Time to Face the Music: The Industry’s Reaction to the Ferguson Shooting
Not too long ago, just back on August 9th, the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer shook the nation. The 18 year-old and college bound Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri sparked the nationwide talk on racism and the responsibility and trustworthiness of the police forces. This tragedy didn’t just end with talking and uproar and protest; the music world got just as involved. There were reactions on social media as well as in the form of song. Folk artist Ezra Furman penned a rather straightforward depiction of the shooting and the injustice. While some may have voiced distress about his approach and the extremely early release of the single (which happened almost immediately following the incident), he argued that this kind of blatancy is needed. Why should people stay quiet about these kinds of issues any longer? Even if this case of police brutality doesn’t end up with Darren Wilson’s conviction, it still helps to bring awareness to the issue. Listen to Bob Dylan-esque “Ferguson’s Burning” here:
Lauryn Hill and J. Cole also stepped onto the court releasing singles in reaction to the Ferguson shooting. Lauryn Hill’s “Black Rage” is haunting and tragic and based directly on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. This lo-fi/ hip-hop/ musical track is a “sketch” recorded in her living room, reflecting the not-so glamorous means by which everybody can begin to make a difference. Check the track out here:
Cole’s “Be Free” is an elegy with very few words and little change in the music but this understated track is powerful. I felt a chill over my whole body hearing Cole’s desperate voice. The chorus almost brought me to tears, especially when it was followed by recordings of the people that were with Michael Brown at the time of his shooting. It’s a track that needs to be listened to in order to get the whole picture. Listen to it with the link here:
The other two aforementioned tracks were also released on Soundcloud, speaking to the urgency of this music for society’s reception. This kind of music couldn’t wait for a new single or album release the people needed to hear it as soon as they could,
The hip-hop community also crashed the party, led by The Game, on a massive track called “Don’t Shoot”, a poignant call to the issue of police brutality. This track features twelve other artists including Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Curren$y, Problem, King Pharaoh, and TGT. Hear the whole thing below:
G-Unit released “Ahh S—t”, a track not only addressing the murder of Mike Brown but also Eric Garner, a Staten-Island native who died of heart attack during police arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes. Young Buck, Kidd Kidd, and 50 Cent’s track can be listened to here:
This is just the tip of the iceberg to music’s reaction to Ferguson but it also shows that this society is no longer willing to accept injustice when it comes to police brutality and racism, or any crime for that matter. Anything you can do to aid the end to injustice and help people is worth it, even if it only starts with a song.