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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘War’ By Nas Featuring Raye

An album of songs inspired by the film, “The Birth Of A Nation,” which opens on October 7, contains multiple protest songs celebrating Nat Turner as a black revolutionary.

As the film’s website describes, the film directed by Nate Parker is set against the antebellum South. Samuel Turner, who owns the slave and preacher, offers Nat a job preaching to help control his slaves. But Turner experiences several atrocities committed against him and fellow slaves and ultimately becomes the leader of an uprising.

Rap artist Nas, along with R&B singer Raye, connects the story of Nat Turner to the legacy of slavery playing out in black communities throughout the United States on a daily basis.

In the song called, “War,” Nas compares himself to Nat. He raps, “It’s time to get my liberation, the perfect configuration. It’s the birth of a nation, midwife black,” and, with a clear nod to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, “When they say make America great again, do they mean make us all slaves again?”

The second verse from Nas moves on from the comparisons between him and Nat to universal desires for liberation. He raps about black people not wanting to be depicted as criminals, especially when they’re poor. “Why doesn’t the government order capital punishment to officers who racial profile and put slugs in us? Makes me think they want us extinct.”

Referencing the recent uprisings in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, he declares, “We screaming for injustice. They sending tanks, the man in me demand we protect the family, anarchy.”

“No matter if you’re red, white, black. If you want freedom, then we’re all like Nat,” Nas adds.

The chorus sung by Raye agitates people to never wave the white flag and give up. “No, the time has come to fight back, to fight back. This is me declaring war.”

While connecting the era of Nat Turner to today and demonstrating there are still struggles for justice and freedom being waged, Nas and Raye tell everyone who wants to fight for a better America that there is a little bit of Nat in all of us.

The song is complemented by a collection of revolutionaries or heroes under the banner of “Nat Turner Lives,” which appears on the film’s website. Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, the Little Rock Nine, the Burning Monk, and those involved in rebellions like the Stonewall Riots and the Arab Spring reflect the spirit of Nat Turner.

Listen to “War” by Nas featuring Raye:

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."