D'Angelo and Black Panther founder Bobby Seale urge artists to make more political music.
The New York Times ran a piece Friday featuring two of the baddest dudes on the planet, D'Angelo and Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. D'Angelo and Seale rode around Oakland and discussed, among other things, the role of music in the current racial and political climate. D'Angelo had some harsh words for hip-hop artists who he believed to be shirking their artistic responsibility to address social social issues in their music.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
"Now more than ever is the need to sing about [social change] and to write songs about it. And no one’s doing it. There’s only a chosen couple of people. I think it just takes one little snowflake to start a snowball to go down the hill. My contribution and say, Kendrick Lamar’s and some chosen others’ start the snowball. That’s all I can hope for,” he says. “I don’t know if I’m comfortable being quote-unquote a leader. But I do realize and understand that my role as a musician, and in the medium that I am, that people are listening to me. Kids are listening to me. We have power to influence minds and influence lives. So I respect that power. I really do. I’m not putting myself on a pedestal or anything like that. I think that’s dangerous. When you start playing with that, and you’re not careful, you can get yourself into trouble.”
“Coming up, the music of my era was very conscious. I grew up on Public Enemy, and it was popular culture to be aware. People were wearing Malcolm X T-shirts and Malcolm X hats. It was a very cool thing to know who Malcolm X was. It was all in the lyrics. It was trendy to be conscious and aware. Now the trend ... it’s just [expletive]. But to tell you the truth, there are a lot of people who feel the same way that I feel and that are making great music, conscious music. But for some reason or another it seems like the gatekeepers are not allowing that stuff to filter through to the mainstream. Kendrick Lamar, he’s an example of someone who is young and actually trying to say something. Who else? You got Young Jeezy and Young Thug. You know what I’m saying? It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous.”
"There's a song on the album called 'The Charade,' and it specifically speaks to the Oscar Grants and the Trayvon Martins and the Michael Browns. We did that because ain't nobody talking about nothing but how many drugs you sold, or how many bottles of champagne they popping at the club, and ain't nobody talking about some real shit. I know for a fact that the music back then in that day fed the movement. We as artists, I really feel like we got a responsibility. These kids, they paying attention to us. They looking at us."
Is D'Angelo right?