Over the last week numerous artists have stepped up to their craft to share their feelings and insights in response to the untimely death of unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. on August 9th by an officer of the law. Here are their words and music followed by other’s Response via other social media outlets
There was a time in my life when I gave a fuck. Every chance I got I was screaming about it. I was younger. It’s so easy to try to save the world when you’re in college. You got nothing but time and no responsibility. But soon life hits you. No more dorms, no more meal plan, no more refund check. Nigga need a job. Nigga got rent. Got car note. Cable bill. Girlfriend moves in and becomes wife. Baby on the way. Career advances. Instagram is poppin. Lebron leaves Miami. LIFE HITS. We become distracted. We become numb. I became numb. But not anymore. That coulda been me, easily. It could have been my best friend. I’m tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men. I don’t give a fuck if it’s by police or peers. This shit is not normal.
I made a song. This is how we feel.
B.o.B tweeted earlier in the week before deleting them and posting New Black.
Our new track “Knees On The Ground” might benefit from an explanation. This is the most unguarded I ever intend to be when writing about Clipping.
What had happened was this: our very brief UK/Europe trip got called-off the day before we were supposed to get on a plane to London. Since we didn’t have any other plans, we met up in the studio with an idea to crank out a new track. On our list of songs to finish was one particular piece aimed directly at the club (or, at least, our twisted idea of what clubs should play). But none of us were in the mood for it. Each of us had spent the previous several days following the news of protests in Ferguson, MO. It was the only thing on our minds. We couldn’t bring ourselves to think about anything else, so we decided to direct our fear, our revulsion, our heartbreak into a new track.
The problem was that we’d defined our band — in interviews and to each other — as decidedly-not-an-activist-project. Diggs’s lyrics have been criticized for seeming apolitical, at least in comparison to what many listeners (perhaps rightly) expect to hear from an ‘experimental’ rap group. I have many times said (perhaps naïvely) that our politics lie in our structures, in our formal engagement with the rap genre. We love its conventions, its clichés, and we’re not above them. We see our participation in rap as something resembling an old punk flyer — an out-of-context collage of charged images with an fractured, contradictory, multiple point-of-view. I hope that our more dedicated listeners hear this and understand that we’re not interested in spoon-feeding them a position. At the same time, I’ve always assumed that they pretty much agree with us on most issues anyway. (We have yet to meet the misogynist, homophobic, white supremacist Clipping fan with an MBA and an NRA mebership).
So what do we do when all we can think about, all we can feel, is a profound injustice — yet another young unarmed person of color is murdered by a police officer? How does a band, which overtly rejects affect and the emotions, address something that is, for its authors, a deeply felt, deeply affecting topic? Well, we don’t entirely know. But the fact is: there’s more truth in Diggs’s lyrics than we generally let on. “Inside Out” describes a drive-by shooting in Oakland, “Chain” is about three stick-ups. They are presented with a lot of detail and specificity (perhaps the result of personal experience). But at the same time, they represent archetypal scenarios within rap music. One trope we had yet to explore as Clipping was the anti-police rap — the lineage of Public Enemy, NWA and Paris, straight through The Coup, and all the way into the ‘stop snitching’ panic of the early 2000s. “Knees On The Ground” is a paradigmatic white-cop-kills-an-unarmed-black-kid-and-gets-away-with-it tale — a story that happens all the fucking time in the US. What we have learned — from our first hand experience in Oakland in 2009, and from the media coverage of Ferguson in 2014 — is that the second part of this story involves a police response better suited to a war zone than to an American city. Cops think they’re playing Call Of Duty when they’re supposed to be part of a community. If Ferguson were in Iraq, Obama would have sent in an airstrike already.
This is the least obtuse Diggs’s lyrics will ever get. We’re embarrassed by the timeliness of this track. We do not intend to capitalize on what is, undoubtedly, a terrible tragedy. But journalists make think-pieces and we make songs. Writers write what they know, and this is what we know right fucking now.
— William Hutson, Clipping.
An old sketch of Black Rage, done in my living room. Strange, the course of things. Peace for MO. – MLH https://t.co/47v9BEDoN6
— Ms. Lauryn Hill (@MsLaurynHill) August 21, 2014
Look at us….America has created a monster. The result of ignoring & mishandling an already fragile spirited, recently enslaved, presently oppressed race/generation of people. Look at us. We’re the monster that now refuses to be dismissed, overlooked and ignored. We were brought to this place, unaware of our own cultures, religion & traditions therefore, we created our own. Now look at us.
For years we’ve been crying out for the nation to address the substandard education systems & disparaging treatment of our citizens in communities across America. Our people have had an increasing lack of opportunities for generations. There have been homes broken, lives shattered and futures lost on your watch….unanswered. Look at us. How long can u expect a nation/race/generation of people to be blatantly disrespected? Spoken to and treated with arrogant tones of insignificance. Our fathers, uncles, brothers and role models were killed and imprisoned more often than educated. Now look at us. Our friends and relatives murdered and cast aside without thought, as though your human life is more valuable than ours. How long can that go on without consequence? Now Look at us.
How long can u continue to pass the buck & make excuses of why u can’t do today what should have been done yeste-year? Although I DO NOT support the negative responses & actions of my people in light of dis tragedy….I WILL NOT condone your lack of effort to show any urgency to improve the treatment of our people, nor the living conditions in our communities. Your refusal to address these life altering issues makes events such as these seem inevitable. Although I too am at fault to a degree and I admit that I may not have all da answers… I do have a fun fact for you. Insanity is…Going about things the same way, expecting a different result. U wanna different result? U must take different action. What else do u expect? Look at us!!!
Clifford “T.I.” Harris
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