In the manic midst of one of the most contentious periods in recent memory, especially in D.C., enters “#weaintblack,” the latest hyper-politicized take on modern racial struggle from veteran rap group The Cornel West Theory. It’s sort of rare these days to find a song that’s more concerned about its literal lyricism than polished production, but with “#weaintblack,” it’s clear The Cornel West Theory wants its lyrics shouted far and wide.
The band’s lead vocalist Tim Hicks credits the song’s directness to a call to action by Jelani Wilkins of the Humanity in Training think-tank, who was looking for a song that addressed “the illusion of race and the overwhelming impact it has had on both white and black Americans.”
“Our hope and intention is to begin [a] conversation on a topic that is very sensitive, from a different and controversial perspective,” Hicks says. “It is our job as artists to tackle the dangerous subjects head on and offer a deeper content over powerful sonics as a direct nod towards hearing, meditating upon, and being ideally motivated to action by them. “
Regarding the song’s meaning, Hicks says that it “is about the class and caste system that disguises itself under the broad and foolish banner of race, and the true nature of race as a social construct and about the legal meaningof black in America according to this nation’s laws and documents.” In lyrical form, this sentiment is reflected as “Black was just a social construct/ the foundations for plantation labor/ birth of a nation facing itself/ to gain wealth/ race was created/ but God shaped it/ as sacred/ then y’all named it as hatred.”
The song’s production harkens back to the dusty breaks and jazz-laden classic age of hip-hop culture, with a spiraling piano break drilling its way deep into the murky, distorted low-end depths. While the song feels like it’s in direct lock-step agreement with the progressive sentiment of the last few months, it was actually recorded one year ago.
If there’s one takeaway from “#weaintblack,” it’s that race, politics, struggle, and definition remain a timeless trope in a non-white America. And that notion is more important now than ever.