How musicians have responded to BLM through their music
Our country’s foundation is rooted in racism and given the recent violent acts committed by those who are slated to protect citizens, it is obvious that our country’s police force must be investigated and trailed like the rest of the people in our country. The recent Black Lives Matter protests have been a reminder of the systemic racism that plagues our society, and now artists are using their platforms to show that they will not remain silent. The Black community, more specifically Black musicians, have been using their voices to create thought-provoking music to support the movement.
From James Brown’s “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” to the more recent “This Is America” by Childish Gambino, Black musicians’ music has been used for decades as a rally call for movements ranging from civil rights to protesting the societally-engrained systematic racism. With the recent Black Lives Matter protest taking place throughout our country, Black musicians have begun to release music to show not only their support but their outrage.
The California singer/rapper dropped “Lockdown” back in June, right around the time the protests really began to ramp up, and throughout the song, Paak does not pull any punches. He had not even considered releasing this song and was actually gearing up to drop a different song instead; however when he saw all the hatred and sadness occurring throughout the Black community after George Floyd’s death, he wrote this song to help his listeners process the chaos.
“We thought it was a lockdown/ They opened up fire/ Them bullets was flyin’/ Who said it was a lockdown? Goddamn lie,” sung Paak.
His lyrics reflect the current state that our country is in and paints a picture of how bad that state truly is.
After catching the attention of the public when winning the first season of Netflix’s “Rythm & Flow,” D Smoke teamed up with his brother, r&b singer SiR, to write “Let Go,” an anthem written on the day of Floyd’s death and released shortly after.
“And we’re prone to trust the liar/ Even though they test they feet upon our neck/ Or shove their knee on our spine ’til we rest in peace…Just to breathe, we need to let go/ Oh, we need to let go,” rapped D Smoke and SiR.
They wanted to use this song as a rallying call — having some lyrics and language being more radical than others. The main message the artists wanted to show, not only to the public but to other artists, is that it is time to stand up and use their voices to fight the ever-present racial discrimination in our country.
The Grammy award-winning singer H.E.R. released the moving song “I Can’t Breathe” in early June, the track being inspired by Floyd’s plea to live after being killed by police.
Most of the song is H.E.R singing about the injustices she is seeing and experiencing throughout the country; but after the second verse, she goes into a more poetic form of expression. She begins to use spoken words throughout the rest of the song, which was inspired by a conversation she had with a loved one, to illustrate her anger as well as sadness.
“I can’t/ breathe/ You’re taking my life from me/ I can’ breathe/ Will anyone fight for me?” she asks.
H.E.R.’s lyrics were meant to provoke the listener’s emotions by conveying through the song how messed up our society is and how, in some way, we are all guilty.
Leon Bridges ft. Terrace Martin – Sweeter
After debuting the protest song “Pig Feet,” Terrance Martin worked with Leon Bridges on “Sweeter” which was released in early June as a response to Bridges feeling like he had been silent for too long.
He wanted to use this song to show his grief and anger for a man he had never met, Floyd, and Martin had the same vision when producing the track. They felt that the song’s somber sound and lyrics would illustrate the immense sadness and anger that the Black Community has experienced toward the years of deception.
“Hoping for a life more sweeter/ Instead I’m just a story repeating/ Why do I fear with skin dark as night?/ Can’t feel peace with those judging eyes/ I thought we moved on from the darker days/ Did the words of the King disappear in the air,” sings Bridges
The Killers – Land of the Free
The Killers release “Land of the Free” back in January, however after seeing the death of Floyd, the band revised the song to include new lyrics addressing the death of Floyd. The song’s original debut had lyrics connected to other injustices going on within our society, but after Floyd’s death, the rock band stepped up. They wanted to show, that despite not being people of color, they wanted to protest alongside the Black community.
“When I go out in my car, I don’t think twice/ But if you’re the wrong color skin/ You grow up looking over both your shoulders/ In the land of the free/ How many killings must one man watch in his home/ Till he sees the price on the TV?/ Eight measured minutes and 46 seconds/ Another boy in the bag/ Another stain on the flag,” sung the band.
The additional words illustrate the band’s understanding of the privilege they have — being white — and want to use their platform to raise awareness of the injustices towards people of color.