Ferguson: The Rap Artists’ Response
It was announced on November 24th that Police Officer Darren Wilson would not face criminal charges in regards to the shooting of Michael Brown.
Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot 6 times, and killed by officer Darren Wilson on August 9th. Eyewitnesses stated that Brown posed no threat, and was walking towards Wilson with his hands up when the shots were fired. This has prompted the symbolic “Hands up don’t shoot” gesture, which has become a poignant sign of protest.
The FBI states that around 400 “justifiable homicides” take place each year, nationwide. Some news investigations have observed an out of the norm prevalence. For example, Los Angeles experienced an increase in such incidents in 2011.
In addition to this, a leading investigative outlet ProPublica, released a report in October, which shows that young black men are 21 times more likely to be the victim of a police shooting than their white counterparts. The study stated “The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.”
Following the shooting, a series of protests took place in the city, and were met by militarized police. Civilians were subjected to tear gas and rubber bullets, and a media blockade was set up. News of the Ferguson protests quickly spread through social media, and news outlets, causing a global outrage.
In the wake of the Grand Jury’s controversial decision not to indict Darren Wilson, a multitude of prominent members of the hip-hop community have come forward to express their anger and sorrow. Many stars have taken to twitter, including Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) who posted a plea for citizens to “begin with prayer” and to be safe during this tumultuous time. Talib Kweli (@TalibKweli), who stated “Ferguson my heart is with you” and who in an interview with CNN stated “we live in world that is run by white supremacy”
Artists have released songs in tribute and as a form of protest throughout the entire ordeal. Lauryn Hill released a sketch of her song “Black Rage” back in August, dedicated to Mike Brown, which speaks volumes about the social stratification present in today’s society. A particularly resonating line, “deafening silence and social control”, shines a harsh spotlight on societies tendency to turn a blind eye, and truly personify the idiom “Ignorance is bliss”.
J. Cole, who visited Ferguson to pay his respects, is also among the artists that have written songs for Mike Brown and Ferguson. In his track, “Be Free” which debuted on his Soundcloud, Cole begs the question “are we all alone, fighting on our own”. The haunting lyrics, accompanied by the eyewitness account of Dorian Johnson, make the track a powerful homage to Ferguson.
The Game joined forces with an all-star lineup for his song “Don’t Shoot”. The Game states, “the issues in Ferguson really hit home”, and that he “cannot fathom a horrific tragedy like Michael Brown’s happening to them (his children)”. All money from the iTunes sales will be donated to the Mike Brown Memorial Fund.
Jasiri X made a song called 212 Degrees referring to our social situation that is in a boiling point, he stated “The lid is about to blow off this whole masquerade”
With protests about the shooting of Mike Brown and the attempt to make a systemic change, now becoming a global effort, championed by people from all walks of life, it is clear that the tragedy has sparked the beginning of a new era. To quote Michael Brown’s grief-stricken parents, “Let’s not just make noise, let’s make a difference”.