PSA: At the bottom of this page, you can find a list of resources to donate to, as well as other ways to get involved. I have also compiled a list of local black DMV/Philly artists that have Spotify fundraiser picks up on their page. I strongly urge you to support these artists. While media blackouts have good intentions, by not listening to these artists, you are taking away their streaming revenue. Play their music. Hear their voices.
*Also credit for the beautiful header image goes to @bymudra on Instagram*
It’s funny. When I started building momentum towards the beginning of the Quarantine, my blog was keeping me busy. It was my safe haven, providing me with an escape for the hours I spent on it, typing rapidly away to take me to another planet, far far away from reality. But this… I could never have predicted what would happen in just a couple of months. To ignore what is going on is to be complacent. I can no longer use my blog as a get-away when it can be used as a platform. Black people can’t escape it. They live every single day in fear that the transpiring events could target them next, something that I can only imagine from what is being reported to me behind a television screen. And even then, this is nothing new. These aren’t new crimes or revelations. But America is fed up, and this cannot continue. I try to remind myself that two battles are being fought and that by continuing my quarantine but attempting to stay active in the fight for equality, I am still doing something. But it doesn’t feel that way. Even after going into DC and standing out with protestors, it didn’t feel like enough. See, COVID-19 is a hell of a disease. It has blinded us, stripped us of our jobs, and our sense of normalcy. But police brutality? That singles people out. That targets those, whose “sense of normalcy” includes fearing for their lives every fucking day. I’m trying so hard to not make this about me, but every moment gets more stressful when I watch my friends’ Instagram live videos of them being out on the frontlines, or I see news reporters taping what’s happening at that very moment; I can’t help but feel more worthless than I’ve ever felt. So I decided to do the one thing that I could do that could potentially have an impact, even if just on a handful of people; I decided to write. I’m not sure what good this post will do, because it very well may just include me ranting. Honestly, I don’t even think there’s a central theme to it. But I will do my best to use it to spread a bit of optimism and show how hip-hop music has used its impact to fight for Black Lives Matter.
First off, I do want to clarify something. I get e-mails from artists and their teams thinking that this blog is comprised of a lot of people, working together as one voice. However, it isn’t. Yes, I have an immense amount of friends that collaborate in other ways, such as visual artists and graphic designers. However, everything written on this blog is by me; Shaana Jhangiani. A soon to be 24-year-old Indian woman in the city of Philadelphia. Every thought on this page is my own. With that being said, whether you want to think of this blog as a business entity or a person, Spice On The Beat stands with Black Lives Matter. And if you think in some weird, fucked up, twisted way, that there is something wrong with that phrase, because all lives matter (let’s be clear now, no one said they don’t; the issue is, all lives don’t matter until black lives matter, and clearly the United States doesn’t think that they do), then you can stop reading, because I’m sure I’ll say about 50 more things to offend you by the end of this article. Also, if you are a non-black hip-hop artist that does not actively support Black Lives Matter, then please do not approach me for a feature, paid or unpaid. I don’t want your money.
I mentioned this issue on both Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not sure if it was executed properly because my emotions are everywhere and it’s a bit difficult to articulate how I’m feeling. But here goes nothing. I am a non-black WOC in the entertainment industry, with a specific focus on hip-hop and rap. Hip-hop has been my savior. Its rhythms and poetic words have given me a purpose and helped me find myself. However, I can’t truly love the culture if I don’t acknowledge its roots. Songs like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” and N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police” were created to express the struggles of black men and women who were discriminated against, in a way that is still present today. In a way that has incited riots and fires, decades later. These are things that I can’t relate to. To love the culture but to choose to ignore the fights that were being rapped about 20 to 30 years ago, especially when you have the opportunity to be apart of the change now, is shameful. That’s what makes a “fan” a culture vulture. You look for any opportunity to rap the N-word and to rep your non-existent street cred, and yet you make no effort to defend the person writing those lyrics or conjuring up those ideas. How does that make sense? How is that fair? If you make a profit off of the culture, you have to be willing to fight for it. Otherwise, your heart isn’t in the right place. You have to be an ally to its creators, and pay homage to its origins. Otherwise, you aren’t hip-hop, and it isn’t for you. In fact, it was used to out the oppressors, including the ones who steal the culture for themselves without respecting it.
One of my favorite protest videos that I saw was in Inglewood, California, where Jidenna posted a video of himself and a few others dancing to Kendrick’s “Alright”. The DJ posted a video of him playing it as well, saying that at that moment, the song was cathartic and a form of self-care. It was a beautiful way to see music used as their form of protest, their ability to keep things peaceful, even if sometimes that isn’t enough. It provided an outlet as Kendrick summed up their thoughts in lyrics like “we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure”. That chorus itself is so full of strength because the rest of the lyrics in no way diminishes their experiences. It lays out the cold hard truth, but that simple chorus of chanting “we gon’ be alright” screams of hope and change, and shows the beautiful way in which black people stand together to keep each other safe. And trust me, this isn’t all that Kendrick has done to comment on the issues at hand. In Beyonce’s “Freedom”, Kendrick raps an incredibly powerful verse on an already impactful song, saying that, “channel nine news tells me I’m movin’ backward, eight blocks left, death is around the corner, seven misleadin’ statements ’bout my persona, six headlights wavin’ in my direction, five-o askin’ me what’s in my possession” showing that no matter the situation, it will always play out the same.
The song that truly gives me goosebumps throughout all of the protests is Common and John Legend’s “Glory”, from their movie, Selma. It’s upsetting to see history repeat itself with an issue that’s never been resolved. The movie, which was based on the 1956 March for Voting Rights from Selma to Montgomery, told a story of inequality and ways that African Americans were prohibited from exercising their rights, whether to vote or otherwise, in a way that is still so very prominent. Even today, in 2020, voting is still not accessible for everyone, and it still heavily discriminates against a large population of people who have voices that need to be heard. Even now, our own very president is tweeting out to try and prevent people from voting in fear that he won’t be reelected. Even today, Pennsylvania dropped the ball and failed to get voter ballots out in time for voters to get their votes in during a global pandemic. And even today, African Americans can’t even step out of their houses to get to their polling places without the fear of being shot and killed, simply for trying to go about their life. Common’s line “justice for all just ain’t specific enough” reiterates the idea that right now, we need to focus on Black Lives Matter. It leaves me absolutely baffled that people still try to make the argument that all lives matter. Everyone knows that, except for the people who don’t understand why the black lives matter movement needs to exist. We can’t preach that everyone matters until we address the issue that’s preventing that from happening, especially when it’s one specific demographic being targeted time and time again. The irony is also incredible as I recall Common’s song, “Forever Begins”, in which he begins the song by recalling that he was “too young for the marches but [he remembers] these drums”, only to not only be reenacting the protests years later but actively partaking in new ones. If you’ve ever been outraged when you learned about the Civil Rights Movement in grade school, then you have the opportunity to be a part of the change, here and now. Use your privilege. Use your voice.
Public Enemy’s 1989 song, “Fight The Power” calls for everyone to take part in the protests, stating that we must “fight the powers that be”, at least by being vocal. For a short period, I felt as though I should keep my thoughts to myself because I didn’t want to overwhelm people. I wanted to ensure that black people had the chance to speak and be heard and that their voices were at the forefront. But I realized, by sitting by and being silent, even if it meant not sharing something I thought was important on Instagram, I was being complacent. In fact, although social media can be extremely detrimental, now is the time to use it for good. Share resources, black stories, and protest videos of cops being assholes. Give truth a podium. I have a privilege that black people don’t have. And it’s possible to allow them to speak, and rather than speaking for them, share the issues of racism in my community and further their platform so that their voices reach more people. In this same song, Public Enemy raps that “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me you see, straight-up racist that sucker was, simple and plain”. I love that they shined a light on this issue that yes, Elvis was considered an icon and beloved to many, but he didn’t do anything to help black people during their fights. He was accepted, but he chose to turn a blind eye. He wasn’t an ally, and instead adopted black culture in a way that took away from the original purpose without giving any credit to where it was due, an issue that I’ve been seeing quite a lot of nowadays.
Run The Jewels teased a brand new song on their Instagram before their album releases this Friday (surprise! They released it today!!), beginning the video by showing a computer screen that reads “a few words for the firing squad, from Jaime and Mike”, which is the title for the new track. El-P has been incredibly active throughout the protests, posting his thoughts to Instagram quite often and encouraging listeners to donate to the Mass Defense Program, a longtime partner of the rap group. Killer Mike, who is the son of an Atlanta police officer, also gave an absolutely incredible press conference in Atlanta alongside Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and T.I. Although he talked about his love for the police department, he did explain that he understood why people were destroying property, and although he didn’t necessarily promote it, he also reminded people that while the protesters are seen as aggressive during these times, at least they haven’t murdered people in cold blood the way the police have. He also beautifully encouraged other ways of getting involved, explaining that, “it is your duty to fortify your own house, so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. And now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize. It is time to beat out prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth. It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable, chiefs, and deputy chiefs. Atlanta is not perfect, but we’re a lot better than we ever were, and we’re a lot better than cities are.”
LL Cool J also took to Instagram to deliver a rap about the current climate. He used nothing but his voice as his instrument, commanding the viewers’ sole attention as he laid down a rhythmic timeline of just how far back this injustice has dated, beginning the piece by saying “for four hundred years, you had your knees on our necks, a garden of evil with no seeds of respect”. He mentions the stimulus checks, explaining that those checks can’t buy us over and make us ignore what’s going on. He raps about the murder of George Floyd, how the justice system fails black Americans every day, and how police use force as retaliation but still blame the protesters.
This piece may take a change of pace because I just got word that two of my very close friends got teargassed at what was a peaceful protest and my emotions are all fucked up (Edit: I wrote this two days ago. I thought about deleting all of this but decided against it). I planned on just forcing myself back to bed like I find myself doing a lot, but I felt I would convey my emotions here instead. These protests start off as peaceful, and even if the protesters go out and wreak havoc, they have every right to. I went out just yesterday, scared of what I would encounter because of the news. However, the protesters were peaceful, even with the guards on every street corner carrying large guns. They continued to line up more guards, getting closer and closer to protesters despite the fence up protecting them. They intimidated the protesters and used aggression when it wasn’t necessary. Yes, it is so fucking sad when small businesses get hurt. It breaks my heart. But you know what REALLY fucking hurts? Is having a man you grew up with who was like your big brother get tackled to the ground and arrested after his dad got hit by a car, simply because he was black. So you know what? Fuck the police. I’ve screamed it ever since I was a 15-year-old girl with a fresh learner’s permit who got harassed by a cop, thinking he could twist a traffic stop into some sick and weird fantasy with an underage girl. I remember. I remember you using your badge to intimidate me and hold your power over me. I see it every fucking day when I’m driving and see a young man pulled over on the side of the road as my heart aches at what the situation could turn into. So you know what? Fuck the police. Because just like the Geto Boys made a point to note in “Crooked Officer”, bad cops are killer cops.
2Pac’s “Trapped” also tells the story of what it’s like to be a young, black man walking the streets for those of us who could truly never imagine. He explained walking on the streets as being “trapped, can barely walk the city streets, without a cop harassin’ me, searching me, then askin’ my identity, hands up, throw me up against the wall, didn’t do a thing at all, I’m telling you one day these suckers gotta fall cuffed up throw me on the concrete”. This song reiterates that this isn’t a recent phenomenon. The main difference is that now it’s recorded and spread through social media. But not everyone’s story is shared. Names are being forgotten. That’s the beauty of music. Use lyrics to immortalize those lost, like the way Blood Orange did in “Sandra’s Smile” or like how Black Thought paid homage to Trayvon Martin in “Rest In Power”. Music doesn’t fix everything. It isn’t magic that erases problems. But it’s a way to share these stories in a way that can last forever, in a way that ensures that these lives won’t be forgotten.
I’m so sorry to my readers that there’s no real structure to this post. But my thoughts are so scattered. We need to see a change. We need a revolution. Nothing will be the same after this, and things are beyond repair. I don’t know what will happen to this country. But no matter what, I will always do my part to stand with Black Lives Matter.
Local Black Artists to Stream/Donate to on Spotify (Philadelphia, Jersey, DC, Maryland, Virginia):
- Briya (Philadelphia) — https://open.spotify.com/artist/5CczmGPScLyvUBr5IvaRai?si=xbrrmHH6Rzy20xDA_9jmVA
- M11son (Philadelphia) — https://open.spotify.com/artist/5PpLn8CROLDSe5f86HeRM5?si=22Ye-OzeTx6XVJTM0xh3Iw
- Bakr Brand/Flotus (Philadelphia) –https://open.spotify.com/artist/0pHsIrLxLLkwHZrCC8fWGF?si=QpntzgxjQhqKFf8DyqAkCg
- The InGlorious (Philadelphia) — https://open.spotify.com/artist/3r77MfBZrxRggZlzzFmarl no fundraiser, just stream their music!
- Franky Hill (New Jersey) — https://open.spotify.com/artist/4cXQdxHqxUKHfsLh56EDlM?si=Hq9BhH3pR8mAw-0AjdEs-w
- Crazylilari (NY/Philadelphia) — https://open.spotify.com/artist/6asHvZvnPv1Q4RilS9uJkY?si=gQs8E2oEQGSTO9XrWEpQiw
- Global Octopus (Texas) — https://globaloctopus.bandcamp.com/album/mollusk-collection-5 I know they aren’t local but my boys are donating 100% of their project sales towards bail funds for activists and grassroots political orgs dedicated to the liberation of black people and I’m so proud
- Mir Fontane (New Jersey) — https://open.spotify.com/artist/53VAKbI2fXRs1PwG6DVToP?si=zryvDbZkQXSCnfmI4Ihiig
- Ill Doots (Philadelphia) — https://open.spotify.com/artist/22GkYnKnyok4SDLfdZ50Fr?si=BIBP2vwiSkOSe0V2_DTHYA
- Tripper Clothing (Black Owned Clothing Brand) (Pittsburgh) — https://www.instagram.com/tripper.clothing/
- Kam DeLa (Black Owned Clothing Brand) (New Jersey) — https://kamdela.com/
Below are a list of resources that you can reach out to/donate to to help the cause if you are unable to get out and protest.
- Reach out to @uhmeeree on Instagram for flyers that can be printed and posted around your neighborhood
- Cashapp $realjusticephl for protest supplies
- https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor?signed=true (Please, do not forget Breonna Taylor’s story! She still has not received justice)
- https://www.gofundme.com/f/i-run-with-maud for Ahmaud Arbery
- https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-tony-mcdade for Tony McDade
This is obviously not a complete list, so please if you have any other places to donate, leave a comment below with the link and what it is for people to see. Leave song suggestions below, whether they are healing during these times or passionate enough to ignite the flames needed to be a part of the change. I tried to incorporate the songs mentioned above as well as some others that are fitting for the time. Share this if you’d like; I don’t really care about credit. I just want this message to be spread all over the world about how important this movement is and how ridiculous it is that even in 2020, we are still fighting for an issue that contradicts basic humanity.