chocolate Rain" went viral on YouTube back in 2007, but looking back, many believe it did not get enough credit for its powerful message about systemic racism. Zonday's work in the intervening years has been equally political, including one song that often resurfaces where Zonday sings an explanation of global economics.


Many people praised the activists who allegedly took over the Chicago Police Department's radios on this day, saying that they had layered in meaning by using Zonday's song. While it was just a meme on the surface to many people, they now had an opportunity to revisit its content and re-examine pop culture's treatment of Zonday and this vulnerable creation.

Zonday has been candid about this since the beginning. In an interview with BET, he said: "I grew up in a biracial household. My mom is Black, and my dad is white. We never talked to or referred to each other as 'black' and 'white.' So it was a bit of a shock to go out into the world as a teenager and there these things, and they don't really speak to my life and who I know human beings to be. I guess overall 'Chocolate Rain' was intended as a ballad about institutional racism."