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Florida's Viral "Hip-Hop Grandpa" OG Magnum Fights to Stop Cops From Pulling Over Custom Cars

Before he bought a modded Dodge Magnum in 2005, Bruce Ryan says he'd only been pulled over for legitimate reasons. But his new car had purple "underlights" illuminating the bottom — and he says a cop pulled him over the day he started driving it, just because of the neon.

"Everybody I know has run into that," Ryan tells New Times. "On a daily basis, I hear about somebody being pulled over for some bullshit reason or another."

That's why Ryan, the president of the Florida Custom Car Association, is working with Florida lawmakers to legalize so-called "underbody" lights. Ryan, age 60, is better known online as OG Magnum, the white-haired, tattooed, dancing "hip-hop grandpa" who's amassed 238,000 Instagram followers, hung out with numerous rap icons, and even appeared in a video with Plies and Kodak Black. Ryan, who also has worked in IT, went viral in 2017 when he was filmed dancing to rap at a Florida gas station.

Now, he's using his status as both a viral hip-hop figure and a legislative advocate to help fewer people get pulled over. As it stands, state law is unclear whether underbody lights are legal, despite four different statutes that govern car lights in Florida. Ryan says there's technically nothing banning underbody lights, and the state even issued a 1991 memo saying most of those lights are legal. Still, he says cops regularly pull over cars with underbody lights — especially if they expect a person of color is driving. So he wants the law clarified.

"I’m 60 years old and I'd never been pulled over for anything other than a legit speeding ticket," he explained. "But the day I bought my Magnum, I got pulled over that night. Since then, I've been pulled over 16 times in a matter of eight years. All of them were for bullshit reasons, like my underlights, my tag light not being bright enough, my window tint, maybe I didn't turn on a turn signal. They were all just reasons and excuses to pull me out of the car."

At one point, he says, a cop even handcuffed him "for his own protection" while his kids watched from the car. Ryan says he used to fight the tickets and win, since he was aware of the 1991 state memo. But he knows many other people who've just paid the tickets because they didn't fully understand the law.

Ryan, who tends to shun media interviews, told New Times in 2017 that he "grew up on the strip, cruising cars and listening to loud-ass music" in a town near Fort Lauderdale. He spent six years in the Navy before getting a degree at UC Berkeley. He then settled in Tallahassee and started a family. Even during that 2017 interview, Ryan complained he'd recently been pulled over for allegedly having altered headlights.

Just yesterday, the state House passed its version of the bill, HB 1057, by a margin of 109 to zero. The companion bill in the state Senate, SB 974, has already passed unanimously through the Senate's Infrastructure and Appropriations Committees and is nearing a full floor vote. The bill states that "any motor vehicle may be equipped with one or more lamps or devices underneath the motor vehicle" so long as the car doesn't display red or blue lights (like a cop), flashing lights, or lights that shine directly into the eyes of other drivers.

Ryan says he's received virtually unanimous support from state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The Florida Highway Patrol even agrees with him — he says the FHP is backing the bill because it will free up cops' time for more legitimate police work. (Traffic stops can be dangerous for officers, too.) Plus, the underbody lights can help illuminate cars and motorcycles on dark roadways.

"Up until I went viral, I was pulled over regularly for reasons that were not legit," he said. "But since I went viral about two years ago, all the police wave at me now."

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