We’re living in an interesting age; there is more acceptance towards different types of looks in the entertainment industry, i.e. Fetty Wap’s eye and the beautiful Chantelle Winnie with her vitiligo. There was mainly a welcoming acceptance of Laverne Cox and now Caitlyn Jenner and the United States of America finally legalized marriage for everyone. These things are amazing considering the fact that only about 50 years ago there was some serious open hate in the world. Although things are going well for certain groups, police brutality affects black and brown people at a disproportionate rate.
I think that after witnessing the horrors of Ferguson, MO where Michael Brown was murdered by a police officer who got to walk off scot free, remembering the ridiculous media frenzy created with the Trayvon Martin story, Aiyana Stanley-Jones who was shot dead in a police raid at just the age of 7 and many more; people are just getting fed up. There are tons of viral videos taken by bystanders who witness these things and offer proof; did you see the one where the officer beats up a pregnant woman? These things are not coincidental and show that there is definitely more work and training to be done with officers across North America. Slowly, but surely things are happening so I just wanted to give a big salute to rappers who are using their fame for good and speaking up for Black communities affected by racism.
First we have Big KRIT. I was so excited when I saw this good-looking dude proudly rocking a black t-shirt that read, “Across cultures, darker people suffer most. Why?” on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon as the musical guest. That was a great way to show sensitivity to what is going on in the world today and to show some support towards the movement. He really did some thinking there!
Next on the list we have one of the realest rappers today, J. Cole! Who doesn’t love the Colester? Not only does he spit some relatable stuff on his tracks, but also he’s not afraid to show people what’s going on through video. In J. Cole’s video for “Crooked Smile” feat. TLC we see him going about his daily activities at home with his family. We see him brushing his teeth, doing chores and preparing for a family barbecue. At the same time we follow a man who we learn is a SWAT team officer going through his day with his daughter before he and his team raid J. Cole’s house and shoot his little girl in the cross fire. This video is based on the very true story of the Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Once again the bad guy got away with murder, but because of J. Cole’s video and great song, we won’t forget what happened.
Third we have a very smooth secret from hip hop’s Bonnie and Clyde -- Bey and Jay! Rumour has it that the star-studded couple gave tens of thousands to help bail out protestors who were arrested in the Ferguson and Baltimore as part of the “Black Lives Matter” movement currently underway. This could be true as the sources were a few tweets from activist/director Dream Hampton who worked with Jay-Z on his 2010 biography, Decoded. In an attempt to stop the uprising, some protesters’ bail was set as high as $500,000 (The Guardian, 2015). Hampton’s tweets were later deleted. I don’t know about y’all but I think the rumours are true. I choose to believe that Jay-Z and Beyoncé want to help uplift Black communities.
Next on the list is another music video; this one is from Run The Jewels feat. Zack de la Rocha. “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F**k)” depicts an unarmed Black man being chased by a White gun-totting police officer. It’s clear that these men have been fighting for days and are at the point of exhaustion. The fight clumsily carries on through the streets and eventually the Black man’s house. Sadly at the end of the video the Black man has nowhere else to run and he and the officer wind up exhausted in his room sitting back to back on his bed. The video really makes you think and will probably cause those who are not affected to see the damage that is really being done. The video is definitely watch worthy and the track is amazing; the director really managed to capture the “futility of violence” (Rojas, 2015).
Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Canadian rapper John River. Although he is still new to the industry, he was not afraid to take a stance on the racial violence that is so prevalent today. River wore a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt this past June at the Much Music Video Awards and was happily photographed in it on the red carpet before the national airing show.
I do understand the fact that some artists don’t want any backlash from their participation, but shouldn’t they be concerned as the Hip-Hop genre was born in Black communities and still mostly serves them today. Some artists probably don’t want to be seen as troublemakers or lose sales and some probably just don’t even feel affected anymore because they’re rich and famous. All in all it is their decision to make, depending on how they choose to get involved, there doesn’t have to be any negativity. Let’s be honest and say that most people get into the entertainment industry to make money and we know they sacrificed a lot to get there, but that doesn’t mean that they have to forget where they came from. Big Ups to the artists out there who care! - Asha Mullings