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Blitz the Ambassador Releases “A(wake)–Ballad for Tamir Rice”

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The Ghanaian-American hip-hop artist Blitz the Ambassador released a track called “A(wake)–Ballad for Tamir.” The song is a response to a grand jury’s Dec. 29 decision to not indict Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a park in November 2014. Rice was in a park playing with his friend’s air rifle. Loehmann was on the scene for just two seconds before firing his weapon at Rice.

Blitz has never been shy about admitting that he’s influenced by socially conscious hip-hop, such as KRS-One and Public Enemy, as well as the politically charged Afrobeat of Fela Kuti. Seun Kuti, Fela’s youngest son, collaborated with Blitz on his 2014 album Afropolitan Dreams.

“A(wake)” invokes a solemn, contemplative side of Afrobeat. The lyrics, available on Blitz’s Bandcamp page, and music circle around a chorus in which the musician repeats the phrase “Wake up why don’t you?” like a chant or a prayer, or perhaps just the repetition of speech that falls on deaf ears. In the verses he connects the American “Black bodies on their knees/Black bodies that no longer breathe” with a global phenomenon of indifference to black suffering, connecting Blitz’s adopted home of Brooklyn to Jo’burg and Port-au-Prince.

This musical protest joins demonstrations on the streets of American cities in response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict the two Cleveland officers, which fits an ongoing pattern of policemen facing no legal repercussions for killing unarmed black citizens.

The U.S. Department of Justice also released a statement Monday announcing that the department’s civil rights division, along with the FBI and U.S. Attorney General, “will continue [their] independent review of this matter, assess all available materials and determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws.”

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