The moment area rapper Fresco Kane heard of the killing of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown, he knew he had to use his craft to do something.
“If you have a heart, it’s only right to do so,” says Kane, originally from East St. Louis.
He’d just gotten off an airplane from Los Angeles when he checked his Instagram app and saw a picture from the scene in Ferguson where a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager in the street on Aug. 9.
Feeling somber, Kane quickly decided to create a song, “No Justice No Peace” featuring singer Fedarro. “I didn’t want to make any song. I knew everybody would make a song saying ‘Mike Brown Mike Brown Mike Brown’ the whole song. My song says that’s me on the ground, and that’s all my friends on the ground. This is us.
“I didn’t do this for reaction. I did it to get a point across that this is every black kid.”
Kane is just one of many St. Louis musicians to stand up and speak out in the aftermath of Brown’s death.
St. Louis-area artists including Nelly, Tef Poe, Brian Owens, BoDean, Thi’sl, Coco Soul, Haiku, Indiana Rome, Mario Pascal, Zeus Jupiter (formerly known as Ruka Puff), Lyfe Stile and others have played their part in various ways the last three weeks.
Their efforts coincide with a high level of support from national acts. “Black Rage” by Lauryn Hill, “Be Free” by J. Cole and “Don’t Shoot” from the Game featuring Rick Ross, Diddy, 2 Chainz, Wale, TGT and Fabolous are among the songs released in support of Ferguson. David Banner, Talib Kweli, T.I., John Legend, Frank Ocean and Killer Mike have also spoken out for the cause.
Wiz Khalifa sported a Don’t Shoot T-shirt at his Verizon Wireless Amphitheater concert three days after the shooting, and Jeezy projected Brown’s image and had a moment of silence for him at the same show. Reality star Benzino of “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” organized a benefit at Envy Lounge recently, and Cat Power had two benefit shows at the Firebird.
It’s just the beginning of what’s to come, particularly with St. Louis artists, whose expressions will continue to resonate.
Their roles vary. Some are protesting peacefully or speaking at town hall meetings. Others are creating or joining groups advocating justice for Brown. Some helped clean the streets of Ferguson after the rioting and looting, or provided food and water to those protesting.
Some are writing new music, or looking back on old music that has new relevance, and performing at events that benefit Brown’s family or call for solidarity such as Sunday night’s “Bands Up, Don’t Shoot” event at the Ready Room with Shaved Women, Tawaine Noah, Animal Teeth, Lions Eat Grass, Barely Free and others.
Zeus Jupiter debuted a new song last week titled “Ain’t Right” at a benefit for Brown’s family at Plush, and rapper Miistro Freeyo just unveiled a video for “What You Gone Do,” both new works addressing events in Ferguson.