Y'all Killed X And Let Zimmerman Live
STREETS IS DONE? AND OTHER QUESTIONS.
The most potent line on Drake's latest album, Scorpion, didn't come from Drake.
It came, instead, as the punctuation to a dense feature verse from industry big brother, Jay Z, on "Talk Up."
It was a simple line, really. Yet it alluded to ideologies, concepts and principles deeper and more complex than what you expect to encounter on a Drake track.
With Drake, you expect to address more shallow and generational ailments: the policing of other people's Instagram posts and the unapologetic apologies issued to women he once ___________ (loved? fucked? dated?). I was honestly surprised by Drake's mini political reference on the album "President doing us in." Even in light of his recent blackface and baby boy scandals, I had no predictions of him tackling the social issues of the culture he dominates. And that's not shade. Just a statement.
Jay Z, on the other hand, has been in his sociopolitical bag lately, so the "I got the president tweetin'/ I won't even meet with him" line was standard with the conscious arrogance we've come to expect. But the last line, "Y'all killed X and let Zimmerman live/ Streets is done." That was jarring. Because I'm dramatic, I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped as I looked around to see the reactions of everyone else. Even though I was in my room alone.
Like I said, Hov has been good for taking indisputable stands within the last couple of years. Don't cheat on your wife. Build generational wealth. Love is love. Don't wrongfully imprison black men. His statements have been pretty clear and widely agreed upon. Even as he began to press more deeply into issues on his joint album with Beyoncé, Everything is Love, all that he said was pretty standard of any "woke" post-modern, wealth-oriented black man. But this was something different. Layered and nuanced. Not necessarily right or wrong, because rather than being a line of thought guided by morality, it was one guided by principle. Street law. Vigilante governance. Respect. Revenge. Race.
He's referenced Zimmerman before, on "Top Off:" Meanwhile Georgie Porgie sinnin’ and sendin’ me threats / Save your breath, you couldn’t beat a flight of steps / Try that shit with a grown man / I’ll kill that fuckboy with my own hand.
But even still, this lyric is different in the sense that it's more of a personal shot connecting to a personal reaction. There's no wondering what he's talking about. But with "Talk Up," there are questions. Not to be answered, but to be considered.
Was this a call for Zimmerman's death? An expression of disappointment with Floridians? Black teens? The streets? An idea based on the exchange of life? Was this a race war lyric? A black on black crime reference? Should we preserve all black life? Should we begin to kill those who kill us? Or is the thought simply that if we're going to kill someone, it should be someone who has killed one of our own? And that thought--"our own." Does that refer to black people? Black men? The Hip Hop community? Does it extend to those who harm women and children? Does it include the likes of violent young men like X? Who decides? Who is "us?" Who are we?