Mixtape: The Sound of Resistance
When asked to compile a mixtape that would capture the mood of the various protests against the rising levels of police brutality in the US, I figured there were already enough incredibly smart, convincing playlists online, like, for example, this playlist. No, what the internet really lacks is background to the tracks — not just the whats, but the whys, namely, why these songs are so essential right now. My favorite playlist is pretty much what follows, to which I also added two tracks. Not all of the songs on the playlist are available on Spotify thanks (or no thanks) to copyright and label issues. As such, you can find them in the list but not included in the Spotify embed.
It feels like the body of work connected to the track Black Power is close to functioning as a mini documentary about the Baltimore protests. After Freddie Gray was arrested and killed by the police in April 2015, the tragic incident led to a number of protests and sparked unrest, similar to those following Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in November 2014.
Imagine you’re black, you live in the USA and the police decide to search you. FUCK! Something that seems like a routine procedure has become a fight for survival in recent years. Great track, great video by Killer Mike, who repeatedly and publicly commented on police brutality in the US; his producer and RTJ partner EI-P and supported by THE voice of political resistance of the 90s, Zach de la Rocha, former frontman of one of the best bands of all time, Rage Against The Machine.
This track is grrrl power at its very best. The openly pansexual artist with a Cherokee background has caused quite the stir in recent years — but you should believe the hype. Anyone who’s looking for music with a sprinkling of IDGAF attitude can call off the search: you’ll have found exactly what you needed in Angel Haze.
The sound of the future. The rise of the ghetto house genre Chicago Footwork/Juke is closely connected to DJ Rashad. Shortly after the release of his debut album Double Cups, the music scene learned of the sudden death of this über father figure. Arguably the man was more than a role model for many underground producers in Chicago, a city that has experienced far more than its fair share of gun violence.
There’s no other band that currently epitomises Afropunk better than Ho99o9 do. Anti, anti, anti… FUCK OFF!! These guys from Newark, New Jersey completely embody the zeitgeist of black resistance. A force of nature.
Mykki Blanco is the coolest — but really. I first came across Mykki via Join My Militia way back in 2012 and I wasn’t initially able to classify her music. Instead, I just let it wash over me and thought: this shit is sick. I’ve often got the impression of late that the LGBT community has had a huge positive influence on the actions and protests within the Black Lives Matter movement, so who makes more sense for this list than one of the queer pioneers of the current rap scene?
One day, three black kids from Brooklyn, New York decide to start a heavy metal band. This was shocking to some, while others saw it as a sign of rebellion against the constricts of today’s society. There were many more forcefully made-up reasons for the formation of the band — when actually, they’re nothing less than exactly what humanity needs. Unlocking The Truth are all-round great guys and need to be added to the list.
Before Scepta, Wiley and Stormzy, there was one Dizzy Rascal, who was probably the first major star of the internationally-acclaimed UK grime genre. His single Sirens and its music video perfectly encapsulates the mood of the protests, the worry and the resistance of young black kids in western cities who are repressed by the state and specifically by police forces.
What’s the problem, officer? So-called (and often unjustified) routine checks can do a lot more than just fuck up your day. Especially when your appearance doesn’t fit into the idea some police officers have of a law-abiding citizen… Some of you might have been in a situation where you thought Damn, what’s their problem this time? The track by the UK duo Mitchell Brothers; The Streets’ Michael Skinner who courteously lent his voice and grime legend Kano perfectly expresses the feeling when you really don’t want anyone to mess up your day. I Didn’t Take This Route To Be Checked is a song that still crosses my mind when I’m going through bureaucratic trouble or when I hear of another police check that ended badly.
The title of this track speaks for itself. Within the black community the consensus is that in an emergency you shouldn’t call 911, because it’ll just mean things will get worse, not better. Am I going too far in claiming that a society, in which community forces become seriously threaten people instead of protecting them, is a broken one?
The world had to wait 14 years for proof that neo-soul father figure D’Angelo was still alive and as creative as ever. At the end of 2014, when police brutality dramatically peaked led he already had finished most of his comeback album The Vanguard. What took place in Ferguson led D’Angelo do some soul-searching and he asked his label to release Black Messiah as quickly as possible. Tracks like 1000 Deaths speak for themselves and are testament to the fact that it was about time to give the people a piece of soul back.
16 Shots is dedicated to Laquan McDonald, the Chicago teenager who was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. Vic Mensa describes the record as kind of “self defense”: To me, Laquan McDonald represents Emmett Till, which represents every name down the line and since then a lot of things have changed, but one main thing [that] hasn’t changed, is that our lives are not respected.
The video for the title track of Flying Lotus’ Album You’re Dead! is nothing less impressive than a short film directed by Kahlil Joseph (who has also directed videos for the likes of FKA Twigs and Kendrick Lamar). Gloomy images of victims of a fictitious shooting in the neighbourhood of Watts, L.A. in combination with the driving sounds of beat maker Guru and Brainfeeder’s mastermind Flying Lotus, created an atmospheric —and in light of the almost-daily killings in American cities — an almost cynically beautiful work of art.
Fire every cop, we don’t need them. U the only thing between me and my freedom. This song was created as a product over the course of the Grand Jury’s decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson, the police officer who murdered Michael Brown. Subsequently, in November 2014 unrest started to grow in Ferguson, Missouri, and later all over the USA.
15. Rocks FOE – Law
Beyond bleak. The song and video for Law by Rocks FOE depicts a gloomy vision of what can happen when, in a not too faraway future the tables turn and angry people take the law into their own hands. Policing the police. A strong song and an even stronger video.
What can be said about this song that hasn’t already been said? It hasn’t taken long for this track and its accompanying video to become a hymn for black empowerment. The impact of the song becomes clearest when the chorus WE GONNA BE ALRIGHT!! is sung by various political activists who are marching at protests, no matter if they’re marching against Donald Trump or in Baltimore.
Not on Spotify
If a song by one of the most important people in the music industry manages to rile the police so much that they refuse to provide security at her future gigs, then this speaks for itself.
It ain’t safe on the block, not even for the cops.
Grime king Skepta marks his territory.
Written by: Soriba Martin
Images: Kemi, Coco