Black Lives Still Matter

Just because the Instagram posts are dying down doesn’t mean the fight is over. Keep the momentum up. The changes that we need are just beginning.

*The incredible featured image is done by @nouriflayhan on IG. Please support her GoFundMe for kafala victims in Lebanon*

I wasn’t entirely sure if I would be making a post this week, so it’s a bit rushed and I apologize. I’m so so tired. I have no idea if I’ve gotten COVID after being out protesting, so I’m stressing a bit in isolation. But my time alone has been therapeutic. We are starting to see change. Laws needed to keep police in check are starting to be implemented. But it doesn’t mean that everything is back to normal. In fact, they can’t go back to normal. We need to keep up this energy and pay attention to the fact that even while amazing adjustments are being made to our legal system, there are still unarmed black people currently being killed by police, even at protests that are ironically enough highlighting police brutality. However, while we need to continue to protest in the name of Black Lives Matter, we do need to be careful. The Coronavirus can come back at full speed, and with all of the unknown variables, I’ve tried to refrain from going out and protesting anymore. So I decided to create a post that showcased some more creative ways in which artists are protesting through their art, and ways in which we can support them and educate ourselves.

One trend that’s been gaining traction is politically fueled DJ mixes that include songs encompassing the revolution and clips from protests. One DJ that captured this beautifully goes by the name of ALT, a French DJ who makes up just a part of a music collective called Mawimbi Crew. According to ALT, “after the death of George Floyd, [he] was feeling solidarity for the people in the streets. In France, the Adama Comitee (created after the death of Adama Traoré in the hands of police officers in Beaumont-Persan’s ‘gendarmerie’ in 2016) called for a demonstration on the 2nd of June 2020. These cases are way too numerous. [ALT] wanted to pay tribute to all victims of police violence, show that this struggle is old, that music has spoken about it regularly and for a long time, in the US and in France.” In his hour and a half long mix, he includes rappers, politicians, spiritual leaders, protestors, news clips, and so much more to reiterate his point that this isn’t a new phenomenon. This is an issue that has been fought for in the past, and ridiculously enough, still has to be fought for today. The incredible contrast between old school and new school, both in the songs chosen and the protest clips used, emphasizes how much time has passed. The fact that he was able to use clips and music that are both in English and other languages like French shows global unity, proving that the whole world is standing with the US at this moment, but also demonstrates that unfortunately, this is an issue that occurs in other countries, even if not to the same extent. While some songs and speeches preach of peace, others speak of doing whatever the fuck you have to do, and frankly, I am here for the feelings of chaos and uprising that it creates.

The full tracklist of the songs, protests, and speeches can be found in the description of the mix.

Skratch Bastid also featured an incredibly powerful clip on his IGTV of a mix titled “ICANTBREATHE”, mixing the Fabolous and Just Blaze track “Breathe” to change the message so that it fit the current issues. The repetitive line “BREATHE/the choke hold’s too tight” is eerily fitting despite the song originally being basically about Fab’s swag, creating a track that reminisces on both George Floyd and Eric Garner’s last words. DJ Jazzy Jeff is just one other talented artist who used his turntables to create a mix with an intense message, using the medley of tracks to express the struggles of being a black man, the resistance that’s finally occurring, and the emotions that he’s feeling during these times. A lot of the songs featured monologues that talked about young men that have lost their lives due to racism, with crying heard during press conferences over solemn beats. The hurt in his eyes as he sits back and listens to the words is so apparent, and the tone during the entire mix is so poetic and melancholy that it breaks my heart. DJs have used this time to make incredible pieces of mixed media art to retell the stories of those whose lives are being remembered in the mass of anger that everyone is feeling right now, and it is so powerful.

I also mentioned the release in my last post, Black Lives Matter, but Run The Jewels decided to let people get their hands on RTJ4 early, and man, was that a good call. That whole album was so incredibly needed right now, and once I finally got a chance to dive into it, I was amazed. I was curious to see how it would play out, especially given their dynamic of being an interracial rap duo, but Killer Mike spoke about his experiences and El-P backed it up with straight facts without overstepping. When I think of white allies, especially in the hip-hop industry, El-P is exactly who I think of. I honestly think this is some of his best work yet. In fact, the two of them play on this race dynamic in the track “Yankee and the Brave (ep. 4)”, as they go back and forth on a verse, holding a conversation against a rapid beat as if they’re actively being chased. Killer Mike raps in the second verse, “I got one round left, a hunnid cops outside, I could shoot at them or put one between my eyes, chose the latter, it don’t matter, it ain’t suicide/I can’t let the pigs kill me, I got too much pride, and I meant it when I said it, never take me alive”. El-P responds by rapping back, “yo Michael, run like you hungry and get your ass in the ride, I’d rather have and not need you than watch your rotten demise, and you still owe me for them Nike’s, you do not get to just die, you try to fuck with my brother, you get the bastard surprise”. The whole interaction is just so heartbreaking because you know that no matter how Killer Mike reacts to the situation, his death at the hands of the police is a strong possibility. At the end of the day, whether he shoots the cops or himself, they’ll find some reason to shoot him down, simply because of the color of his skin. The race dynamic between the two on that specific verse made me think of a video I saw of a young man going to visit his friends in a nice, upscale Cali neighborhood. The cops start harassing him for being there despite his white/non-black friends sitting in their car backing him up. Eventually, he gets arrested even as his friends are yelling at the cops that the situation is outrageous and unnecessary, and the blatant difference in treatment because of race is infuriating. As they’re able to say whatever they want to the cops, the young black man is arrested on the spot. It creates this weird hero complex, where white people have to almost save their friends due to their privilege because, at the end of the day, they can do the exact same thing and face a different outcome. In reality, black people shouldn’t have to be saved, because they shouldn’t have to live every day in fear. 

Another incredible song off the album that makes you sit there and just say “holy fuck” the whole time is the track “JU$T”, which features the genius Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha. The track talks about the current political administration, stating that the “country gettin’ ran by a casino owner”, which, unfortunately, isn’t even a fucking hyperbole. They also make comments on the marijuana industry, which is quite known for its discrimination towards African Americans versus the glorification of white people (especially white women). One of the most controversial lines was referenced the pedophilia scandals with some of the biggest politicians in the country, exposing just how fucked up this country really is. However it’s the chorus that features reiterations of the line “master of these politics, you swear that you got options, master of opinion ’cause you vote with the white collar, the Thirteenth Amendment says that slavery’s abolished, look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar”. That last line, the fact that we are slaves to the dollar which features actual fucking slave owners, is so infuriating. One of the silver linings during the protests is seeing all of the statues of old, white, racist men being torn down. But what about currency, or textbooks, or the way history is taught? We can’t erase the past. But we can raise awareness. We can talk about history properly without glorifying racist politicians and historic figures. We can stop celebrating Columbus Day. There are changes that we can make so that Americans truly understand the horrors that this country is built on. And unless we find justice, our history books will continue to be plagued with the inequality that will most likely only be brushed on, and never truly exposed in its entirety. I’ve already talked about another song “A Few Words For The Firing Squad” on my last blog post, but please check out the full album. This is some of their best work yet, and it perfectly encompasses everything going on, from the rage to the imbalance, to the violence.

A local artist I want to showcase is my friend M11son, who I’ve talked about quite a bit now. He’s talented beyond belief, but it’s the social work that he is using his platform for that I want to recognize. I am incredibly proud of him, so I want to urge all of you to go seriously check out his music and social media pages, not only to discover his amazing music but his dedication and his love for the community as well. M11son has an amazing IG live that he does every Tuesday called In The Vault at 6 PM, where he talks to artists about their new music. But lately, he’s used his time to speak to black artists about how their feeling with everything going on. Additionally, he used his reach to organize a protest group called Creatives for Change. In addition to meeting before large organized protests to discuss the current issues, he’s also created lists for each member to use to reach out to local politicians and groups about specific issues, keeping people involved. He also joined another local artist that I love, US, from my favorite Ill Doots in his IG live, Flow In The Current. US has been just as vocal during all of these issues and far before it, and Ill Doots has created some beautiful music to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives. I’m so incredibly proud of Philadelphia artists for speaking up and using their platforms to make a change. Both Ill Doots and M11son have Spotify fundraisers that I’ve listed below, so check them out and support your local black artist because they are speaking volumes. Larger platforms such as BBC Radio are also using their popularity to bring on black artists to share their experiences and raise awareness about the issues at hand. However, with that being said, we need to remember that it isn’t fair to look to black people for education. We need to take it upon ourselves to research and read about the injustices they’re enduring, and then echo the things that they’re saying.

Unfortunately, this post isn’t going to be very long, but I will continue to do what I need to do to ensure that people continue to talk about the movement, even if it’s just within my friend group. If you haven’t already, check out my first post, Black Lives Matter. Keep the discussion going. Sign those petitions. Support your local black artists. Shop from your local black businesses. Just because you aren’t out there marching, doesn’t mean you are helpless. Get creative and get involved. And if you have any music inspired by the current events, send me the links. I’ll be showcasing local talent below and adding them to my Black Lives Matter playlist. The key is to keep repeating that Black Lives Matter. It’s becoming a norm, a fact. That means that anything but (that’s for you, All Lives Matter folks), are wrong. Black Lives Matter is the truth. Keep spreading it.

Local Black Artists to Stream/Donate to on Spotify (Philadelphia, Jersey, DC, Maryland, Virginia):

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. Please comment below with links to any others that I may have missed.

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