Some time ago, I wrote a post for a previous blog, Gospel Music as Message Music,where I argued that hip-hop is one contemporary musical space that reclaims the protest tradition of the Negro spirituals. My views have evolved a bit since then, but the core striving for black musical expression that speaks to and can inspire continued effort for social change is in tact.
In anticipation of tonight’s first RE:BIRTH Live experience, What’s Going On: The Seven Last Words of Jesus, I’ve compiled a list of seven Good Friday themed songs that, I think, are great examples of contemporary songs that can nurture the struggle for social change, human freedom and liberation for black and all peoples. People Get Ready!
RE:BIRTH’s Seven Last Songs – Good Friday Playlist
Note how Ms. Hill engages the Hebrew scriptures, Shakespeare, the Gospels’ passion narratives and the O’Jays all while invoking the South African anti-apartheid struggle and sampling Bob Marley’s Concrete Jungle. This recording is a phenomenal example of connecting Jesus’ crucifixion to intersecting justice struggles throughout history and time.
Like Cain & Abel
Caesar & Brutus
Jesus & Judas
backstabbers do this.
Why Black people always be the ones to settle?
March through these streets like Soweto.
For many people, A.D. 2000 refers to the 2,000th year after Jesus’ Death, yet this song was written as a response to the murder of Amadou Diallo by New York City Police Officers that year, connecting the murder of Diallo with Jesus’ murder on the cross at the hands of the state almost 2,000 years before.
Oh, what in the world will we do?
Will we ever make it?
You know it ain’t right.
Oh, is it in Your plan?
Theologian James Cone’s 2011 book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, is a useful text for engaging the connections between crucifixion in the Roman Empire and lynching in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hip-Hop group, the Strange Fruit Project has offered sonic correlation to those symbols since 2003. This track is from their most recent release, A Dreamer’s Journey.
Crucify my life
and celebrate me when I’m gone
You can’t kill a heartbeat this strong.
Akel Dama is Aramaic for ‘Field of Blood.’ This is the “potter’s field” which authorities purchased with the “blood money” Judas returned after he was filled with remorse for betraying Jesus. See Matthew 27:3-10.
To some god is the light
That leads them to believe
That they see,
And know everything
But if one is to truly be born again
You would have to gouge out your eyes,
Cut out your tongue,
And cry like a baby
This recording from Bob Marley’s classic Exodus album connects the crucifixion of Jesus to the struggle against the ongoing effects of the translatlantic slave trade and black freedom struggle in Jamaica and globally. He reminds us that despite the “cost of discipleship” we must all know where we stand.
I’ll never forget no way, they crucified Jesus Christ.
I’ll never forget no way, they sold Marcus Garvey for rice.
I’ll never forget no way, they turned their backs on Paul Bogle.
So don’t you forget your youth,
who you are and where you stand in the struggle.
This is Soulive’s post-modern jazz/folk infused re-appropriation of the Negro spiritual “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep.” While the spiritual has biblical allusion to Mary & Martha weeping for Lazarus, this recording advises the Marys of the world, that it’s okay to lament our suffering.
Ghetto livin like a curse
Can’t even find truth in the church
Mary, don’t you be ashamed to cry.