By Cameron Lee
November 5, 2020
An eclectic collection of Greensboro artists and musicians have joined forces on a five-song project, People Over Politics, with the purpose of motivating civic engagement in the Carolinas and beyond. Greensboro native, rapper and songwriter Brandon D (Brandon Davis) assembled a stellar cast of North Carolina talent including singer-songwriters Vanessa Ferguson and Ricco Barrino, rap duo ILLPO (Mundae Boones and J Bonds), rapper Afika, spoken word poet Zitty Nxumalo (Dr. Z), and community activist, Anthony “FreeDopeMajor” Morgan.
The project falls under the umbrella of the organization We The People International, a non-profit created to merge entertainment and education to uplift youth in the Black community. “We thought it would be powerful to create music and visuals that entertained and educated at the same time,” said Davis, who is also a co-founder of We The People International. “We know how impactful music can be on young minds. Information put out by PBS and other leading experts demonstrates music’s ability to increase memory and learning.”
With that thought in mind, the lead single from the project “I Won’t Let It Stop Me” tackles a topic all too familiar to many in minority communities: voter suppression. The music video shot at the Historic Magnolia House– a building with a significant history, having been a safe haven for writers, actors, athletes, and musicians during the Jim Crow era– the song conveys a soulful voice of resilience from Vanessa Ferguson.
While the world may have experienced a heavy reminder of the many social inequities that minorities still face in this country, People Over Politics isn’t a dim collection of monotone songs, but a diverse blend of music and poetry. On the track “Distracted,” Zitty Nxumalo, a co-founder of the non-profit also known as Dr. Z, delivers a two-minute spoken word poem that brings you inside the busy mind of a Black woman during these trying political times:
Show me the real. Reasoning skills.
I’m dis-eased with the ills
Illusions and pills
delusions and bills
collusions and spills
Pollution and wills
North Carolina R&B stalwart Ricco Barrino, who many may know as the brother of Grammy Award-winning artist Fantasia, delivers some powerful verses on “Woke Up”: “They ask us what we riot for / Cuz we wanna see something change / And it bothers me / When we come in peace / That the policy stays the same.” FreeDopeMajor completes the song with some contentious rhymes about the difficulty of rising from the prison industrial complex: “All we ever wanted was an equal opportunity but I got caught up in the system and it ruined me.”
The gritty hip-hop track “Face to Face,” starts with a speech on socio-economic disparities and its parallels to racist behavior in America. Boones and Bonds of ILLPO trade some fierce bars on the first two first verses as Brandon D closes out the song with some potent words to city leaders: “Politicians get up on the podium and lie up there / Toss a couple crumbs then they leave with the lion’s share / When it go down here, don’t nobody care / Unless they up for election and it’s that time of year.”
On the track, “WHAT,” rapper and singer Afika switches the flow with a serene tribal drum and acoustic guitar rhythm with a message of suffering as a man coming from meager beginnings dealing with the all too common situations of being a young Black man in America. He closes the song with the alluring words borrowed from Yasiin Bey’s “Umi Says,” “Shine your light from on top of the world / Shine your light for the world to see / Want my people to be free to be free to be free.”
A collage of thoughts, news clips, music and poetry, People Over Politics is a short, but moving collection of expression that feels connected to the perspective of oppression and plight of Black Americans, not exploiting the topic.
Listen to People Over Politics and watch the music video for “I Won’t Let It Stop Me.” Learn more about the non-profit organization We The People International. You can support the project monetarily at $wethepeopleINTL on Cash App.