Hot Track of the Week: “Pray” by Flobots

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Denver’s Flobots stoked the fires of hope and resistance spreading across the nation on election day with a release of their new single “Pray.” Stringing together painful vignettes of the oppression and discrimination - across lines of race, religion, and gender - that have divided the US since its inception, this song is a rallying cry calling for Americans to usher in a new age of solidarity and cooperation. https://soundcloud.com/flobotsofficial/pray-extended

The song opens with a prophetic calling for America to confront its stained legacies, soiled by the words and deeds of a “toxic whiteness” that has consumed every other people caught in its grasp. These words ring out against the incantations of a traditional Sacred Harp choir, as noted on GratefulWeb.

Asking the American people to cast off the traditions and ideas inherited from hateful men of ages past, the song beckons for all people to claim the nation not as history has left it, but as they might enact it now; when we accept others as family, no boundaries can hold us apart.  

The song quickly erupts into a grandiose hip-hop symphony. The group’s lyricists Brer Rabbit and Jonny 5 show off their abilities as the song continuously switches time signature, reflective of the tumult of today’s political arena. They make references to the 3/5ths Compromise and the continued fight by the Black Lives Matter movement against discriminatory policing, and have no hesitation in doing so.

Featuring a bold, swung chorus with a repeated motif of “pray the pale white devil back to hell,” it is easy to decry this song for judging our nation’s new leader in such a grotesque light, before he has even had the opportunity to make impacts on our nation’s policy. Yet, right off the bat I’d like to propose that this is not the main message of the song; after all, the Donald’s skin tone is a commercial, chemical orange, a far departure from both pale and white.

To claim that this song supports division and hateful politicizing on account of that one lyric is to ignore every other idea discussed throughout: the marginalized peoples of today’s world can free themselves from the shackles of a painful past - only if the people born into whiteness (and maleness and power) throw away the philosophies that have poisoned our humanity. If we all reject complicity in the racist, unequal system that pervades every aspect of society, there is no human connection (or legacy) that we cannot recover.

“Pray” is not the end of the conversation. Flobots members will be hosting a Facebook Live session on January 30th (7PM MST), and will be accepting and answering questions from viewers. See here.

Yet, the conversation does not even end there. The streets must become the new Forums.

A stage for protests. Riots. Prayers.

And if we can find the courage to talk to one another, we might find that our stories are not so different, after all.

See you out there.