As anti-police brutality & anti-racism protests continue across the entire US and around the world, I’ve found myself looking for music that reflects our reality. One album that quickly came to mind was Joey Bada$$’ 2017 release ALL-AMERIKKAN BADA$$. From the title alone, Joey made a statement with this body of work, pushing America’s issues with racism to the forefront. The socially conscious work is his most powerful and important to date and I would implore you to listen to the full album. While there are a number of incredible songs contained within the project, one stood out to me more than any when listening this week, the album’s closing track ‘AMERIKKAN IDOL’.

Clocking in at over 6 minutes, Joey Bada$$ drops a multitude of knowledge and shines a light into his personal experience. The first verse covers everything from racial profiling to self-protection, and ends with a resounding “fuck white supremacy.” Even the hook packs a powerful message, flipping the classic Nas line, with a political twist. I’m out for dead presidents to represent me, Because I’ve never known a live one that represent me.” 

Most striking is the third verse. Hearing it while seeing everything that’s transpired over the last two weeks is nothing short of chilling. Rather than giving you my own interpretation, I suggest you read the lyrics below and truly listen to song.

“What the government is doin’ amongst our people is downright evil
Disturbin’, but not surprisin’, that’s for certain
With all of the conflict of propaganda, I believe they are simply tryna slander
Start a Civil War within the USA amongst black and white and those alike
They are simply pushin’ us to our limit so that we can all get together and get with it
They want us to rebel, so that it makes easier for them to kill us and put us in jails
Alton Sterlings are happenin’ every day in this country and around the world
The scary part, boys and girls
Is most of these stories don’t make it to the news and reach mass consciousness
It is for sure time that we as a people stand up for acknowledgement
And accomplishment of what we call human rights
It is time to rebel, better yet, raise hell
I just want everyone to be cautious about how they go about it
Because this is all part of the government’s plan and what they been plottin’
They’re literally beggin’ for this to happen, so they can kill us off
Usin’ uprisin’ and rebellion as the excuse in a timely fashion
The cancerous foods, the chemical warfare, economic sufferin’ is not workin’ fast enough
There are many steps ahead of us and manifestin’ the future that they want
We have to work together, not only rattlin’ them on a physical plane
But to outsmart them on an intellectual mental level the same
As black men, I think our gangs need to do a better job at protectin’ us
The people, our communities and not assistin’ in destroyin’ them brutally
It’s time to even the score
‘Cause who do we call when the police break the law?
We are so quick to pick up a gun and kill one another
But not quick enough to pick it up and protect each other
The code words to killin’ a black man by police is, “He’s got a gun”
Damned if he do, damned if he don’t, damned if he runs
Or what about them? Them murderers got it
We need solutions, you better start plottin’ now
It’s always been clear that they don’t value our lives
My people been sufferin’ way too long
And I’m tired of singin’ the same old song
People actin’ like this shit isn’t happenin’, it’s downright wrong
Justice won’t be served by a hashtag, and that’s the very reason I ask that
What are we to do? We’re scattered around
With no clue of this ugly truth
All we know is who they ridiculed and who gets minisculed
Time to wake the fuck up and do our own research
And not form opinions based on just what we’ve heard
Ameri-K-K-K-a is force feedin’ you lies down your throats with a silver spoon
And eventually, we’ll all be doomed
Real, real, real soon”

‘AMERIKKKAN IDOL’ feels predictive and futuristic when listening in hindsight, but it’s just a reminder that the same issues were happening in 2017 and have been going on forever. The protests and outcry are overdue and change is needed. Black Lives Matter. If you’re looking to get involved, here’s a good place to get started.