Listen up, y’all: Questlove has something to say, and as usual, it’s pretty much gospel.
Following the non-indictments of police officers in the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases, the Roots drummer took to Instagram to pen a culturally conscious criticism of contemporary music’s lack of activism. Sure, there are plenty of musicians voicing their displeasure over social media, but Quest is looking for more; he wants actual music that addresses current events.
“I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in,” he opens. “I’m kinda/sorta addressing the hip hop nation I really apply this challenge to ALL artists. We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Roachas. New ideas!”
He admits there have been some responses (for example, J. Cole‘s Ferguson-inspired “Be Free”) but urges artists to brush their inhibitions aside and take a stance: “Real narratives. Songs with spirit in them. Songs with solutions. Songs with questions… Protest songs don’t have to be boring or non danceable or ready made for the next Olympics.”
He even goes as far as to name media entities like Clear Channel, Radio One and VH1.
In times when “poptimism” rules and it seems production and good beats are in the forefront, is there any place for fight-the-power activism in the maisntream? Quest sure hopes so.
I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in. I know that many see what happened to Dixie Chicks’ #NatalieMaines @mainesmusic (she bravely expressed her opinion/dismay on the Bush administration declaring war & was unjustly targeted….while in hindsight being CORRECT) suddenly there was an onslaught of radio silence from artists across the board (correction not everyone was silent, but the silence was deafening) although I’m kinda/sorta addressing the hip hop nation I really apply this challenge to ALL artists. We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Roachas. New ideas! But it just doesn’t stop there!! We need outlets (hello #ClearChannel #RadioOne #Vh1) to balance the system. Yeah I’m just as guilty of feeling the high of all that I despise (“Devil’s Pie” D’angelo) but the reason why this nation seems to be moving 3 steps ahead in some areas…..but then 7 steps backwards in every area is a lack of balance. I’m not saying every song gotta be “Fight The Power” but in times like these we need to be more community minded (taking a wild guess that “urban radio’s” format didn’t change much from the pre program stuff (using that word *politely*) we’ve been hearing for years. & when I say challenge I don’t mean breathless race to the finish on who makes the more banging “Fuck Tha Police” sequel. I mean real stories. Real narratives. Songs with spirit in them. Songs with solutions. Songs with questions. Protest songs don’t have to be boring or non danceable or ready made for the next Olympics. They just have to speak truth. I laugh & have fun w “Bitch You Guessed It” like everyone else. But my soul is aching man. Seriously just ONE or Two songs that change the course. This is something I feel the need and urgency to put out there. #EricGarner #MikeBrown #JusticeForAll #FeedMySoul #HandsUpDontShoot #ICantBreathe