After grand juries declined to indict the police officers in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, many musicians have taken to social media to discuss their feelings about the cases and the deeply screwed up racial issues in America. Roots drummer Questlove joined in yesterday, tweeting, “I’m ashamed. Mostly because I’m no longer shocked at things now-a-days. Nothing is shocking.”
But today, he took a different tack and challenged his peers to use their creative powers for change with an Instagram post that used Public Enemy’s iconic image of a black man in the crosshairs of a gun. His call to action is also a criticism of the artistic community, mainly because of how few people in the industry supported the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines after she said she was ashamed of President George W. Bush’s actions with regards to the war in Iraq, comments that led to boycotts and death threats.
“I know that many see what happened to Dixie Chicks’ #NatalieMaines @mainesmusic (she bravely expressed her opinion/dismay on the Bush administration declaring war & was unjustly targeted….while in hindsight being CORRECT) suddenly there was an onslaught of radio silence from artists across the board (correction not everyone was silent, but the silence was deafening),” Questlove wrote.
Saying his “soul is aching,” he also cites some of the best politically charged acts in music, including Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Rage Against the Machine, and Nina Simone. Read his entire message below.
I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in. I know that many see what happened to Dixie Chicks' #NatalieMaines @mainesmusic (she bravely expressed her opinion/dismay on the Bush administration declaring war & was unjustly targeted….while in hindsight being CORRECT) suddenly there was an onslaught of radio silence from artists across the board (correction not everyone was silent, but the silence was deafening) although I'm kinda/sorta addressing the hip hop nation I really apply this challenge to ALL artists. We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Roachas. New ideas! But it just doesn't stop there!! We need outlets (hello #ClearChannel #RadioOne #Vh1) to balance the system. Yeah I'm just as guilty of feeling the high of all that I despise ("Devil's Pie" D'angelo) but the reason why this nation seems to be moving 3 steps ahead in some areas…..but then 7 steps backwards in every area is a lack of balance. I'm not saying every song gotta be "Fight The Power" but in times like these we need to be more community minded (taking a wild guess that "urban radio's" format didn't change much from the pre program stuff (using that word *politely*) we've been hearing for years. & when I say challenge I don't mean breathless race to the finish on who makes the more banging "Fuck Tha Police" sequel. I mean real stories. Real narratives. Songs with spirit in them. Songs with solutions. Songs with questions. Protest songs don't have to be boring or non danceable or ready made for the next Olympics. They just have to speak truth. I laugh & have fun w "Bitch You Guessed It" like everyone else. But my soul is aching man. Seriously just ONE or Two songs that change the course. This is something I feel the need and urgency to put out there. #EricGarner #MikeBrown #JusticeForAll #FeedMySoul #HandsUpDontShoot #ICantBreathe