All of this, spurred by death.
Too many days of anger, and hearing from the white mainstream that I shouldn’t be angry. There have been days of crying at my desk, of shouting in my car. Of feeling an urge to jump into the car and peel off into the night, somewhere between Rocky IV’s “There’s No Easy Way Out” sequence and Taylor Kitsch’s motorcycle PTSD freakout in the dark on True Detective.
Amid all this death, I’ve had the music speak to my head on fire. Music is the pop culture that has satisfied me most in these times of unrest, in a year when Black Lives Matter mutated from a hashtag into a movement.
“Be Free” by J. Cole
Yet Cole remains defiant, because to persist is to live, to stop is to truly die.
“Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” by Run The Jewels
On the days I feel especially radical, this song comes out. Sure, a thorough accounting of American racism is a radical act, given the miseducation that we receive. But if fear of black revolt is in the foundation of American racism, from slavery to now, Killer Mike, El-P and Zach de la Rocha (raging against the machine so hard that he breaks it) indulge their fantasies of that revolt made real.
From killing police and waterboarding prison wardens to taking down “liars and politicians, profiteers of the prisons,” Killer Mike raps, “we’re killing them for freedom ‘cause they tortured us for boredom.”
“The Charade” by D’Angelo and The Vanguard
Whatever rage I have isn’t blind. It’s mixed with many other emotions, including a deep heartache. There’s the grief in seeing so many lives interrupted and cut down, which is unbearable enough. Add to it the indignity of your experience invalidated, disbelieved and erased, and that fire on my head gets Ghost Rider size. D’Angelo, in his album full of liberation music, sings of the giant charade required to keep the oppression of people hidden and silent, but “feet have bled, a million miles we’ve walked.”
The blood can’t be denied forever.
“Scream” by Michael and Janet Jackson
I like “They Don’t Care About Us” just fine, but it’s “Scream” with little sister Janet that gets me yelling. There’s a pleasure I take in hearing them aggressively sing, “Stop pressuring me, stop fucking with me.” Keeping my aggressions in for the sake of not upsetting too many folks has its moments of necessity, but sometimes I wonder if it’s slowly killing me inside.
“Alright” by Kendrick Lamar