Like many, I’ve been following the news of the shocking and appaling murder of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by police in Minneapolis, USA. The consequential outrage of his killing has not only sparked protests there, but spread to other cities in the United States too and across the world, with demostrations in Auckland, Berlin, London, and more. George Floyd’s death, and the circumstances surrounding it, is one of many examples of police brutality and racism towards the black community in America. As things began to boil up over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breanna Taylor in Louisevill, and the consequent investigation (or the lack of), things have now boiled over to the point where enough is enough, and things need to change. The worldwide response shows that this sort of racist behaviour isn’t just succluded to America, the insututional day-to-day injustices and the things we don’t see, are happening all over.
Music has always been an essential form of political expression, the art is often a reflection of our society, and the things we want to change about it. At times of political and social unrest it takes on even more importance, not only as an outlet for the musician to release their frustrations, but as a rallying cry for the listener. As long as people have been getting fed up with the status quo, they’ve been singing about it. The added outlet of social media has also allowed musicians to express their views further, over the past few days many have taken to their channels to support the protests. The entertainment industries worldwide response to #BlackoutTuesday, where companies and musicians stop working and show support for the black community, shows the far reaching response that this movement has.
Many musicians have spoken out against racism, and the society which allows it to continue, through their music and various platforms. In this article I’m going to focus on five musicians, that I follow and listen to – these are in no particular order.
For a long time one of hip-hops rising stars, known for his acute lyricism tackling social and political issues. Born in New York, he is the founding memeber of hip-hop collective Pro Era, and has released two studio albums (‘B4.Da.$$’ and ‘All-Amerikkkan Badass’.) In-between making music he also uses his platform to speak regularly on issues such as racism, and has garnered a new following through his political activism.
Twitter/ @joeyBADASS Instagram/ @joeybadass
Jason Aalon Butler (Fever 333, Pressure Cracks, letlive.)
Each one of the bands that Jason Aalon Butler has formed, whether it was formerly at letlive., or now Pressure Cracks and Fever 333, have always been vocal about their political views, speaking out on injustcies and the failures of a system designed to keep people oppressed. Back in 2016, he said in an interview with The Independant, “people are being subjugated, people are being marginalised, they’re being disenfranchised and they’re being under-represented. People are dead, people are no longer breathing and six feet under because of the issues that I’m talking about, so I feel duty-bound to discuss them.”
It’s time for the 3 C’s: Community, Chartiy and Change.
Twitter/ @mrjasonaalon Instagram/ @mrjasonaalon
Most recently, Akala has been best known for being a writer and an educator, having written numerous books, articles and featured on various TV programmes, since coming into the public eye as a musician. His book, ‘Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire’ is an indicator of the deep and complex nature of Akala’s recent works, as he delves into ‘his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today.’ Whilst it’s really worth checking out Akala’s full body of work, and his most recent stuff, here’s a throwback to his ‘Fire in The Booth (part 1)’ from 2011, which remains just as relevant to this day – “When the world’s this fucked up, lethargy’s a crime.”
Twitter/ @akalamusic Instagram/ @akalamusic
Nobody would’ve been surprised at the fact that J. Cole recently took to the streets to join the nationwide protests in his hometown of North Carolina. The American hip-hop artist is vocal in his political and social views, and takes on a number of issues including racism in his music. His song ‘Be Free’ was released after the death of Michael Brown, who was murdered back in 2014 by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Listen to the heart-wrenching song below-
Twitter/ @JColeNC Instagram/ @realcoleworld
Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Prophets of Rage, Audioslave)
There’s no better way to end this list than with legendary guitarist Tom Morello, who throughout his career with Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, and Prophets of Rage, has always stood up against inequality and racism. Having studied, and graduating with Honours, at Harvard with a Political Science degree in 1986, solidifies his knowledge on the subject matter. The music that he was a part of creating shaped a generation of political anarchists, and he continues to be an influential voice, with his views on social media and in interviews, to this day.
Twitter/ @tmorello Instagram/ @tommorello
As you can see, these issues have been around for a long time, and some change has been made but not nearly enough. Sometimes it’s hard to know if we can really make a difference to the world, as an individual it’s easy to just crawl back into our ant-like state of mind, just a ripple in an ocean. But a thousand ripples make an ocean, and we all have our part to play.