2020 has been a big year for Rapsody. She has featured on the Fight the Power remix, Robert Glasper’s The Mighty Tree and Stevie Wonder’s Can’t Put it in the Hands of Fate, as well as putting her own single 12 Problems. I hope these prolific recordings this year signify a new record in the near future. A common theme of Rapsody’s work is her ability to explore social issues, such as Black Lives Matter / police brutality, with expertly crafted verses. One example is her record Eve, where she explores gender and race by focusing each track on a prominent black woman in history. Songs like Cleo, Oprah and Serena tackle issues of blackness, gender and power.
Rapsody’s gift is her ability to take complex current issues and present them in such a cutting and decisive manner that you feel their urgency. Pray Momma Don’t Cry is part of an EP entitled I Can’t Breathe / Music for the Movement, which includes tracks from various artists all focused on the Black Lives Matter movement. This is an EP project headed by by The Undefeated, which is a website focusing on sports, race, culture and HBCUs. It is a great site and you should check it out. Getting back to the music, teaming up with Rapsody is Bilal, who is a black singer songwriter with an amazing voice.
It starts out with some jazzy chymes and some wooden percussion instruments. You slowly drift into the song and a wonderfully tight beat drops, which will become the song’s spine. The simplicity of the track gives it a great vibe and does not overtake the lyrics. Bilal kicks the track off with an evocative vocal, which reminds me of a cross between Anderson Paak and Prince. Bilal is able to have emotional depth, as well as hit soulful falsettos. He sings about the pain black people feel amidst a culture of police brutality and police killing young black people. I think that Bilal’s verses gives the track its heart and you can really connect to his sections on a human / emotional level.
Rapsody’s verses drive home the senseless murder of young black men by police as she references deaths in the streets. She also name checks major figures within the Black Lives Movement, such as Colin Kaepernick. Her lyrics set the scene of murder, blood and guns that are wielded by police based on skin colour. However, the key to Rapsody’s lyrics is linking this violence to the families left behind. We hear about crying mothers and young black men whose lives have been cut short. She raps about how police brutality / murders are so normalised that she pleads “watching black death and murder shouldn’t be normal.” We can’t forget the families left behind and the faces of those killed. For Rapsody, blackness should be a source of pride and not fear.
Rapsody is one of the best in the rap game and her work is making an impact on events during 2020. She has a gift for humanising large social topics that most people, namely white people, want to turn a blind eye to and avoid. Averting your eyes from the pain in this track is not an option. You hear people weep. You see mothers cry. You see young black men dead in the streets. Rapsody shows how the Black Lives Matter movement is not a political movement, but based on love and being heard. It’s not politics, it’s life and death.
Listen to Pray Momma Don’t Cry