We called rappers to task, and they answered.
On Wednesday (Aug. 27), The Game dropped “Don’t Shoot,” a tribute and response to 18-year-old Michael Brown’s murder by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer. The song is a posse cut that brings together some of hip-hop and R&B’s biggest figures together on one track to vent and continue the conversation of the killing and subsequent clashes between police and protesters in the St. Louis town.
We sat with the six-minute track and spat out these 15 thoughts in response. —John Kennedy
1. And they say hip-hop has become socially complacent. The Game might be the rapping version of DJ Khaled (remember the 12-minute “One Blood,” which features 25 guest MCs?). Seeing artists of this magnitude speak up against injustice in our own country is powerful.
2. Word, Puff? A Ciroc plug? On a tribute track? Really?
3. Diddy redeems his product placement by also name dropping other unjustly slain blacks Ezell Ford, Sean Bell and Emmett Till. How many more black eyes can this country’s racial history sustain?
4. T.I. gets a shoutout from Game, but no cameo—and it’s probably better that way. His initial comments on the protests in Ferguson echoed respectability politics, which puts the blame on the oppressed for their own plight. (An excerpt: “Look at us. Rebels without a cause…”) Glad this glorious tribute isn’t debased by those kind of sentiments. (Although Tip’s timely “New National Anthem” accurately takes aim at the system).
5. I knew for sure Curren$y would make a marijuana reference. I just knew it. Glad I was wrong. The N’awlins spitter shows that he stays woke on the judicial system, pointing out that the grand jury selected to decide on Michael Brown’s case is 75 percent white.
6. Would’ve loved to hear a white artist on this record, to emphasize the fact that this is bigger than a racial issue. Police brutality is a human rights issue. Where’s Macklemore at?
7. Nas too. He’s been uncharacteristically quiet on all of this, although Game says he wanted to get him on the record.
8. Every time I hear “It’s murder” on the chorus, I think of Ja Rule. I can’t help it.
9. Fabolous has always been one of the greatest when it comes to punchlines, but this right here is what I need a bit more of from him. His verse is thoughtful and sincere. (More on this later).
10. Like J. Cole’s incredible “Be Free” track, which includes an eyewitness account of Michael Brown’s murder, “Don’t Shoot” vividly immortalizes the macabre events surrounding the shooting, subsequent disregard for a Black corpse, and militarized policing of the streets nights later. These facts are forever preserved on wax.
11. You can just feel the anger and passion in Problem’s closing verse. Overall, the song underscores the complicated, assorted feelings of the people following this tragic situation, from despair to rage. All of the sentiments are potent and authentic.
12. Thank you, Fabolous and Wale, for saying what the entire Internet needs to hear. Aside from bringing the world a dripping-wet Rihanna, this ice-bucket challenge that’s taken over our Facebook and Instagram feeds is really a silly distraction from some of the extremely pressing issues we’re facing here in the States. Much love, healing and peace to those with ALS, but the condition affects such a small pocket of the population (appox. one of every 100,000) that the donation-driven trend is disportionate to the needed attention on excessive police force around the country, and justice for murdered blacks. While supporting Lou Gehrig’s disease sufferers, it’s still important to fight for justice.
14. Are these The Game’s kids singing the song’s outro? [Eds note: Confirmed.] The young voice at the end of “Don’t Shoot” really brings home the message: We need to make change and fight for justice today, so children can grow up tomorrow without a target on their backs.