Black Thought Delivers His Most Powerful Verse Ever, In Tribute To Trayvon Martin (Video)

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Black Thought is at the top of his game, and he knows it. His first solo project, the 9th Wonder & Soul Council-produced Streams Of Thought, Vol. 1, has garnered critical acclaim, including from AFH. At a time when Tariq Trotter says he feels as though he has never been sharper with the mic device, the South Philadelphia MC shows no signs of slowing his roll.

Thought has always been a politically and socially-minded MC. Nearly 20 years ago, he linked Mos Def, Common, Dice Raw, The Jazzyfatnastees, Flo Brown, and the rest of his band to honor wrongfully-incarcerated boxer and author Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. In the last decade, The Roots crew covered a Civil Rights Movement protest song “Can’t Turn Me ‘Round.” Last year, for the Detroit soundtrack, Black Thought and Bilal expressed how injustice in the United States and around the world continues, on the gripping “It Ain’t Fair.”

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Now, Thought again uses film as inspiration for a new and profoundly moving tribute song and video. The poetic performance stands as one of the most powerful verses in a legendary career that dates back well over 25 years. “Rest In Power” belongs to the upcoming Trayvon Martin documentary of the same name. That film, executive produced by Martin’s parents and JAY-Z, arrives July 30. The song begins with the 911 call made by George Zimmerman, moments before he killed the Black teenager. Immediately, Thought raps his chorus—speaking to the child that his killer thought was “suspicious”: “Rest in power, rest in paradise / If I could change matters, I would spare a life / ‘Cause lives matter, it’s clearly nothing as dear as life / You have become a symbol in the spirit life.” Poetically, Thought’s verse proclaims, “In America, one tradition that lasts is Black blood woven into the fibers of the flag / Not addressing the problems of the past to nowhere fast we’re following the path / So-called leaders on hire for the clan.” With pain in his heart, Tariq Trotter tells officials that they are standing with hatred, not compassion or justice—and that they always have.

In short and explosive bars, The Roots’ MC expresses how he puts himself in Trayvon’s parents’ shoes, only adding to his anger as well as the heartbreak. The master lyricists uses facts to let this social crime be palpable to the listener: “One killer, one child, one weapon / The shooter was un-threatened / Seventy-one seconds / So many unanswered questions / I see reflections of myself, I feel like in fatherhood we’re all connected.” His verse points out how Zimmerman walked free long before being apprehended by authorities, a sign of the justice system long before the judge and gavel. Linking Trayvon’s wrongful killing to that of Emmett Till, Black Thought knows this song applies to more than just two martyrs: “How many more kids will we wait for them to kill? / My tears collecting like raindrops on a window sill / If the wounds heal the memories never fade.

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The verse closes with a change in its second bar: “Rest in power, rest in paradise / To all the babies too young to have paid the price / ‘Cause lives matter, there’s clearly nothing as dear as life / You have become a symbol in the spirit life.” Thought lets the spirit of Trayvon Martin—who he reminds listeners was just in 11th grade—know that he did not die in vain. The justice system, law enforcement, and so much of society have so much to learn, but Tariq Trotter knows and “Rest In Power” makes this statement.

Images of Trayvon project behind Thought during his performance, along with visually stunning clips from the doc’, including surveillance footage from February 26, 2012, the last moments for the teenage boy. Footage of demonstrations, from those protesting that Black Lives Matter, as well as those countering with hate, are included in this vignette.

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Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story will debut on July 30 on Paramount Network. For those in need of a great collection of songs, Streams Of Thought, Vol. 1 is available at Ambrosia For Heads.