Women in Music 2019

Living Colour to Address Police Shootings on Notorious B.I.G.-Inspired Mixtape 'Who Shot Ya?'

Katie Darby/Invision/AP
Vernon Reid with Living Colour performs during the Synesthesia Tour at the Masquerade on Feb. 8, 2015 in Atlanta.

In the midst of making its new album ShadeLiving Colour plans to address the recent rash of police shootings and other domestic violence situations with new songs -- as well as a special new project built around the Notorious B.I.G.'s 1995 hit "Who Shot Ya?"

The quartet is working with producer Andre Betts on a Who Shot Ya? mixtape that will feature a variety of artists adding to and improvising off the track. "It's very eerily current because of the horrible things that have been going on with gun violence and various shootings," Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid tells Billboard. "We're still in process even as we speak and I don't want to really talk too much about who's in 'cause that's still kind of fluid. But it's going to happen in 2016 for sure and there's a couple of folks who have approached us, so we're going to see what the final tally's going to be. But the things I've heard so far are really, really powerful, really fiery verses, and some of the writers are responding directly what happened in St. Paul, what's happening in Baton Rouge. There's a bit of that in the mix as well as other conversations." Reid did say that Pharoahe Monch and Divine Styler have contributed material to the mixtape, while other artists will be announced soon. 

The guitarist's hope, meanwhile, is to hear more music inspired by and commenting on both the events and the larger issues they raise. 

"There's no 'four dead in Ohio' moment, and that's kind of crazy," Reid says. "The Kent State shootings happened (May, 4, 1970) and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young literally wrote a song and had it on the radio within, like days. This is pre-Internet, too. But that's not happening now. Where's that song that brings us all together thinking about the same thing? It's hard to find it. Certainly people are responding, but rock n' roll isn't doing it. Maybe some independent artists are doing it, but I'm not hearing it. Kanye doing a track about the shootings in St. Paul, everybody's paying attention to it. Beyonce doing a track, everybody's paying attention to it, Rihanna, whoever.

"I think there should be club songs and dance records dedicated to the Orlando victims. I think there should be rock n' roll songs dedicated to them as well. I think artists of all stripes need to have something to say and jump into it. I'm not really saying what the music needs to be; I just think it needs to strike a human chord. Maybe people are still processing, but it's frustrating and disheartening that it's not happening."

Reid expects Living Colour will have its say on Shade, the group's first studio album since 2009's The Chair in the Doorway. Targeted for release this year, the group is "pretty far" along in the process, according to Reid, including a collaboration with George Clinton on one song. He does, however, expect that recent events will send the group back to the writing block.

"That's actually something we're talking about and I'm processing as well, lyrically and musically," Reid says. "My head is swirling like everybody else's heads is swirling. We're in it. We've got a few new places to go, but we're getting it done."


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