Young artists address racial, social injustices

Recent high school graduate Yukwon Toney speaks on the importance of using your platform for good. Photo courtesy Yukwon Toney

The rap artist Lil Baby dropped a new single on June 12 that was loaded with searing examples of police brutality, personal life experiences, and a call to action on the issue that has ignited a global movement. “The Bigger Picture,” which was released a few weeks after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died at the hands of policemen in Minneapolis, has made its way through households as many are praising Lil Baby for sharing a song with a pertinent message.

Lil Baby is one of many artists who have addressed social injustice through music. North Carolina native DaBaby released a Black Lives Matter remix to his single, “ROCKSTAR,” as didsinger Trey Songz, who ditched his usual venereal slow-jams in his new song, “2020 Riots: How Many Times” to express his feelings of sorrow as a result of the perpetual killings of Black people in America.

Many people are anticipating more big-name stars to release music, art and movies that touch on controversial topics such as racial injustice. These three musicians all have similar, yet unique takes on the importance of artists using their platform to shed light on social inequity.

Let’s start at the beginning. To understand why artists make certain music is the answer to why there is an overwhelming number of songs that seem to barely scratch the surface when it comes to controversial issues such as racial injustice.

A 22-year-old music industry student at Florida A&M University, Zachary Mighty, explains why artists may steer away from controversial topics and stick to the ordinary spill about sex, drugs and money.

“Some artists are sharing their personal life stories,” Mighty said. “Just because we are the same color does not mean we have experienced the same issues.”

For a long time rap artists like Lil Baby have been telling their stories through music, with their platform influencing generations to come. The power of influence is so big that artists must use their platforms to speak on deep-rooted issues rather than creating music that lacks substance for the next generation to come.

Speaking of the next generation, 18-year-old artist Grady Escobar is making sure he uses his voice to bring attention to social injustice. The Tallahassee native released a snippet of a new song where he addressed the need for world peace amid the recent killing of George Floyd.

Escobar spoke on how it is important for him and other artists to use their gifts to positively influence the next generation.

“There’s a power in art,” Escobar said. “There’s a power in music in particular.”

The young artist who is also a creative director for Twenty20Records and an engineer for LTR Media, spoke on how religion plays a huge role in artistic development.

“It sets the tone for how I’m supposed to create and how I’m supposed to think,”Escobar said. “For how I’m supposed to proactively produce content for people that will affect how they feel and live their life.”

Music is one thing that brings people of different backgrounds, races and religions together. If artists continue to speak up on the existing issues of society the world will be unable to tune out the message.

Stay up to date with Grady Escobar via Instagram @gradyescobar_ . You can check out his newly released single, “OCD!” on all platforms.

Artists are not the only people who can use their voice to fight systemic racism. On June 3 in Riverview, just outside of Tampa, a young man by the name of YuKwon Toney led a protest in his community. He had similar views on how artists should address the issues of today.

“When you’re blessed with a platform, use it,” he said.

Toney, a recent graduate of Lennard High School who led a school protest back in 2017 during a time when Florida educators were fighting for higher pay, did just that.

“I was happy that I was able to use my voice for someone that was dear to my heart,” Tony said.

Unfortunately, the protest ended in disarray, which taught Toney the importance of a peaceful, organized protest much like those that are occurring across the nation right now.

The young leader who can be seen on social media marching with a police officer during the protest gives some advice to his peers who are eager to use their voice in the same capacity.

“Make sure the local law enforcement is aware,” Toney said. “Be mature about it.”