Black Rage - Lauryn Hill’s Painfully Prescient Song for Ferguson

12/05/2014 Lauryn_hill_-_black_rage

credit Slate Magazine for the text of this story.

The unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that has followed the shooting death of Michael Brown is now well into its second week, with seemingly no end in sight, and several prominent figures in hip-hop are beginning to speak up (after BuzzFeed criticized those in the genre for not doing enough). Last weekend, J. Cole visited Ferguson after releasing a powerful tribute song to Brown, “Be Free.” Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike offered some insight on the situation in an op-ed for Billboard and in an interview on CNN. T.I., too, released a sobering new song about violence in America. Now, rap icon Lauryn Hill has lent her voice to the mix by releasing a “sketch” recording of a song called “Black Rage.”

 photo LaurynHill-BlackRage_zpsf82b532b.jpg

It’s a song she’s been performing since at least 2012, but there was no official, publicly available recording of it until last night, when Hill tweeted an acoustic version of the song she says she recorded in her living room (it’s unclear when). The song flips the script on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things,” altering the hook’s famous lyrics to create a dark commentary on racial injustice: “When the dogs bite/ When the beatings/ When I’m feeling sad/ I simply remember all these kinds of things and then I don’t fear so bad!” she sings. The track recalls the raw vocal performances of Hill’s MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, her voice audibly cracking as she delivers the kind of political message she’s offered throughout her career. But at this moment, it feels particularly, and painfully, prescient.

Note: In the version sung here, the lines of the lyrics are in different order than below, but mostly all there.
Lyrics to Black Rage
I simply remember all these kinds of things
And then I don’t fear so bad…

Black rage is founded who fed us self hatred
Lies and abuse while we waited and waited
Spiritual treason
This grid and it's cages
Black rage was founded on these kinds of things

Black rage is founded on dreaming and draining
Threatening your freedom
To stop your complaining
Poisoning your water
While they say it's raining
Then call you mad
For complaining, complaining
Old time bureaucracy
Drugging the youth
Black rage is founded on blocking the truth
Murder and crime
Compromise and distortion
Sacrifice, sacrifice
Who makes this fortune?
Greed, falsely called progress
Such human contortion
Black rage is founded on these kinds of things

So when the dog bites
And the ceilings
And I’m feeling mad
I simply remember all these kinds of things
And then I don’t fear so bad

Free enterprise
Is it myth or illusion
Forcing you back into purposed confusion
Black human trafficking
Or blood transfusion
Black rage is founded on these kinds of things
Victims of violence
Both psyche and body
Life out of context IS living ungodly
Politics, politics
Greed falsely called wealth
Black rage is founded on denying of self
Black human packages
Tied and subsistence
Having to justify your very existence
Try if you must
But you can’t have my soul
Black rage is founded on ungodly control
So when the dog bites
And the beatings
And I’m feeling so sad
I simply remember all these kinds of things
And then I don’t feel so bad

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