Musical activism will lead the way forward

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Chance the Rapper

Photo: Matt De Mello

The other day I wrote an column on where we, not just as a country, but as a world, go from here. That piece was unique for RIFF. Ours is not a political publication. However, some events transcend politics. Many of us are nervous, some are petrified and angry. A few of our writers took the rest of the week off. The protests around the country have shown our opinions are not unique. But some good will come from this upheaval, and that will be from music and musical activism.

The punk rock community almost always leads in railing against the establishment. But in the wake of this election, we should not only look to the punk rockers, but also the African-American community for the next great wave of musical activism. Truth be told, it has already begun. Michael Kiwanuka’s new album, Love & Hate, is a brilliant example of what it’s like to be a black man in a white world. Chance the Rapper talks about this on Coloring Book, as do Common and Solange on their new albums. These artists are already speaking out. Like Marvin Gaye did with What’s Going On, we will see a whole new group of artists come out of their shells and rail against a racist in the White House.

I grew up with stories of politically active musicians in the 1960s who fought against the war in Vietnam, racism in the streets and overall oppression in our country. As the Black Lives Matter movement has shown, it is already something that the African-American community is keenly aware of, but this is different and will create leaders out of ordinary men. A person who immediately comes to mind is John Legend. He will be an artist on the front lines defining what the next step of activism should be.

Musicians will bring it to the forefront and athletes, celebrities and presumably some politicians will follow. Considering the fractured media coverage and how the election has shown many live in a private media bubble, music is the purest way to get an unfiltered message to the masses with little interference. Like Legend, expect other musicians like Beyoncé, Bad Religion, and Arcade Fire to also be active. There is a lot of anger out there and for a creative person, the best way to channel that anger is to create.

Yes, people are concerned and yes, dark times appear ahead. But through art and love, as pedantic and cliché as that sounds, we will find a way through the miasma together. Our shared experiences with music will help us collectively heal. It’s in these shared experiences that the real community will work and love will shine. That’s how we, as a strong, focused people, will make it through.

Follow editor Matt De Mello at Twitter.com/HaightStRecords and Instagram.com/Mattyd_Images.

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