Music as a Form of Protest During the 2020 Black Lives Matter Protests

Disclaimer: The following blog post is not a reflection of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s opinion on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

By Catherine Myers.

Hip-hop’s historical connection to social justice has allowed it to be used as a tool to empower the black community to speak out about racism in America. Songs have continuously been used as a form of protest and self-expression. For example, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Fortunate Son” spoke out against the U.S. government’s continued involvement in the Vietnam War. Music was also used as a form of protest during the Black Lives Matter movement and the George Floyd Protests in 2020.
Hip-hop started in the Bronx in the early 1970s where the subject matter centered around enabling black youth to express their frustration with how they were treated by society.[1] This social justice background allowed artists to express their anger in response to the death of George Floyd through hip-hop. Meek Mill wrote “Otherside of America,” which expressed the danger that the Black community experiences due to the high rate of violence in their neighborhoods, which ultimately stems from systematic racism. In addition, H.E.R. released the song “I Can’t Breathe,” paying tribute to George Floyd, in which she expressed how the police have become desensitized to seeing violence against Black people and how aggression is being used as a tool for law enforcement. This resulted in many Black rappers and artists to take an activist stance during the Black Lives Matter protests. Mike Render, also known as Killer Mike, spoke to the public about the importance of peaceful protest, alongside Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.[2] Hip-hop became a voice for those who have been silenced by America’s history of racism, allowing those who have been hurt by this past to share their frustrations with society.
Hip-hop has connected people across the country, and has become a voice for those who were once silenced by white individuals in power. Hip-hop has instigated marches and protests across the country, and continues to empower the next generation to create the change they want to see in the world and end police brutality and racially based profiling and aggression.

[1] McCollum, S. (2019, October). Hip-hop: A Culture of Vision and Voice. Kennedy Center.

[2] Anderson, B. (2020, May 30). Read Remarks From Mayor Bottoms, Killer Mike, and Others in Response to Protests Turned Destructive. WABE News.