Raury: Take Back the Power
Atlanta-based recording artist Raury says his call-to-action track “Take Back the Power” could be “the official anthem of the movement.” A constant, thumping drum and a swirling guitar and piano give way to Raury’s lyrics: “Know what you took from me / Know what you stole from me / One day they’ll come for you / And on that day / Take back the power,” the bridge and chorus repeat. He encourages his fans to donate to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, an organization that provides resources to protestors facing repression.
Max Roach: Freedom Now Suite (Tears for Johannesburg + Prayer / Protest / Peace)
This striking performance of North Carolina-born drummer Max Roach’s “Freedom Now Suite,” a medley of “Tears for Johannesburg” and the triptych “PRAYER / PROTEST / PEACE,” is believed to be recorded by a Belgian television station in 1964—the same year the Civil Rights Act deemed discrimination based on race, color, religion, and gender illegal. Referred to as “an early soundtrack to Black Lives Matter” by the North Carolina Arts Council, the tracks addressed injustices in the US and in South Africa—including repulsive reactions to sit-ins in Greenboro’s Woolworth’s Department Store and the Sharpeville Massacre in the apartheid-stricken African nation. Roach, with Abbey Lincoln (vocals), Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (piano), Eddie Khan (bass) and Clifford Jordan (saxophone) dedicated their artistic abilities to justice. Labeled avant-garde, and oftentimes largely improvised, the piece struck a nerve among white jazz-listeners and was praised within Black communities as revolutionary and representative. In the liners notes of We Insist!(the album on which the tracks appeared), the triptych is explained as the “uncontrollable unleashing of rage and anger that have been compressed in fear for so long.”
Run the Jewels: a few words for the firing squad (radiation)
Run the Jewels’ album RTJ4 (which features previously released “Ooh La La“) was due two days from now, but the duo surprise-dropped the album today, along with the statement, “Fuck it, why wait. The world is infested with bullshit so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all.” The duo (aka El-P and Killer Mike) made the album available for free download, encouraging listeners to redirect the money they would have spent to Black Lives Matter funds. On the album’s final track—a sprawling, searing, nearly-seven-minute outro—Killer Mike and El-P are more piercing than ever. Over a jazz improvisation, Killer Mike raps, “Black child in America, the fact that I made it’s magic / Black and beautiful, the world broke my mama heart, and she died an addict… / This is for the do-gooders that the no-gooders used and then abused / For the truth tellers tied to the whippin’ post, left beaten, battered, bruised / For the ones whose body hung from a tree like a piece of strange fruit / Go hard, last words to the firing squad was ‘Fuck you too.’”
Saya Gray: SHALLOW (PPL SWIM IN SHALLOW WATER)
Without a hint of percussion, “SHALLOW (PPL SWIM IN SHALLOW WATER)” by Japanese-Canadian singer and musician Saya Gray proves itself stirring and powerful. The song changes cadence often over its 3:50-minute lifespan, with Gray altering her voice from speak-singing and soft cooing to flawless falsetto, up to soaring high-pitched squeaky vocals. This self-recorded tune is the artist’s debut solo song—minimal but textured.
Listen Up is published every Sunday and rounds up the new music we found throughout the week. Hear the year so far on our Spotify channel.