After the mainstream media marked the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd (May 25, 2021) between the conviction and sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, it’s as if they decided to move on to other topics – the Delta variant, debates over vaccine and mask mandates, messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, etc. It’s as if every other unjustifiable cop homicide on an African America was swept under a rug, as minor or negligible news. But system racism hasn’t gone away – not even close. It’s still with us, ready to rear its ugliness and manifest any minute, on any street in America – and countless victims aren’t getting justice, or airtime.
That’s where Darrell Kelley continues to step in, making sure the world remembers the victims and the underlying causes of their suspicious senseless deaths. The prolific Atlanta based singer, songwriter and tireless advocate for racial justice – who broke out with three #1 international hit songs on the Euro Indie Music Chart – stays front and center, using his emotional, high impact songs as a voice for the voiceless – and those who are no longer with us and cannot speak up for themselves.
Putting his proverbial money where his vocals and lyrics are, he recently bought a coffin – yes, you read right – painted it black and decked it out with the names (in white) of all the victims. Open it up, and there’s a mannequin, lying silent showcasing ” those names – plus a state of the art sound system and a large screen running the artist’s many popular videos from the past few years. The eye-popping coffin – which he carries in the hearse he just bought, also covered with names – is front and center in Darrell’s latest compelling clip for “Take Your Knees Off Our Necks!!!”, the title track from his new compilation of 11 tracks – six previously released singles and five new songs – that powerfully and viscerally chronicle this ongoing American nightmare. In its first two weeks, the video has received nearly 140,000 views on YouTube and another 120,000 on the videoblog WorldStarHipHop.
Inspired by a quote by Al Sharpton, Darrell on “Get Your Knees Off Our Necks!!!” offers a no holds barred view of the reality he and millions of others face today as Black men in the United States. As sirens wail, he opens with “This is dedicated to all the racist police officers in the world – do your job!” In the first verse he sings: “Every time I drive I get nervous about getting pulled over/I’ve been doing the speed limit/Still I’ve gotta look over my shoulder/If you’re black driving in America, you’ll be scared to drive down the street. . .When you’re black, this is what happens when you’re driving, walking, minding your own business/Police will hunt you out.” In the soaring, hypnotic chorus, the singer, echoing Sharpton and George Floyd, pleas over and over: “Take your knees off our necks/With all respect…”
The previously released singles on the new compilation include all of his “We Want Justice” songs, which featured the chant behind Darrell’s main narratives: “Black Lives Matter,” “Police Brutality,” “7 Times” (about Jacob Blake), “Release the Transcripts” (about Breonna Taylor), “Ahmaud” (about Ahmaud Arbery) and “Derrick Scott.” In addition to the title song, the new tracks include “Black Wall Street,” “Ronald Greene (I’m Your Brother),” “Systemic Racism” and “Wasn’t Justified” (about Andrew Brown).
Though Darrell had planned all along to release a compilation of new and previously released songs devoted to racial justice called Get Your Knees Off Our Necks!!!,” he originally planned to drop it without a song with that title. Feeling emotionally drained and burned out from writing and singing so many BLM-themed songs based on the ongoing torrent of events, he decided to go to the studio and start penning lighthearted romantic tunes about girls, like he did regularly just a few years ago. He even signed a deal with a major label and promised them he would deliver 15 new tunes. But as hard as he tried, the weight of the world – and the voices of the dead – were too heavy on his heart and he told his engineer he just wasn’t feeling it. He still had to record more for the cause. The words which became the title track of the collection just started coming out – and his mission continues.
“These songs reflect exactly what’s been said by Ben Crump, the prominent civil rights attorney who has worked with the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and George Floyd,” says Darrell. “His words are, ‘I believe in justice for all, and especially for those without a voice who need our help most of all.’ Even after the settlement and conviction, George Floyd’s brothers have said, ‘Keep George’s name ringing’ and my way of doing that is recording songs, performing where I can and now, causing the kind of good trouble that John Lewis would no doubt approve of, going everywhere with this coffin that speaks for the victims who can’t. I’ve been kicked out of restaurants and hotels with it, but I bring it along to make a statement wherever I go.
“When I drive my coffin around in the hearse, I feel as though I hear the voices of the victims telling me, ‘Don’t stop fighting for us,'” he adds. “It’s been frightening and painful to witness what has been going on in my sacred America, and while music is my main platform to address these tragedies and underlying issues, the coffin and hearse also help bring attention to the issues at hand. It’s hard to understand people who hate people for no reason but their color and to get them to understand that color doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t be attacked just because of how we look and what we believe in. I don’t always have an overall vision in mind for my musical and cultural activities – I just go where the Spirit leads me and the words and actions flow out. I am a vessel speaking truth to power.”
Learn more at darrellkelleyofficial.com; news and updates facebook.com/darrellkelleysmusic. Watch his music, performance and commentary videos at youtube.com/user/latenightwithdarrell/featured.
Listen at soundcloud.com/user-792034936, or reverbnation.com/darrellkelley, and/or darrellkelley.bandcamp.com. You can follow him on Instagram at darrellkellyofficial.
Darrell Kelley is making a pop-up appearance today at 3 PM at the Greenbrier Mall located at 2841 Greenbrier Parkway SW., Atlanta, GA 30331
SOURCE Viral Records LLC
Rod is a blogger, writer, filmmaker, photographer, daydreamer who likes to cook. Rod produces and directs the web series, CUPIC: Diary of an Investigator. He is also the editor, producer and administrator of TNC Network.