The following was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Songs.
The most powerful protest music can perfectly encapsulate the moments and moods being experienced by society. At times, it can even come across as eerily prophetic.
Originally, Killer Mike and El-P, the rap duo known as Run the Jewels, planned to release their fourth album on June 5. They released it a couple days early as a response to protests against police brutality place that unfolded after innocent black lives, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, were murdered by officers.
On social media, Run the Jewels made the following statement, “Fuck it, why wait? The world is infested with bullshit so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all.”
“We hope it brings you some joy. Stay safe and hopeful out there, and thank you for giving two friends the chance to be heard and do what they love.”
The album was made available for free download on their website, but fans had the option of donating to the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Fund.
One key track that was viewed as rather prescient was “walking in the snow,” which features the chilling lyric, “And every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free. And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me. Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe.'”
“I can’t breathe” referred to the last words of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, but sadly the words took on new resonance since those were George Floyd’s dying words too.
The lyrics also serve as an indictment of the news media which promotes a fear-based narrative.
Michael “Killer Mike” Render addressed the media during an impassioned speech in his hometown of Atlanta.
“I love CNN. I love Cartoon Network, but I’d like to say to CNN right now karma’s a mother. Stop feeding fear and anger every day. Stop making people feel so fearful. Give them hope,” Render declared.
In these times we need music to get us through, few artists provide a soundtrack for the moment like Run The Jewels.