With racial turmoil numbers racking up the social issue ladder, many hip-hop and R&B artists have used public platforms to join in on the conversation. From panel discussions of Talib Kweli to Beyonce’s subtle social media expressions, reform and peace statements have ignited from hip-hop’s most influential faces. But some are still left unimpressed, namely soulful singer D’Angelo.
The Brown Sugar crooner wants musicians to stop leaving the conversations out of their music. In a New York Times interview, D’Angelo chops it up with political activist Bobby Seale and reminisces on the socially-active times when it was “trendy to be conscious and aware.” According to him, the music he grew up on was much more necessary than what’s pumping through radio speakers today.
“I grew up on Public Enemy and it was popular culture to be aware,” the Virginian soloist said. “Kendrick Lamar, he’s an example of someone who is young and actually trying to say something. Who else? You got Young Jeezy and Young Thug. You know what I’m saying? It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous.”
D’Angelo is no practiceless preacher, either. His Billboard chart-topping Black Messiah marveled in its critical-acclaims and reveling reviews for its socially-compatible lyrics. The 12-track project was released in the wake of the Eric Garner and Ferguson decisions, prompting him to release the album before its original 2015 release date.
“Kids are listening to me,” he said. “We have power to influence minds and influence lives. So I respect that power. I really do.”
Seale, who also co-founded the Black Panthers Party, added his take on the Black Lives Matter movement and the youth’s electoral voices. With more black voices and Marilyn Mosby’s—the Baltimore State attorney most recently indicted all officers in the Freddie Gray case—Seale says the Black community can generate reform.
“I didn’t start the Black Panther Party until 1966,” Seale said. “This was the year that Stokely Carmichael came out with black power. They understood that we need political seats. You could change the whole spectrum. You could change the city laws. This is what you do.”
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