Some time around this past Thanksgiving, I had the idea to do a compilation album/project. Police Brutality is an issue that hits close to home for me because my cousin, Tycel Nelson was killed by a police officer when I was young and there have been so many cases in the past 2 years, that it seemed like a relevant and important thing to do. Through personal experience, learning about similar injustice and murder with impunity is enraging and historically documented throughout the history of the United States. For this project, I approached a list of artists to see if they would be interested in providing a track for this compilation project. I've worked with some artists from The Fire Next Time to some extent on various projects and others, this was the first chance to work together.
I revived my studies of James Baldwin while this project was developing. In college, I studied his poetry, but didn't focus on his involvement in the civil rights movement or public speaking. James Baldwin falls into a category of black activists that needs to be explored more by our country and especially for African Americans. Baldwin was staunchly opinionated, articulate and explicit but delivered his messages in an academic, well packaged manner. Leaders like Baldwin are often overlooked, however they should be upheld as equally important as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., who are often put at opposite ends of a spectrum of African American leaders. Martin Luther King Jr. was successful in getting the Civil Rights Movement legitimacy in the eyes of the mainstream media, however the political message civil disobedience sends doesn't reflect the anger, pain, injustice, corruption and frustration African Americans felt in light of segregation, Jim Crow, unequal opportunity, discrimination and history of slavery. There are many other factors that add to the frustration, however the political message delivered by MLK is often put in contrast to Malcolm X's, "by any means necessary" mantra for editorial purposes. Outright defiance, organized militant discipline backed with historic insight and religious support posed visual and public confrontation to the American political system that wanted to maintain control/power and sweep these problems under the rug. The Black Panther Party also was put on the opposite end of this spectrum because they rallied behind the current Republican party's platform that the 2nd Amendment. They believe(d) African Americans had the right to protect themselves from a corrupt political system and an equally corrupt, aggressive and deadly police force that consistently intimidated and harassed African American neighborhoods.
In watching and listening to James Baldwin, it became apparent that he wasn't easily defined by either polarized end of the movement. He fell somewhere in between the extremes and his opinions were a fluid orchestration of anger, frustration, optimism, hopeful, inspiration and well articulated political positions on current and historic problems in America. For all of these reasons, James Baldwin reflects a more "real" reflection of our current reality because his intricate positioning represents diversity within African Americans. Too often African Americans are limited to a singular entity when the truth is that there is difference in opinion, approach and strategy on every topic.
The Fire Next Time aims to highlight and celebrate diversity through creative reactions to a common problem for African Americans, police brutality. On the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King beating in LA (3/3/91), The Fire Next Time was released as an original hop hop compilation project with more videos and works of art to follow.
The project features Qman1, Davon King, Rugz D Bewler, Jay Eightynine, MosEl, J. Manifesto feat. Jahmel Reynolds, Justo feat. King David, Art, Awon & Phoniks and Lafayette Stokely.