Earlier this month Run the Jewels released their most recent album and it’s the music we need for these crazy times. The band effectively captures the tensions felt by people on the ground experience racism, classism, and oppression from the police (and the state at large). Their anger isn’t the aggression of punk, which didn’t change much, it’s about realign the wrongs in society and doing something about it. One of the members of RTJ, Killer Mike, has been calling for radical change in the USA and people are starting to hear his message.
Here in June 2020, amid global protests triggered by the killing of a black man, George Floyd, by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, few artists in any genre have the necessary audacity, and authority, to run toward this chaos of dismay and rage and defiance, not away from it. This is the rap album this moment demands, in that at least for now, it barely registers as a plain old rap album at all.
Killer Mikeâ€”a thoughtful and forceful historian, an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, the host of an adventurous Netflix talk show, and if weâ€™re lucky a future firebrand politicianâ€”had in fact already risen to this occasion. On Saturday, after protests and riots swept across his hometown as they did virtually every major city nationwide, he gave a teary, devastating speech alongside T.I. and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. He expressed solidarity with the cops (â€œIâ€™m the son of an Atlanta city police officerâ€) and the protestors both. (â€œIâ€™m mad. As. Hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday, because Iâ€™m tired of seeing black men die.â€) His voice wobbled, from the start, as he drummed on the podium, but his message was firm, a plea with the force of a divine command: â€œIt is your duty to not burn your own house down for anger with an enemy.â€ Please watch this.
The song Weightless by the Marconi Union has been proven by neuroscientists to reduce people’s anxiety, and in times like a pandemic we can all get too stressed out. Following in the tradition of ambient music artist the group set out to create an aural atmosphere that welcomed and comforted people. Don’t take my word for it, click play on the video above and relax.
According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, which conducted the research, the top song produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date.
Equally remarkable is the fact the song was actually constructed to do so. The group that created “Weightless”, Marconi Union, did so in collaboration with sound therapists. Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The Toronto-based band Places Erupt has put a lot of thought into the state of online discourse and decided to share their two cents. Their most recent video is all about online trolls and the disconnect between how they behave in their in person interactions compared to their online interactions. It’s a fun video and song that captures a current issue in today’s strange media climate.
â€œBloggers is about the phenomenon of trolling, where people shirk away from expressing their political opinions until under the safe shield of cyber anonymity, ranting angrily online. Itâ€™s become a terrifying and unhealthy side effect of the internet, poisoning discourse and breeding hate. In the real, physical world, the troll is blah and beige, while in the cyber world, he grows into this outsized monster, breathing fire over everyone in his path.â€
Disclosure: Greg O’Toole, who irregularly writes on this site, is in the band.
Earth Guardians are a new group which is poised to take the political music scene by storm. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is leading the Earth Guardians around the world to take charge of the planet’s future by changing our attitude and policies. He spreads sick wisdom while dropping hot beats all while spiting hot fire!
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is not your average kid. Dubbed the ‘Anti-Bieber,’ he is mobilizing his army of teens in 25 countries to demand greener policy from our world’s leaders. Under the banner of Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl has begun mobilizing young badasses around the planet to become the ones we’ve been waiting for – a global collective of youth leadership to defend the planet.
The most musically important band I’ve heard in quite a spell, The Holy Gasp’s party mix of Afro-Cuban surf punk wizardry grabs you quick and hard, and doesn’t let you go.
Check out their refreshing approach to getting a message across with body-moving protest songs to sing-and-shake along with.