Screenshot of  J. Cole  video at the memorial site for Michael Brown. (Courtesy @RichVisionMedia)

In the wake of the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown by a White police officer in Ferguson, Mo., a number of prominent musicians have released songs expressing their thoughts and feelings on the incident.

J. Cole released a track titled “Free.”

On Aug. 15, Hiphop artist and producer J. Cole released a track titled “Free.” Over a brooding synth keyboard, Cole sings a pained chorus:

“All we want to do is take the chains off/all we want to do is break the chains off me/all we want to do is be free.”

The song’s release on the popular Soundcloud service was accompanied by a written message from Cole.

“Rest in peace to Michael Brown and to every young Black man murdered in America, whether by the hands of White or Black,” he wrote.

B.O.B. released “New Black”. (Courtesy Photo)

Atlanta recording artist B.O.B. released “New Black” on Aug. 19, 2014, in which he reflects on the ambivalences of Black self-definition. The song takes issue with those who wittingly or unwittingly allow for violence against their fellow Blacks as part of that definition, or who would tailor such a definition too narrowly—but recognizes that the artist himself is subject to his own critique.

“We need less rappers and more doctorates/we need less ballers and more prophets/we need more unity less gossip/but who am I to speak? I never went to college,” B.O.B. raps.

Lauryn Hill’ “Black Rage.” (Courtesy Photo)

The legendary Lauryn Hill took to Twitter and her personal website on Aug. 20 to release what she called a sketch of a song titled “Black Rage.” Hill uses the melody of “My Favorite Things,” a well-known song from the musical “The Sound of Music,” to sing the story of Black anger in places like Ferguson and elsewhere.

“Black rage is founded on blatant denial/squeezed economics, subsistence survival/deafening silence and social control/Black rage is founded on wounds in the soul,” sings Hill.

The song’s chorus is a reminder that America’s history of violence and oppression against African Americans leaves room for few other emotions.

“When the dogs bite/when the beatings/when I’m feeling sad/I simply remember all these kinds of things/and then I don’t fear so bad,” the song concludes.


Roberto Alejandro

Special to the AFRO