These are the songs about racism, police brutality and hope which are voicing the struggles and fight of the black community.
Across the United States and around the world, protests continue this week in opposition to anti-Black racism and police brutality sparked by the senseless killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. However the issues being addressed are not anything new, they go back centuries and this month reached a new boiling point. While it is to early to say, potentially this moment will be a turning point in time and lead to a greater equality within society.
During the ongoing protests, to express their feelings and push the message further, protestors are turning to the music that helps speaks to their experience, understand others perspectives and to vocalise the issues at hand. Many of the greatest black artists have explored the issues being fought through their music and in doing so helped those oppressed feel understood while also educating those who ignore what’s happening. So today we are taking time to highlight some of the most iconic songs which are serving as the sound-track to the movemement, and are confronting reminders of what’s been happening.
2Pac – Changes
A large amount of 2Pac’s music addressed the inequality of black people and their mistreatment in the government. ‘Changes’ is among his all-time greatest songs and still regarded as one of the most influential he ever released. It features lyrics regarding the war on drugs as well as the treatment of black people by the police and sheds light on racism and the way the government and society has caused the perpetuation of poverty amongst the black community.
N.W.A – Fuck Tha Police
In 1988 iconic Compton hip-hop group N.W.A. released a genre defying protest song which has blasted through speakers ever since, in the current moment ‘Fuck Tha Police’ is a powerful reminder that in decades not much has really changed. As relevant as it was at the time, the song takes police brutality and racial profiling head on, demanding immediate action. According to Rolling Stone, since the protests erupted, the song has seen a 272% increase in streams.
The Game – Don’t Shoot (feat. Rick Ross, Diddy, 2 Chainz, Wale, DJ Kahled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Currensy, Problem, King Pharoah and TGT)
Released in 2014, The Game joined with an all-star crew for ‘Don’t Shoot’ including Rick Ross, Diddy, 2 Chainz, Wale, DJ Kahled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Currensy, Problem, King Pharoah and TGT. The song was released in honor of the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. The song, like protests, features the names of many of the other individuals who lost their lives in similar circumstances and calls out the police for their excessive uses of force and calls for people to speak up and take action.
Public Enemy – Fight The Power
Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ is one of the most relevant songs today, the song sampled over 20 speeches by civil rights activists. The music video further helped echo it’s message, opening with footage from Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington and then transitioning to a scene with of people holding up portraits of histories black heroes, the band and hundreds of volunteers then staged a ‘Young Person’s March to End Racial Violence’.
Run The Jewels – walking in the snow
Run The Jewels were set to release their fourth album before the protests erupted, and amid growing violence in Atlanta, group member Killer Mike appeared on TV to send a message to those taking part in the protests. His speech that has reverberated around the world and was one of the most powerful messages. Shortly after he did it all over again, releasing the new album ‘RTF4’ early, the tracks were available for free on their website while requesting donations to the cause. Among the tracks was ‘walking in the snow’, and while it feels it was written in light of the death of George Floyd due to its use of “I Can’t Breathe” it was in fact written before, reminding us that this was far from the first time.
Kendrick Lamar – Alright
Released on his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy winning song ‘Alright’ has stood out as one of the anthems of the current generations fight for equality, it also features uncredited vocals from Pharrell Williams who co-produced it. It was inspired by the roots of black oppression after a trip to South Africa, it’s an anthem that alludes to hope amid personal struggles and addresses the oppression and injustice by the police. It has been frequently used during protests for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Micheal Jackson – They Don’t Care About Us
Micheal Jackson is undoubtedly one of histories most iconic black artists, his 1995 single ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ is one of the most relevant to the protest movement happening today. It received two music video’s, one of which was shot in a prison and featured multiple references to human rights abuses. Speaking on the song, Jackson said it spoke of “the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems..injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them“. The song starts off with the muffled sounds of a police radio describing a potential suspect and Jackson then follows with the powerful lyrics.
Childish Gambino – This Is America
Childish Gambino’s 2018 single ‘This is America’ was a highly controversial release, largely due to the confronting video which depicts someone being graphically executed. It is full of racial symbolism which created conversation around gun violence. It finishes with a powerful scene of Gambino running away from people chasing him. While it may have been confronting, it’s clear that’s what was needed for meaningful change to be realised. The lyrics and video have resonated with people across the US, and it has become a top choice as background music for TikTok videos of the protests, and last week it hit #2 on the Top 50 chart on Spotify. It continues to pick up millions of plays and be blasted out of speakers at protests.
Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come
Sam Cooke’s 1964 song ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ has been a frequent song of hope in times of uncertainty and doubt. This past week several moving videos have been shared across social media of protesters marching to its sound. It it certainly alludes a more somber tone than the anger felt in other songs of protest, however its words are just as piercing and in the end it delivers a message that is in fact what we’re all hoping for in this circumstance, change.
Beyonce – Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Beyonce’s Lemonade album can largely be seen as a work dedicated to the cultural violence against black people and more specifically black women, but its core message is about dismantling the systemic power which has caused so much suffering. Among the album we received ‘Freedom’, a collaboration with outspoken rapper Kendrick Lamar. The song is both about the freedom of expressing ones own pain and taking control of their future, making it a perfect soundtrack to the current movement. It explores their views on systemic racism and injustices dating back to the horrific slavery which took place in the United States. It alludes that the freedom from systematic oppression and societal racism is within reach. In the song Beyonce calls for continued fight and also solidarity.