Musicians Speak Out About Ferguson

Earlier this week, a decision was made by a grand jury to not indict Ferguson Police Officer Wilson on the murder of unarmed teenager Mike Brown. I will refrain from sharing my own personal thoughts and opinions on the subject. But it can be agreed, whether the grand jury decision was right or wrong, that the loss of a life so young is a tragedy. As a result, the grand jury’s decision has evoked many passionate responses, including protests all across the nation. Some of these voices are louder than others, and can reach many more ears. For example, rapper B.o.B released a new 8 track mixtape called “New Black” as well as taking to Twitter with his thoughts on the subject.

Protests in Ferguson back in August.
Protests in Ferguson back in August.
The mixtape is a bit more controversial, as all eight songs on the mixtape point out things that are and have been wrong with our society – from a failing economy to past use of biological warfare referenced in the song “Dr. Arden”, complete with news bytes. But a constant theme in most of the songs is of course racial differences, and flat out racism.

Having listened to the whole mixtape, I can say that I’m actually very impressed with it. He speaks nothing but the truth in each song. It makes you sit back and think about what he’s saying. And the end track, “Provo King” makes you feel like you’ve listened to something important. And to top it all off, each song was beautifully mixed and I loved listening to it.

But it made me think. What would happen if more artists spoke out like B.o.B. did with this mixtape?

Musicians speaking out about politics isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s a concept that we need to bring back – especially with controversial issues like Mike Brown in Ferguson and the 12-year old recently shot in Cleveland.

After a little bit of research, I found out that artists were reacting. We just weren’t hearing about it unless we followed them on social media sites. Artists like Rihanna, Dev Hynes, and Macklemore took to twitter to share their thoughts on the subject. Macklemore even posted a video of himself standing with protesters.

Police use tear gas on protesters.
Police use tear gas on protesters.
And yet, the number of musicians that spoke out is very small to the vast majority of artists who have stayed silent on the subject. That’s why it’s such a big deal when an artist speaks out in the way that B.o.B. and these others have about Ferguson. Because they have such an impact – they have fans, all over the world that respect them and listen to every note they play. Musicians have a huge impact on what those fans might think, what those fans might learn. The more musicians speak out, the more they’re educating, the more they’re spreading word about the cause they feel so passionate about.

But there’s also risk of losing fans, of getting negative attention from the media. That’s the risk, and that’s what makes it understandable for artists to stay silent. When you start speaking out about these controversies, you start directing attention to yourself. You become a target for those who disagree. It’s your life and reputation on the line, and for these artists, their reputation is everything. It’s their livelihood.

When you make the decision to speak out, you have to consider. “Is what I’m speaking out for really worth it?” That’s the decision that every artist has to make on their own. I just hope that, when each artist is contemplating that decision, each takes into account what their silence is saying on the subject.

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