Grammy Award winning record producer, and all-round music maven, Salaam Remi has curated the talents of several iconic musicians for his Louder Than Life Records release stylised Is It Because Im Black, from the upcoming Black on Purpose project slated for August.
Remi’s latest offering, which comes during a moment of relentless reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement protests, is a timely update of a 50-year-old Syl Johnson classic bearing the same name.
The 2020 version of the black empowerment single starts off with a monologue from late activist Sandra Bland, who died – nearly five years ago – on July 13, 2015, under mysterious circumstances, while in detainment, following an encounter with the police, in Texas.
“Social media is powerful, we can do something with this. If we wanted change, we could really truly make it happen… start in your own home, start with you,” Bland statement led the song, urging black people to effect the change they seek from oppressive systems.
From Bland‘s poignant words, the song segues to equally power vocal performances from musical elites, CeeLo Green, Stephen Marley, Anthony Hamilton, Black Thought, and Syleena Johnson (daughter of Syl.)
The accompanying video frames a split screen of the featured players paired with compelling images, from various decades, of black people and allies across the globe. The visuals interweave a slew of protests against the inequities meted to black and brown peoples as well as numerous on-camera deaths of these groups during encounters with armed state enforcers.
The lyrics of the more-than-a-century-old Is It Because I’m Black, which has also been covered by Jamaicans Ken Boothe and Delroy Wilson, still echo true in 2020 with introspective lyrics, such as:
Wondering why my dreams never came true, is it because I’m black?
Somebody tell me, what can I do?
Something’s holding me back, I wonder, is it because I’m black?
In this world of no pity, I was raised in the ghetto city
Momma, she works so hard, to earn every penny
Something holding me back, is it because I’m black?