How Racial Inequality Has Inspired Artists to Create
By Cat Daczkowski
Protest against racial inequality through music is no new concept. However, with the huge #BLM movement this year, I believe it’s important to share not just the most recent creations, but the creations of the past.
Tom Morello – Marching On Ferguson
Back in 2014, Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) released the song, ‘Marching On Ferguson’. It refers to the protests that occurred in Missouri in the same year. It’s a hard-hitting rock track featuring power chords, a series of sing-along lyric fillers and the classic Tom Morello style solo, but more than that, it’s a song with true meaning. Morello tweeted out after the release of the song, “Against death penalty but if instituted 4killer cops, corporate criminals & presidents who go to war under false pretence might be deterrent?”
“A nation at half-mast,
Figured I’d get the last laugh
Carving up that golden calf
With a blow torch and gas mask…”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Feat. Jamila Woods – White Privilege II
Macklemore is another artist who has been inspired by racial inequality. In 2016, his track White Privilege II was released which begins with a white Macklemore joining in on a protest but he questions whether he has the right to march due to his personal privilege. The song continues to cover other aspects of racial inequality that many people face. One of the songwriters “Ben Haggerty” said in an interview with NPR that the song is “purposefully…uncomfortable.” This is more than just a song – it’s a statement piece against racial prejudice.
“We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance-like, yet we just stand by
We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?”
Childish Gambino – This Is America
A more visual example, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” has over 700 million views on YouTube. This video and song (released in 2018) is a true journey, highlighting the violent undercoat that encumbers America. At the beginning a man is shot, the man is dragged out of shot, but the gun that shoots him is carefully carried away. Acts of violence is a constant background in the video, as Gambino uses his eccentric and individualistic dance moves try to and distract us.
“Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy)
Guns in my area (word, my area)
I got the strap (ayy, ayy)
I gotta carry ‘em”
Dave – Black (Live at the Brits 2020)
The 2020 BRITs featured some amazing current artists such as Billie Eilish and Lizzo but the rapper, Dave, used his performance to call attention to a real issue that faces our society today. The simplistic stage set-up was incredibly effective and alongside the painful lyrics, he created a huge impact on the historic award ceremony. His song, Black was released in 2019 but for his performance at the BRIT Awards, he added another verse that argues that everyone deserves equality and if someone doesn’t see that now, they probably never will.
“Black is people namin’ your countries on what they trade most
Coast of Ivory, Gold Coast, and the Grain Coast
But most importantly to show how deep all this pain goes
West Africa, Benin, they called it slave coast”
Diversity’s Britain’s Got Talent Performance
Artists haven’t only released music in retaliation of racial hatred, but other forms of art too. Diversity performed on the Semi-Finals of Britain’s Got Talent this year, with a performance inspired by the tragedy of the death of George Floyd. Ashley Banjo was seen lying on the floor with a policeman resting on the back of his neck, and he shared the words, “Black Lives Matter.” This caused outrage with some, with over 24,000 complaints (As of September 24, 2020) being made with Ofcom. The communications regulator, however, decided to not investigate the performance.
Take a look at the official Spotify “Black Lives Matter” playlist for more examples of anti-racial inequality inspired music.
Image: Mel Melcon