Updated: Oct 30, 2020
We currently live in a time where speaking up is most important. People can no longer afford to stay silent as they watch things unfold right in front of their eyes, but unfortunately, that seems to be the only thing people care enough to do.
Within our communities, there has been a constant stir of social issues arising as the months go by; some include, gun violence, racism, police brutality and more. These are only to name a few but it has impacted people across the globe so much, that artists are finally realizing it for themselves and slowly turning the tables back to a time where music became the biggest form of dissent, creating a massive influence on those who dare to listen.
If we go back to the early 90’s, music seemed to be the only way to reach out to crowds of people, acknowledging the injustice that surrounded them while demanding change. An example of this could be shown through the song “F**** the Police” by N.W.A that stressed the importance of a black man’s frustration, and how he feels when facing the unnecessary discrimination by a police officer. That same frustration has traveled through time up until now, where the list of young black men who have lost their lives due to a police officer keeps on getting longer. The same problems that were going on back then are still happening now and it has become a motivation, to use their platform to re-create the sound of reason and rebel back. “Cop Shot the Kid” by NAS featuring Kayne West is also a great example concerning police brutality because once again, it is bringing light towards acts of violence that have led to many deaths that could have been prevented.
There is a line in the song rehearsed by Kayne that says “tell me who do we call to report crime, if 911 doing the drive by?” Just a brief rhyme like that, speaks volumes to the people that ask themselves that same question. But this creative use of protesting doesn’t just end there, artist Childish Gambino who has recently released a song called “This is America” along with a video that is open to multiple interpretations. One can say that this video discusses the hardships of race and gun violence, as it has become so prevalent with school shootings that appear on the news way too often. The use of imagery within the music video shows childish Gambino in moments at a time where he randomly shoots and kills off people, then continues on with the song, dancing with school children as violence continues in the background.
“The dancers could be there to distract viewers in the same way black art is used to distract people from real problems plaguing America”
says Gutherie Ramsey, a professor of music history at the University of Pennsylvania that TIME Magazine interviewed. Whether that was the true intention it certainly did the exact opposite by reiterating a movement to create a space that allows conversations to start happening. It makes injustices the main focus so as a society, we shall overcome. Having a safe environment that unlocks a dialogue between different people from all backgrounds is the exact push that artists like Joyner Lucas push for. In his viral video “I’m Not a Racist” breaks the barriers between black and white and the difference of opinion each side has. From the very beginning symbolism also plays an important role as Joyner wears a hat that reads “Make America Great Again”, as he starts with the white man’s perspective.
One might say that this can be uncomfortable hearing each side express what they feel is the truth and the vulgarity that is used, trying to prove themselves as a priority. But it all comes down to one significant moment. At the end of the video, when the black man’s perspective is finished sharing his opinion, he ends with “I love you but I f****** hate you at the same time, I wish we could trade shoes so we could change lives, so we could understand each other more but that will take time.”
“But there are two sides to every story and now you know mine.”
As the only race is the human race, it becomes powerful to be able to have that talk within our communities about social problems and injustices that affect people daily. Using music as a way to do that develops into something more than a beat because the new dynamic has turned into a song that has an infectious bass but the lyrics are not worth any importance. The importance that it does capture is how much money, women and how “hood” you can be. But artist like Jcole who rap about the fatherless youth within the male community in the song “4 your eyez only” or the song “Crooked Smile” that talks about women’s beauty in the public eye, carries out a wide range of examples from how protesting through rap should be the new wave because it shares a story that doesn’t rely on a beat to gain his popularity, but the words that are being spoken to gain respect, to hold a greater value that artist seek for. With the platform that artist has been given, we are starting to see more of change and a demand for music to serve a greater purpose, to wake up and see the celebration of speaking out against the norm and fighting for change. So in those moments when one may decide how to choose a song, we might ask ourselves is there a message in this song that will speak volumes higher than any speaker could play.
Written By: Taylor Gallo