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“Police Brutality” by Darrell Kelley

“Police Brutality” is the latest single from prolific rapper/hip-hop artist, Darrell Kelley. A follow up track to “Because Of You”, Kelley invests his listeners into timely subjects and challenges the status quo of music with his truth slaying. As unbearable as it feels to hear the words “I can’t breathe” and recall the video of the late George Floyd flooding our minds and hearts, it’s more important than ever for musicians like Kelley to keep his name in the lexicon.

Kelley, who is based in Boston, laments at the treatment and the disgust from racism in the American police force. “Police Brutality”, while specifically calls out the Floyd murder, an event that occurred on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Kelley does add some generalities in the lyrics. Kelley, who’s voice sometimes sounds frail – like he’s so completely exhausted by the turn of events and the decades of abuse, balances his bereavement with stoicism. He’s angry, too, and it comes across with the steel-like auto tune embellishments. Like many, he wants answers. And in a really moving addition to the song, his repeated backing vocals “we want justice” stretch in unison. My only criticism is that I did want to hear his true voice; I know what’s in his heart because of his lyrics, but the rawness of his voice without the electronic tuning would have been a game changer.

“Another black man is dead because of police brutality,” Kelley raps. The music bed is stealth. It’s cool like and piercing to the soul. “I don’t think any black American is safe from racist police,” Kelley continues. “I can’t breathe, you’re killing me,” Kelley shares Floyds last words, sharing the victim’s viewpoint. The music bed, at times lost in the storyline and moving lyrics, does create a strong sense of somber or seriousness. It’s chilling, near dystopian. The electronic music base is not flashy; it’ doesn’t need to be. I applaud Kelley for this artistic choice.

This song can trigger trauma. One has to give Kelley credit for his artistic expression and the courage to continue to push Kelley’s memory to the media. As the world grapples with this same inflection, the topic of police brutality is certainly not new to music and art. Kelley’s insistence on keeping Floyd’s story, and the case for some many others, is remarkably blunt. “Police Brutality” is up there with Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” for songs that reflect reality. The truth hurts. Compared to “This Is America”, Kelley’s track is missing the vital visual component, but the pain is insufferably present.

When I think of the reaction to this song, I think of the flood gates opening. This is a turning point in our nation, our world’s history, and given this new song to the time capsule, “Police Brutality” from a New England rapper is just as important to be added to the Library of Congress or Smithsonian Institute than a multi-platinum recording artist. This song matters. Kelley’s voice for the late Floyd matters now more than ever.

Mindy McCall

The music of DARRELL KELLEY has been heard all over the world in partnership with the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Radio Promotions Division.  Learn more https://musikandfilm.com

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