When crises like the painful, incomprehensible deaths of Alton Sterling or the brutal, up close video of Philando Castile dying near his family, we look to our leaders for answers. Leaders serve the purpose of contextualizing chaos; they serve as an anchor against the brutality of the world by placing themselves in the line of fire, shining a light on the uncomfortable aspects of society we’d rather sweep aside.
Rather than court a neutral middle ground that will avoid detracting their audiences, many black mainstream musicians have turned their music into a platform that breaks the cyclical acceptance of violence, legitimizes rage, supports the strength of black people, questions the status quo, and calls for change in their listeners. Instead of shying away from their blackness, artists like Beyonce, Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo (to name only a few) lean into their race. In the process, they’ve created some of the most interesting and politically-potent art in years.
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