Issue 2: #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd
Yeah, the revolution is the genocide // Look, your execution will be televised
I’ve drafted several versions of this newsletter issue this week. Things are developing so fast that it’s been near impossible to process all the news and imagery coming out of the US. It’s literally changing by the minute. The revolution isn’t being televised, it’s being live-streamed on Tik Tok.
On the one hand, the murder of George Floyd is (sadly) not out of the ordinary for the American news cycle. It’s barely been two weeks since Ahmaud Arbery’s lynching went viral (months after the act), and here we are watching chilling footage of yet another senseless death in broad daylight.
Maybe it was because of the brutal nature of suffocating to death over nine minutes. Or maybe it was because of the desperate cries of “I can’t breathe” being eerily reminiscent to Eric Garner’s death in 2014…But something about this death hit different. George Floyd became the spark in the powder keg of US race and class tensions this decade.
Very few of us will ever have to face the same experience that Black America faces every waking moment. I’m a first generation born Malaysian Chinese Australian living in the Czech Republic (long story…). What could I possibly know of police brutality?
I started deadset as a platform to explore the deeper context of music and pop culture. Hip-hop has played a major role in that, particularly in the last five to ten years. Hip-hop resonates across cultural, racial and language barriers. It has undeniably become the main currency that global pop culture trades in today, infiltrating everywhere from isolated, rural Slovakia to mega-cities like Seoul and Shanghai.
As an international community, we watch what’s transpiring in the US with both abject horror and fascination. How do we respond? Sharing on social media, donating to civil rights groups, reading and staying informed…is that enough?
As lovers of hip-hop, the issue goes a little deeper.
Alongside the obvious social media posts and sharing of showing support, another sentiment has emerged:
It’s no secret that hip-hop was birthed out of oppression. Hip-hop is political by definition. Ignoring that fact does the artform a disservice.
As hip-hop spreads in global popularity and is increasingly accepted by the mainstream, no doubt some of that heritage is lost on the next generation of music fans. ‘Conscious rap’ will never have the same widespread appeal as the Tekashi 6ix9ines or Lil Pumps of the world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to educate each other.
Through the lyrics of artists like Rakim, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Wu Tang Clan, Black Thought, Mos Def, Nas, Odd Future, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and countless others, I have learned so much about the experience of the ‘other’. In a multitude of ways, I have consequently learned so much about my own self.
We have two choices. To be a mere consumer of black culture. Or to meaningfully engage with it. Are you in it just for the hype? Or do you appreciate the fact that history often weighs so heavy on the human being behind the mic and slick production?
While I pray that you may never experience a boot on your neck, the lyrics and themes of these artists have the power to change your life. They indeed have changed mine, and continue to do so on the daily.
So of course, continue to listen to your favourite artists. But speak out against racism and injustice. Don’t just bump a tune and sneak in an ‘n-word’ when no one’s around. Read the news, sign petitions, volunteer…hell, punch a Nazi if it ever comes to it. The time is over to be quietly not racist. Be actively anti racist.
But we have no right to continue consuming hip-hop or appropriating black culture without acknowledging the ongoing struggle of our fellow human beings who are simply fighting for their own breath.
So where the bloody hell are ya?
Alongside other antipodean blogs and digital content creators, the following statement has been shared and I stand by it:
As an Australian, it does feel like George Floyd is a very foreign and distant concept, because let’s face it…it is. For a lot of us, these issues are ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
However, there is a responsibility for us to respond on a local scale. It’s that old cliche that does indeed carry truth to it: think global, act local.
In that regard, that is something I am working on. Due to the nature of our pop culture reality, a lot of our knowledge and understanding comes from the American perspective. One of my earliest memories is being absolutely heartbroken by the racism portrayed in The Green Mile. But did I ever feel that way when watching or reading Australian stories?
This consumption of Americana coupled with an intrinsically Australian apathy/denial towards race and politics, means that our collective understanding and engagement with Indigenous affairs has an atrocious track record.
If you’re wondering how to respond to the death of George Floyd as an Australian, this post by Zee Feed is very helpful. As well as donating money, Zee Feed reminds us that it is crucial to advocate for Indigenous rights and to support Black, Indigenous and People of Colour’s business, work, art, causes and initiatives. They also include some helpful links to educate yourself on ongoing issues.
May 26 was National Sorry Day, marking Reconciliation Week. Now is as perfect a time as any to do these things.
I’m going to open this section with a perfect tweet from J.I.D. before highlighting some artists’ reaction to this week’s events:
Chance The Rapper
The Washington Post @washingtonpost"I cannot breathe!": FBI investigates death of black man after video shows cop kneeling on his neck https://t.co/y9sAjmWvtv
Phil 4 Real @PreyForMeMovie1@TalibKweli Bro look at THIS murder from @MinneapolisPD ! https://t.co/gbzKl1IEiP
Taylor vs Trump
It’s old news to Trump-bash on Twitter, but POTUS really outdid himself this week. What’s remarkable is that Taylor Swift managed more eloquence and coherent thought than any statement from Trump in recent memory (although I guess that’s not exactly a high bar to achieve).
“When the looting starts the shooting starts” is a historical reference that was included in a tweet from Trump addressing the protests turned rebellions. It has roots in the 1960s when racial tensions in the US were again at an all-time high.
Trump claims ignorance, saying it was a literal warning of things escalating, which of course they did. However, it has been suggested as a deliberate coded message to fuel the alt-right propaganda machine.
The original statement was by a former Miami police chief in response to crime sprees in black neighbourhoods. It was condemned even then by civil rights activists:
The president of the Miami chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., Dr. George Simpson, expressed fear that the chief was directing his force “to revert to the law-enforcement practices of 15 or 20 years ago when, in too many instances, to be black was to be guilty.” The field secretary of the group’s Florida chapter, Marvin Davies, said, “This man has no place in a position of public trust.”
Replace “chief” with President of the United States, and "15 or 20 years ago” with “50 or 60 years ago” and you’ll get an idea of what kind of ‘greatness’ Trump and his MAGATs desire.
The fact that Taylor Swift is the one speaking political wisdom in this scenario is further proof that 2020 is the series finale to reality we’ve all been waiting for.
Now back to our regular programming:
Album of the Week
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist - Alfredo
Just soak it in. Featuring that trademark Alchemist crackle and pop alongside Freddie’s seductive flow makes for a hypnotic experience. It sounds like its album art, a thick and creamy yet delightful and refreshing plate of pasta and cream sauce.
This newsletter’s subtitle, “Yeah, the revolution is the genocide/Look, your execution will be televised” is taken from track “Scottie Beam”.
Lyric of the Week
Pulled into the parking lot, parked it
Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers
In my head like, “Is this awkward?
Should I even be here marching?”
Thinking if they can’t, how can I breathe?
Thinking that they chant, what do I sing?
I want to take a stance cause we are not free
And then I thought about it, we are not “we”
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Jamila Woods - “White Privilege II” (2016)
Numbers of the Week
29.2%: the proportion of Spotify streams on Blackpink’s feature “Sour Candy” on Lady Gaga’s new album compared to her lead single with Ariana Grande “Rain On Me”;
65,000: the voter registration spike in a 24 hour period the last time Taylor Swift spoke out politically (specifically on voter registration). This was more than the entire previous month;
21,200: number of people viewing Halsey’s livestream from the frontline of a protest in Hollywood;
7 and 1: number of “fucks” and “MF”s in Billie Eilish’s post about George Floyd;
$450,000: amount of money raised by Powderfinger during their online reunion stream. The money was for live music industry group Support Act and mental health group Beyond Blue;
2: age of Juice WRLD’s seminal album Goodbye & Good Riddance. Posthumous single with Trippie Redd, “Tell Me U Luv Me” was released this week too.
A custom playlist featuring songs written after the death of Eric Garner in 2014 featuring either references to “I can’t breathe” or Garner himself. The full lyrical breakdown was published last week with link below.