An Activist's Guide to the Michael Brown Hip-Hop Collaboration “Don’t Shoot”

Yesterday, Rolling Stone debuted a track about Michael Brown from LA rapper The Game featuring a slew of hip-hop's bigger names, including Diddy, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, and Wale.
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Yesterday, Rolling Stone debuted a track about Michael Brown from LA rapper The Game featuring a slew of hip-hop's bigger names, including Diddy, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, and Wale.
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Yesterday, Rolling Stone debuted a track from California rapper The Game featuring a slew of hip-hop's bigger names, including Diddy, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, and Wale. "I am a black man with kids of my own that I love more than anything, and I cannot fathom a horrific tragedy like Michael Brown's happening to them, The Game told Rolling Stone, "This possibility has shaken me to my core. That is why this song must be made and why it was so easy for so many of my friends to come together and unite against the injustice."


Which is an admirable goal, and as The Game said in the same interview, "I managed to get everyone on board fairly easy, simply because we have the hearts. We care and are inclined to take a positive approach to resolving an issue that has existed since the beginning of mankind and that is racism and hatred towards one another as human beings."

But the multitude of artists on the track seem to have differing views when it comes to what it takes to make that dream a reality. To help make sure everyone get's these rappers' respective messages as clearly as possible, I went ahead and broke it down verse by verse. And before you go bitching about "what does it matter what a bunch of rappers are saying?" remember that these artists combined have sold over well over 10 MILLION albums; people are listening to what these guys have to say. Also, proceeds from the single will go the Justice for Mike Brown GoFundMe account, so there. 

THE GAME
Lyrics:
Seen the pictures, feel the pain, scandalous how they murder son
Tired of them killing us, I'm on my way to Ferguson
Talked to TIP, I talked to Diddy, them my brothers walking with me
Mothers crying stop the riots, we ain't got to chalk the city
I seen Cole out there, thought I should go out there
They left that boy for hours in the cold out there
They killin' teens, they killin' dreams (It's murder)

Important Line: 

"Mothers crying stop the riots, we ain't got to chalk the city"

Translation:

Go to Ferguson for personal cathartic reasons but not to riot.


DIDDY

Lyrics:
Yo, come on we gotta stick together, we all we got
Police taking shots and I ain't talkin' bout Ciroc
I'm talking bout Emmett Till, I'm talking bout Ezell Ford
I'm talking bout Sean Bell, they never go to jail for
Trayvon over Skittles, Mike Brown Cigarillos
History keeps repeating itself, like a Biggie instrumental
America's a glass house and my revenge is mental
Rather use my brain than throw a cocktail through a window

Important Line: 

"Rather use my brain than throw a cocktail through a window"

Translation:

Drink Ciroc (Diddy's brand of vodka), but don't light it on fire and throw it through a window.


RICK ROSS (who raps about dealing coke, but who was caught lying about his secret past working for the Department of Corrections)

Lyrics:
I got the keys to the city still we left in the cold
Hands in the sky, still was left in the road
Ribbon in the sky, Michael Brown, another soul
Stole by the system, black men we pay the toll
The price is your life, Uncle Sam want a slice
Black dress code now we looting in the night
Now we throwing Molotovs in this holocaust
And I know they hate to hear me screaming, 'I'm a Boss!'

Important Line: 

"Now we throwing Molotovs in this holocaust/And I know they hate to hear me screaming, 'I'm a Boss!'"

Translation:

Don't listen to Diddy, throw Molotov cocktails, and when doing so, make sure to scream hubristic catchphrases.


2 CHAINZ

Lyrics:
Tired of the okie-dokie, lying you Pinocchio
Driving while black, tell me, where am I supposed to go?
Gun shots hit the car, now I got the holy ghost
If excessive force was a drug, then they overdosed
Got us tryna protest, it's a slow process
Heard it's a lot of rotten eggs in the crow's nest
People praying on they feet, police holding on they heat
Turned on the news and seen a tank rolling down the street

Important Line: 

"Got us tryna protest, it's a slow process/Heard it's a lot of rotten eggs in the crow's nest"

Translation:

Understand that while we're all very upset at this very moment, big change happens over time and not through violence. We also have to look out for those "rotten eggs" that help fuel distrust.

FABOLOUS

Lyrics:
Yeah, I seen a lot of ice water tossed, and I know it's for a cause
My only question is, what we doing for the loss
Of Mike Brown? Cause right now, I challenge you to use your talents to
Speak up, and don't you ever let them silence you
Cause action speaks louder than words, that's what I heard
Shot down with his hands up, that's what occurred
Man that sound absurd
Matter fact to me that sound like murder
We want justice 

Important Line: 

"Speak up, and don't you ever let them silence you/Cause action speaks louder than words, that's what I heard"

Translation:

Speak up no matter what, but be aware that in the grand scheme of impact-making, actions are apparently more efficient. So talk loudly?


YO GOTTI

Lyrics:
Ay yo Game, I had a crib out there, I used to live out there
So I know how niggas feel out there
People stressing, protesting, unity is a blessing
So it's time we come together, use our voice as a weapon
I am Michael Brown, cause I stand for what he stand for
News say we're looting, paint pictures like we some animals
On my NWA CMG
Holl'in' "Rest in peace Eazy and fuck the police"

Important Line: 

"So it's time we come together, use our voice as a weapon"

Translation:

See above "Important Line." Yo Gotti, practicing what he preaches by coming together on a hip-hop collaboration and using his voice as a weapon.


WALE

Lyrics:
Heard another brother slain up in St. Louis
Sure the mother feel the pain, but what you famous doing?
I’m sure the general population trying to be more active
But when the light finally catches you, you ice challenge
Okay, and I support the ALS just like the rest of them
But you have yet to pay your debt, so you just flexing then
Cause everybody care for a minute, then stop
People only there for a minute, then stop
And what's the point of giving if you ain't giving your all?
We never getting ahead, might as well give up your heart

Important Line: 

"Sure the mother feel the pain, but what you famous doing?
I’m sure the general population trying to be more active/But when the light finally catches you, you ice challenge"

Translation:

Wale, probably the most socially conscious member of this roster, suggests that celebrities leverage their fame and that average citizens need to more than Ice Bucket Challenges (with the now-necessary "BUT I SUPPORT WHAT THEY'RE DOING!" caveat thrown in to cover his bases). 


SWIZZ BEATZ

Lyrics:
Martin Luther King had a dream!
But they ain't respecting Jesse up out here
And they don't really respect Obama out here
Lights out, go dark it's like a nightmare
How the fuck you play the game, but they ain't playing fair
It's going down, armageddon right here
Right now, not on TV, but right here
Put your flags in the air if you don't really care (Wave it)
We need justice, yeah, we need justice here

Important Line: 

"Put your flags in the air if you don't really care (Wave it)"

Translation:

Put a flag of some kind in the air, but only if you don't care (which seems counterintuitive for a motivational political anthem).

CURREN$Y

Lyrics:
I heard he surrendered but we all saw how they did him
Television broadcasts, a confused country
I'm a resident of a nation that don't want me
What's done is done, the town erupts in fury
And I'm already hearing bout this lopsided jury
Three faces like his, the rest another story
A lot of motherfuckers need to act more worried

Important Line: 

"And I'm already hearing bout this lopsided jury/Three faces like his, the rest another story
A lot of motherfuckers need to act more worried"

Translation:

Be more worried about the fact that the 12-person grand jury in the Michael Brown case only has 3 black people on it (even though the demographics of the jury roughly coincide with the racial makeup of St. Louis County itself, which is 68 percent white and 24 percent black AND that this line of thinking only helps perpetuate the notion that white people are incapable of being objective).


PROBLEM

Lyrics:
The revolution has been televised
If I sit here and do don't do nothing, homie, that's genocide
Fuck that, we have arrived!
And who cares who ain't on our side cause we on our own
How do you preach peace to a family that just lost they own?
My brodie Game just banged my line like "We gotta do something"
All that marching and that peace ain't gonna fucking do nothing
Fuck it, my moms, sorry, I'm ready to rage
The police done let the animals out of the cage, oh lord

Important Line: 

"My brodie Game just banged my line like 'We gotta do something'
All that marching and that peace ain't gonna fucking do nothing"

Translation:

Even though The Game only very recently said that "doing something" didn't involve rioting and looting, Problem disagrees and believes that marching and peace "ain't gonna fucking do nothing."


So there we have it. While all these artists may have been inspired by Michael Brown's tragic death, they have a plethora of ideas about what do about it. You can protest and unify and understand that progress takes time and patience, you can drink Ciroc, you can wave a flag, or you can just say "fuck it," devalue the entire concept of this song and just go act like animal out of its cage like Problem suggests.

On an unrelated note, here's Questlove talking about "How Hip-Hop Failed Black America"