Following the wake of the unjust murder of George Floyd, the Chi-town rapper, Kanye West, among many others protested against the injustice Black people often face in Black America. Aside from setting up funds for George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter’s college tuition and donating over $2 million to other causes, West also created a song that beautifully encompasses the struggles many Black Americans face.
“A roaring lion walketh about, seekin’ whom he may devour (Ronny J, please turn me up)” the song begins with a quote from 1 Peter 5:8 explaining the juxtaposition of the devil’s prowess characteristics to that of a lion, which is quick, complex and precise. Much like the police and the justice system, their rules and protocols surrounding people of colour, specifically black people, are often quick and impulsive. West ingeniously begins the song with the parallelism of police brutality and the justice system to the devil.
In his newest single, “Wash Us In The Blood” featuring Travis Scott, his sardonic nature surrounding civil rights struggle, specifically mass incarceration, slavery and genocide doesn’t go amiss. Following West’s thematic appreciation of God and religion from his previous album JESUS IS KING, “Wash Us In The Blood” continues his spiritual journey. Together, Kanye and Travis ask the Holy Spirit to come down and purify everyone’s souls from sin.
Throughout the song, there is a continuous cry for help as the helpless are often being put in situations they have no control over. With lyrics like, “Wash us in the blood / No choice, sellin drugs / Southside, what it does? / Rain down on us”, West conveys that incarcerated drug dealers, who are mostly people of colour, often go into that profession because it is the only thing they know how to do. Ultimately, stating the obvious that they shouldn’t be punished so harshly because if they’re environment was less corrupt like their white counterparts, they wouldn’t be drug dealers.
More risible is the music video where clips of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are freezed in time next to Grand Theft Auto footage and viral fight clips to convey the denial of the sacredness of Black people’s lives. West inherently portrays that black lives are often reduced to digital death and virality used as commodification.
Even the beat encompasses a menacing and horror-like atmosphere with hard drums and ominous gospel choir singing in the background. As West and Scott’s prayers intensifies, the beat respectably mimics the ambiance. As always, West isn’t afraid to experiment with his music and show his true emotions, truly making him a one-of-a-kind artistic genius.