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Musicians react to Ferguson: A collection of voices against police brutality

What the music world is saying about the shooting of Mike Brown, and everything that's happened since.

- Aug 21, 2014

The shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by police Officer Darren Wilson has sparked protests around the United States, along with a vicious and heavily militarized police presence. As more journalists are arrested and tear gas is fired at peaceful crowds, the eyes of the world remain fixed with outrage on The Most Democratic Country Ever.

Brown's murder and the aftermath have inspired musicians to speak out in different ways against police brutality. We've gathered a variety of statements that address these developing events.

Lauryn Hill

The ex-Fugee and reclusive genius has played "Black Rage" at shows, and uploaded a rough cut of her "Favourite Things" reworking as a response to Ferguson's turmoil. Here are the lyrics.

Saul Williams

His Tupac musical Holler If Ya Hear Me closed after a month, so the rapper/poet has more time to quietly spit potentially improvised stanzas into his phone.

Blood Orange

Blood Orange Speaks Out Against Police Brutality

Dev Hynes and his partner Samantha Urbani of Friends were attacked by security guards at Lollapalooza. Hynes suffering damage to his leg (ironically, at the time he was wearing a shirt protesting violence against black men, and had just finished speaking on these issues during his show). In a video produced by Okayplayer he discusses the incident at a concert in Central Park and in an interview:

"You don't want it to be real, but it is. And I don't know what's happening or what's going to happen. To me, it feels like I've been getting poked all my life. This irritating jab that keeps... and people are just getting tired. ...Just because the Civil Rights Act was like 50 years ago, doesn't mean that we're 50 times past it."

Killer Mike

Killer Mike Talks About Ferguson/Mike Brown on CNN

Anyone who follows the Atlanta MC on Twitter has gotten an insight into his Pan-African politics and opinions on police. This week he was able to expand on both in an Instagram post, an alarming op-ed for Billboard, and on CNN.

John Legend

John Legend is the only pop star - with the exception of One Direction's Zayn Malik - who's expressed any sort of unhedged concern with Israel's ongoing invasion and occupation of Gaza. His much-needed activism continued for Ferguson and hit a poignant and genuinely moving peak last night as he performed a tribute to Marvin Gaye's political R&B opus What's Going On? in California.

But not just from Legend himself: Gawker has video of an incredible performance of poetry by a young girl, and you really should watch it. The verse is powerful and, crucially, self-aware at the awkwardness of someone who is not black making such a statement. Such rawness and honesty brought a crucial new kind of humanity to the performance of such timeless music. In another joyful clip, Sharon Jones (who's still fighting cancer) joins Legend onstage for a rendition of "What's Going On?," backed by the concert's house band: Jones' Dap-Kings.

J Cole

Cole's song "Be Free" was recorded and released in the wake of the shooting. It incorporates a chilling first-hand account from Dorian Johnson, who was with Mike Brown when he was killed.

Frank Ocean

The best thing you could say about the Ferguson Police Department's handling of the crisis was that it was clumsy and insensitive. Some expressed relief when Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson became the department's new spokesman, promising justice, cooperation, and more a measured response. Not Frank Ocean, who wrote a skeptical Tumblr post he wrote before Darren Wilson was identified as the shooter.

"You see that black woman standing up there? I wonder if she was called to stand behind the governor because she’s black. I wonder if i’m supposed to think Missouri’s gov’t is pro-black because of her being stood up there with those other black men being all black and everything. I wonder if she was off the clock while she stood up there. If she was off the clock..then i wonder if she was getting paid for her time off like the guy who shot Michael 8 times. What’s that guy’s name by the way?"

He may have been right: Here's the new face of Ferguson's police presence arresting a Canadian journalist, while officials in St. Louis lie about Tuesday's shooting death of another black man named Kajieme Powell.

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