With Black Music Month in full effect this year, African American artists are looking for ways to stay active, motivated, and committed on the fight for social change within their communities in light of the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Adbery and more.

Spurred by the callous disregard for Black lives, artists are hoping to use their platforms as microphones to invoke reform in both the short and long term. Every Friday of this month, we will have an artist speak on today’s climate, offer their suggestions for revision going forward, and why being Black continues to be a gift more than a curse.

TDE’s Reason is first at-bat with his take on why he wants America to reconsider the hiring process for cops, and why he values his skin color now more than ever.  — As told to Carl Lamarre

2020 has been by far the worst year that I’ve personally lived through. I haven’t seen nothing like this. From losing Kobe and then with his pandemic hitting, there’s so many people out of jobs and whatnot. Then, there’s George Floyd and other Black lives getting lost. It’s just a weird time. I don’t really know what the universe is doing, but I’m kind of worried about the next six months because we’re only halfway through.

With all this going on though, I’ve never been prouder to be Black. It’s a very, very sad time, but at the same time, it shows us how powerful we are. We’re so powerful that that’s a big reason why these things are happening. They don’t want the country to be equal for us. They know if we are equal, we’ll eventually take over, in my opinion. We’ve done that with everything that they’ve given us. Every time they make us equal with something, we end up leveling up. So I’ve never been prouder to be Black than right now. It’s just sad that these are the types of things that continuously happen because of that fear that we can be great.

I also wanna give credit to all the other races that’s standing with us. I was out there with the people, and there’s a lot of White people, there’s a lot of Brown people, there’s a lot of Asians. There’s a lot of races pissed the f–k off about this and I feel like that shows how powerful we are a country as well.

Nobody is perfect. I hate when people come after the protesting and the looting. First off, people say rioting doesn’t do anything. We rioted after Martin Luther King Jr. died and we got the Civil Rights Act [of 1968] after that. There’s been times in history that it’s shown that rioting works because [though] it’s unfortunate, you’re damaging the government’s property — so they gotta spend extra money to have cops out there. All the government really cares about is money, they don’t give a f–k about us. You have to hit them where it hurts [and that’s] with their pockets. They’re running through millions right now trying to contain everything.

So though I don’t completely agree with looting and damaging stuff, especially Black-owned businesses, I definitely feel like when nobody’s listening to us, it’s necessary. I think that you have to fight back. You can’t just sit there peacefully and change things when all they’re going to do is issue an apology, fire a couple cops and wait for us to forget about it. No, we’re not going to forget about it. We’re going to remember this every single day until there’s real change. I can always be behind that.

I think every artist has a responsibility. I hate when they think it’s not their responsibility to be leaders and whatnot. People follow you. You have influence and your influence is what allows you to live this luxurious life with the cars and the houses. You can’t take that benefit without taking the responsibility on. I don’t think you should take the good without taking the pressure with that. I think it’s my job to bring as much awareness to every single petition, every single option that we have to be able to change things.

I’m actually working on something with my boy: a petition on the way they hire cops. I feel like that’s 80% of the problem. In my opinion, no cop should be policing a neighborhood that they haven’t lived in for at least six months. A lot of these killings happen because cops are scared. Some of it is from racism, but a lot of these killings come from cops being scared. I always used the example of if you drop me in the jungle with a gun, the moment I see a tiger, I’m going to shoot him, even if he don’t move. I’m unfamiliar. I’m out of my element. I’m not used to being around tigers, but if I grew up in the jungle and I see a tiger, I’m not going to kill him until I have to kill him. I’m not going to shoot him until I have to shoot him.

When you take these white people with squeaky clean resumes and their background is flawless — which means they haven’t done anything in the lives — you drop them in these neighborhoods like South Central, they’re scared. They’ve never been around this. Their background is too squeaky clean. So the hiring process needs to change. You should have to at least live in the neighborhood for six months and I don’t think we should be hiring cops with a squeaky clean resume.

Why are we sending people in that haven’t been a part of anything negative? I’m not saying hire criminals, but you’re hiring people who have squeaky clean resumes and you’re putting them into one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. They’re on edge all the time. They’re scared all the time. They don’t know how to handle these things. That’s a big deal.

I also feel like we need some kind of petition for if a cop kills somebody, their punishment should be even worse than a regular people killing somebody because you’re job is to protect. We’re doing it backwards. Why are cops getting off so easily? Petition and voting, that’s the only way we’ll be able to change those things.

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