Art for Z-Ro and Mike Dean's "No Justice No Peace"
How do you begin to process the events of the past week, which have played out like some fucked up recurring nightmare, where the stakes become slightly more surreal and horrifying with each passing hour? How do you make sense of the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the latest names to be added to that grim, too-familiar roster of innocents gunned down by law enforcement? What do you do with the videos, with the news of more such killings, with the shooting at a protest in Dallas? How do you continue to deal with this hell, the latest dispiriting chapter in the country's long racist history? How do you protect yourself from falling apart at the same time?
There are no easy answers to these questions other than the dull, discouraging ones that don't offer much comfort. But if there is anything that might help, perhaps it is art. And in the wake of these most recent shootings, musicians have been particularly outspoken in their critiques of racist policing and tributes to the victims. Whether it's been Drake and Joey Bada$$ and Chance the Rapper speaking out on social media, Beyoncé putting the names center stage at her concert, or artists like Jay Z releasing songs, people are finding ways to contribute to the conversation. It's even attracted astute commentary from artists abroad. Among the artists who have been compelled to release music addressing the issue of police violence against black people in recent days are—along with Jay Z—Miguel, Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q's Black Hippy crew, Z-Ro and Mike Dean, Scarface and Swizz Beatz, Slim Thug, Mistah F.A.B., Princess Nokia, and the combination of B.o.B., Big K.R.I.T., and Akon. There will undoubtedly be others.
As Slim Thug noted in releasing his song "IDKY," which was recorded prior to this week, the issue unfortunately has remained timely. Both Z-Ro and Mistah F.A.B. use their new recordings to interpolate Geto Boys' "Crooked Officer" (which Z-Ro also references in his famous "Mo City Don Freestyle"), a song that came out more than 20 years ago, not too long after the Rodney King beating. Violent police behavior is, unfortunately, nothing new. Here are some of the newest songs discussing it:
UPDATE: Boogie has shared a song called "Hypocrite Freestyle," which samples the speech Alton Sterling's son's mother gave on TV and states "I don't even want to get asked bout it / it's hard enough for me to rap 'bout it / without me thinking I'm a hypocrite":
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