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Darrell Kelley’s “Wasn’t Justified” (SINGLE)

The final lyric we hear in Darrell Kelley’s, “Wasn’t Justified” is, How dare you say/killing an unarmed black man/was Justified. This is followed by the silencing and haunting sound of a single gunshot. The song tells the story of Andrew Brown JR. Andrew was a an African American male, who was killed by Elizabeth City, NC Police, in what was determined to be a justifiable response. The police claim that Brown intended to use his vehicle as a deadly weapon, and they were given no choice but to open fire. The courts agreed, and no charges were brought against the officers involved in Brown’s death.

Andrew Brown’s family has pointed out that Andrew was unarmed, during the entirety of the incident. They also believe that the claim of him using his vehicle to run an officer down is highly embellished, or outright false. Kelley addresses the District Attorney in the case, implicitly, and soulfully condemns what he considers to be an egregious case of injustice. The music here is beautiful, what with Kelley’s soothing vocals, and flawless layering of soundscapes. Unfortunately, the story of “Wasn’t Justified” is tragic and pensive. We are continually reminded of the urgency surrounding the cycle of violence that still lurks within the core of America.

Darrell Kelley is using his music as a means to hold a spotlight over cases of questionable procedures, that have resulted in fatalities. Kelley doesn’t shy away from proclaiming racial prejudice and bias as major factors in these cases. “Wasn’t Justified,” points out several facts that indicate Andrew Brown was unarmed, and not a threat in any way to police. What’s interesting about Kelley’s take is that “Wasn’t Justified” isn’t tinged with outrage, but rather a sorrowful and mournful tone. Darrell Kelley is effective in capturing the deep sense of tragedy that surrounds this case.

The production on “Wasn’t Justified” is strong, with skillful tracking and a vulnerable, but confident performance from Kelley. He uses a vocal effect, and is sure to fully enunciate, so as to ensure we can decipher every single lyric. There is not an ounce of symbolism to the track, as Kelley doesn’t go for poetic, so much as informative. Kelley’s passion emits from the speakers, and it’s obvious how fervent he is about this content. He is committed to spreading awareness about the cases of racial targeting, that occur across the country, with disturbing regularity.

Honestly, without Darrell Kelley bringing attention to it, this case might have fallen through the cracks. The Andrew Brown case wasn’t covered by national media outlets, or at least not to any great extent. It’s of course then to Kelley’s credit, that he is doing what he can to provide some sort of voice to the otherwise voiceless. Kelley’s genre isn’t always mutually exclusive to music that is fully driven by social activism, which makes him something of a pioneer. It certainly would be a step in the right direction if others were to follow Kelley’s lead, and light a candle in the dark, so to speak.

“Wasn’t Justified” is easy to listen to and impossible to reconcile. We must not deflect from the incredibly unfortunate fact that Andrew Brown is no longer with us, and how many lives this had adversely affected. The unrest and disillusion that so many perceived injustices have caused, continues to provoke and harbor boiling tensions. Kelley is pointing out examples of inequality and racism in the places where it should be most refuted and condemned. Thanks to Darrell Kelly, Andrew Brown and his family are allowed to have their side of the story, heard.

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



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