Black Eyed Peas call out racism and injustice with their hard-hitting new single
I have not been excited about hearing a new Black Eyed Peas single in over 15 years.
While their first two records sat beautifully alongside artists like Ugly Duckling and Jurassic 5 as soulful, thoughtful, engaging hip hop, just about everything they’ve done since has been banal at best, offensive at worst and completely dumbfounding at other times.
But now, in a climate where racism, bullying and violence is rampant, and African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people, the band are getting angry. And that means, for the first time in forever, they’re getting interesting.
The band released ‘Street Livin’’ this afternoon, Australian time. It’s a deep, jazzy, hard-hitting, boom bap hip hop track. Harder than anything they’ve ever done before.
It is dark, angry and full of brilliant lines that cut right to the core of the systemic racism in American culture.
‘Gonna end up in some penitentiary. Systemically, that’s how they’ve made it to be,’ will.i.am raps in the first verse. ‘I understand, what's a nigga to choose? Be the killer or be the dead dude in the news?’ he adds later.
‘Another brother got shot by the Sarge. Another cop got off with no charge. If you black in the hood, you at large’ Taboo drops in the second verse.
And in the final line of the song, apl.de.ap sums their stance up pretty succinctly.
‘Listen, you can get fucked by the system, or you can say fuck the system’
The band have issued the following statement along with the track:
“In a world where our most basic human rights are often ignored and the system doesn’t respect us, a just future is only achievable if we come together and use our collective power to make change.
“Stay woke on the issues... Prison Industrial Complex. Immigration. Gun Violence. Police Brutality.”
There’s two big words in there: “collective power”. Black Eyed Peas are one of the biggest pop acts on the planet. They are as big – if not bigger – in white America as they are in black America. They’re a group who can speak to the masses and, while they might not persuade middle America to accept their message, they’ll at least have it heard.
They are powerful. And taking a stance is the best way in which they can bring together communities in order to achieve this collective power that they seek.
While the song is musically more interesting than anything they've delivered in a long time, the best thing about it is that they’re actually saying something. If you don’t like their message, that’s fine. But at least they have one. It’s what makes this their most powerful step yet.
I don’t know where this track fits in with the band’s future plans. Perhaps it’s a one-off, maybe they’re completely readopting their own ways. Maybe they actually have enough money now that they are happy to use their powers for good.
Maybe they’re gonna go back to being pop stars. Honestly, that’s fine. There’s enough good hip hop out there that we don’t need these guys if that’s the case.
But kudos to the Black Eyed Peas for using their position to actually say something. Now there’s something I never thought I’d say again.
You can read more about the track and the anger that drives it over at their website.