October of 2014, Ferguson October, we gathered in the lawn across from the courthouse, the place infamous for denying Dred Scott his personhood under the law. We are rallying together to mourn what is lost and to build strength for what is possible.
|Kiener Plaza, St Louis, MO|
The crowd gets a little more energized. Some people start rapping along. I listen along for a while, then I look around me and observe the physical space we are occupying, and recognize this space as a product of the music.
Woop-woop, that's the sound of da police
Woop-woop, that's the sound of da beast
You need a little clarity, check the similarityThe lyrics are clever, the WHOOP is catchy. KRS-One is taking his experiences and those of his community, and creating a work of art to share with them. Then, by replaying this work at the rally, the community is creating physical space for themselves.
The overseer rode around the plantation
The officer is off, patrolling all the nation
The overseer could stop you what you're doing
The officer will pull you over just when he's pursuing
The police them have a little gunThe physical boundaries of this community space has been delineated by the audible range of the lyrics. Anyone within the space who can hear it will be confronted with its charged message - those who identify with it can stay and share their common values with others, and those who find it hostile to themselves can tolerate their awkward outsider status or leave.
So when I'm on the streets, I walk around with a bigger one
KRS One - Sound of Da Police
Chants of protesters and activists have frequently been borrowed from rap, and vice versa. "No justice, no peace!" we shout. Then the artists go to their studios and create lyrics that expand their message.
Warrior Minded feat. Dramatik - No Justice, No Peace
Similarly, people on the streets draw from popular songs for their chants, such as when protesters reminded each other “We gon’ be alright.”
Protesters Chanting Lyrics
Kendrick Lamar - Alright
Rap has always been a way to create community space and convey narratives of shared experiences. I'll leave the details to the experts, but here are a few more examples I highly recommend you experience:
Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes (of TLC), MC Lyte, Patra, Nefertiti, Da 5 Footaz, Salt-N-Pepa, Meshell Ndegeocello and others... the song was a tribute to women of the past like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisholm, and Angela Davis who played major roles in black resistance, as well as the empowerment of women of the present.
Beyoncé - Ghost
Thoughts on capitalism being at odds with creativity.
Miss Bolivia ft. Rebeca Lane & Ali Gua Gua – Libre Atrevida y Loca
Featuring femmes of all sorts of gender expressions and filmed in Argentina, Guatemala, and Mexico (where Miss Bolivia, Lane, and Ali Gua Gua are from, respectively) .
Angel Haze - Same Love (remix of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)
The only version of this song anyone ever needs to hear.