Social unrest will push people into action, and they often turn to the tools of their trade. For John Brown, that tool is music.
Best known as JB!! aka Dirty Moses, Brown composed his latest track in less than a day. “Die Tonight” is an anthem for today’s protestors against the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. And it’s chilling.
JB!! opens with Malcolm X as he shares his “Ballot or the Bullet” speech. Though he spoke those words more than 50 years ago, they describe today’s world.
“The government has failed us; you can’t deny that. Anytime you live in the twentieth century, 1964, and you walkin’ around here singing “We Shall Overcome,” the government has failed us. … Today it’s time to stop singing and start swinging. You can’t sing up on freedom, but you can swing up on some freedom.”
JB!! shared the track with me just before Albany’s South Pearl Street was set ablaze amidst a riot that ignited in the city’s South End. The violence was a stark contrast to the peaceful demonstration exhibited hours before around Washington Park. Nonetheless, today’s political and social climate is volatile and it only needed a spark. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy estimated damages associated with the riot at $1 million the other day. The Capital City joined several others across the country with similar unrest, including New York City, Minneapolis, Kansas City and more.
JB!! teams up with fellow area emcee Masai on a single that paints what it means to be Black in today’s America. He evokes the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Dion Johnson and Colin Kaepernick; the former shot and killed while jogging and driving, respectively, while the latter was heavily criticized for kneeling during the national anthem as a member of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
“There’s too much pain in the hood to heal, we can’t deal, we can’t breathe, we can’t drive, we can’t kneel,” he sings. “So you leave us no choices, burn the city down, since you took away our voices.”
Kaepernick had inspired other professional athletes to use their platform as a means of silent protest against police violence directed towards black people. Political opponents, including President Donald Trump, said the now-former quarterback was disrespecting military veterans instead. In recent days, law enforcement officers and National Guardsmen assigned to police America’s cities have shown acts of solidarity by kneeling before protestors, including Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford.
In this track, JB!! doesn’t call out for violence. The song is a history lesson that reaches back from Malcolm X to old school rapper Ice-T. The West Coast rapper has a storied history of controversy related to the topic of police and race relations. In 1991, he produced the song “Cop Killer” for his metal band Body Count. It drew the ire of law enforcement agencies across the country. Especially in life of the Los Angeles riots soon afterward. Ice-T told The Telegraph as recently as March that he doesn’t “hate cops, I hate racists.”
You can stream the single at Soundcloud.
Alex Hitrick is no stranger to the local music scene. For seven years, he played parties and events as part of a three-piece band named Hitrick and Brooks. Most recently, he’s played the keyboard for local party band Funk Evolution. However, Hitrick just graduated from The College of Saint Rose’s prestigious music program and knocked out a CD to boot.
Hitrick released “Apple Trees” on Saturday, May 30. It’s an 11-track album with clear influences from a band that often released under Apple Records. The mystery behind this magical reference is completely intentional to avoid lofty comparisons, but a tour of this work is well worth the listen under today’s current events.
“Blueberry Blue Dream,” a zany trip with a cacophony of instruments jammed into all four minutes and 31 seconds of the song, sets the tone for an extended light-hearted listening experience.
Apple Trees is available on all streaming platforms. For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/apple-trees.
Palangi was already in the midst of releasing his fourth album “Bring on the Fear” when the COVID-19 pandemic started its spread. Despite the name, he insists the name is a mere case of conscience.
“I didn’t know, but it actually fits into it: the title, “Bring on the Fear,” and the single is called “Gone Mad,” Palangi said. “It’s like, yeah, I can relate to that [now].” He laughs.
The album drops Friday, June 5. A video release of one of its tracks “Gone Mad” went online last month. It’s the first track from Palangi’s fourth studio album. He said this work is “a little bit” darker and heavier from previous releases, but he still wouldn’t call it heavy metal.
“Bring the Fear” is self-produced and mastered by Grammy Award-nominated producer Robert Venable. Palangi also teams up with Kelly Clarkson’s drummer Lester Estelle, and Brian Craddock and Brandon Maclin from Daughtry. The EP features five tracks in streaming format, but the CD that will be available for purchase on Palangi’s website will include a total of 14 songs.
You can order your copy of “Bring on the Fear” on Amazon and iTunes.
For more local music, check out my Spotify playlist “Rolling Out the 518.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.
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