Artists Who Are Standing Against Racism and Police Brutality With Their Music Right Now

Artists have been sharing music that stands against police brutality and racism following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.


Image via Getty/James Brickwood


Over the past two and a half months, as much of our country has lived in quarantine, we’ve witnessed the violent loss of black lives with disturbing frequency. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have died at the hands of racists and law enforcement. Complex Networks recognizes the power of its platforms and is committed to amplifying their stories and the voices of our communities to work for justice.

Following the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others, people are searching for ways to heal in their communities and ignite change. Outraged Americans have joined protests around the country to stand against police brutality and racism, while others have turned to music to spread empowerment and hope.

Many artists are using music to communicate these important messages. Conway the Machine released a protest song called “Front Lines” on June 1, while Terrace Martin recruited some of his friends to share their own stories of abuse at the hands of police. And YG, LL Cool J, Papoose, and more have also shared powerful messages through their music.  

The history of songs that protest police brutality and racism goes back decades, but today we're highlighting some of the newest records that were released in response to the events happening right now. We will update this list as more songs are released.

Terrace Martin f/ Denzel Curry, Kamasi Washington, G Perico, and Daylyt, "Pig Feet"

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On June 1, Terrace Martin released his collaboration with Denzel Curry, Kamasi Washington, G Perico, and Daylyt. While “Pig Feet” was released in response to the recent murders and protests across the nation, Martin clarified to Complex that he would not call it a protest song. Instead, he said it is an “all action” song that is meant to bring awareness and strength to the community as the movement continues. “The message of ‘Pig Feet’ that I'm trying to get across is A, awareness, B, strength, and C, fearlessness,” Martin explained. On the track, each artist lays down eye-opening verses that illustrate their run-ins with racism and police. “Helicopters over my balcony/If police can’t harass, they wanna smoke every ounce of me/Breath is alchemy, see how the life converted/You tell me life’s a female dog, well I’m perverted,” Denzel Curry raps on the first verse. —Jessica McKinney

H.E.R, “I Can’t Breathe”

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On Juneteenth, H.E.R. honored George Floyd with a song called “I Can’t Breathe,” which features powerful lyrics like, “We breathe the same and we bleed the same/But still, we don't see the same/Be thankful we are God-fearing because we do not seek revenge/We seek justice, we are past fear/We are fed up eating your shit/Because you think your so-called ‘Black friend’ validates your wokeness and erases your racism.” The track comes with an equally striking music video that features video from protests across the nation. —Eric Skelton


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YG is back with another anthem that throws up a middle finger at the police. On the track, YG repeatedly chants “Fuck the police” before he unleashes verses that call out the task force for killing citizens and abusing power. “Murder after murder after all these years/Buy a strap, bust back after all these tears,” he spits. “FTP (Fuck the Police)” arrives four years after YG and Nispsey Hussle teamed up for “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).” —Jessica McKinney

Noname, “Song 33”

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Noname’s “Song 33” will be remembered as a response to J. Cole’s “Snow on the Bluff,” but it’s important to note that she used most of the song to highlight more important matters. “Why Toyin body don’t embody all the life she wanted?” she asks, referencing Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau, who was found dead on June 15. Later, she questions, “When George was beggin’ for his mother, saying he couldn’t breathe/You thought to write about me?” and “It’s trans women bein’ murdered and this is all he can offer?” —Eric Skelton

Conway the Machine, “Front Lines”

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As protests continued to march around the country on June 1, Conway the Machine dropped “Front Lines,” a song that memorializes the recent victims of police brutality and racism. “I just seen a video on the news I couldn’t believe/Another racist cop kill a nigga and get to leave,” he raps, referencing the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In that same verse, he also criticizes fans’ support of “rats” like 6ix9ine, spitting, “While you so called real niggas celebratin' rats/Goin’ on YouTube runnin’ up these niggas’ views.” Ahead of the song’s release, Conway told Complex that he was moved to record the track after being angered and hurt by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. “I’m a Black man: a father, a brother, I have 2 sons,” he says. “I wanted to give you the mindset from the protesters point of view, and I was able to paint that picture perfectly over this Beat Butcha production.” —Jessica McKinney

D Smoke & SiR, “Let Go”

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“As a realist, I unfortunately don’t expect justice from this corrupt judicial system. I DO expect that people will continue to express how fucking angry they are.” D Smoke wrote those words on Instagram in response to George Floyd’s murder by police. And “Let Go” is his moving attempt, along with his brother, singer SiR, to express just that. The song, D Smoke says in the track’s closing verse, was written on the day of Floyd’s murder. But even if he didn’t make that explicit, it wouldn’t be hard to guess with powerful lines about how “they rest they feet upon our neck/Or shove their knee on our spine until we rest in peace.” —Shawn Setaro

Dre, “Captured on a iPhone”

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Dre, of hip-hop duo Cool & Dre, dropped off “Captured on an iPhone” on June 1, a song that speaks to the use of technology to capture moments of racism and police brutality. The accompanying music video shows images from the recent protests across the country, in which peaceful protesters are being tear-gassed by police, cars are being lit on fire, and general unrest is spreading throughout the streets. Speaking to HipHopDX about his own experience with police brutality and how camera phones have changed the narrative, Dre said, “It’s wild because I can remember growing up and in the beatings captured on tape, the people survived, Now, they’re just straight-up killing you on tape. And it’s like, ‘Damn, things are supposed to get better.’” —Jessica McKinney

Skrillex f/ Ty Dolla Sign, Ant Clemons, Nia Miranda, Virtual Riot, “You See It”

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Skirllex tapped Ty Dolla Sign, Ant Clemons, and more for “You See It,” a protest anthem that’s intended to amplify the message of the Black Lives Matter Movement and encourage change. “I know you see it/But we need change/How many more of these mothers/Do they gotta lose they child /Til we fix things/I know you see it,” Ty Dolla sings on the chorus. When the record dropped on June 1, Skrillex released a brief statement on Twitter, writing, “I’m going out today to be with the people, clean up the city, show support however I can. But most importantly, we really need to listen to the message and not get it conflated.” —Jessica McKinney

LL Cool J, IG Freestyle

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“For 400 years, you had your knees on our necks/A garden of evil with no seeds of respect/In America’s mirror, all she sees is regret,” LL Cool J says in the opening bars of his 2-minute freestyle. The OG rapper dropped the freestyle video on his Instagram account on June 1, chronicling the country’s history of racism and abuse. LL did not write a caption to go along with the freestyle, but he has shared numerous posts on Instagram regarding the protests and current events. —Jessica McKinney

Papoose, “Tribute”

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Papoose released “Tribute” in homage to the families and memories of victims of police brutality. On the track, Papoose utilized each letter of the alphabet to highlight the murders of innocent Black people, including Amadou Diallo, Ahmaud Arbery, Emmett Till, and more. “George Floyd, three officer kneeled on him/He told him he couldn’t breathe, they didn’t care,” he said of Floyd, whose murder sparked protests in Minneapolis. Papoose also shared an accompanying video, which shows the faces and names of each victim. “United we stand, divided we fall,” he wrote in the caption. —Jessica McKinney

Nick Cannon, "I Can't Breathe... Again!"

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Nick Cannon, who was recently seen protesting in Minneapolis, shared a freestyle in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Eric Garner—two black men who were suffocated by police in May 2020 and 2014 respectively—on May 31. “Hands up don’t shoot, but now you’re knees on my neck stopping me, from occupying oxygen that God obviously brought for me, for I am his offspring, his true seed, motherfucker get off of me!!! Please!! I cant breathe!!! Please, somebody, call the police on the police!! Cuz I can’t breathe ....Again!” The accompanying video shows Cannon freestyling next to a brick wall. Clips from previous BLM protests as well as newsreels are also displayed in the video. —Jessica McKinney

Jim Jones, “The People”

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Dipset’s Capo shared his “political awareness” on last year’s “State of the Union,” and he continues making statements on this new Harry Fraud-produced track. Jim Jones shows solidarity with the protesters, and criticizes the president’s horrific “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet. He even takes a moment to point out how out of touch and surreal 45’s trip to see the SpaceX launch was: “Look on TV, it feels like the revolution is startin’/On the same day they let the rocket shoot to the Martians.” —Shawn Setaro

Lil B, “I Am George Floyd”

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Lil B has been many people in song over the years: Paris Hilton, Kanye West, Bill Clinton, God. This time, he puts the conceit to a different, more serious end by naming numerous victims of police violence. His reasoning? “I know I could do more than post a tweet and cry/You in this song now, immortalized.” The sheer volume of names is moving and overwhelming. But, this being Lil B, the song has a four-minute-long coda, contains a random shout-out to DJ Screw, and contains a section where the Based God says, “Fuck breast cancer/Fuck all cancer.” —Shawn Setaro

Trinidad James, “Black Owned”

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Full Size Run co-host and artist Trinidad James is celebrating Black ownership on his latest single. “Black Owned” was released before the recent protests, on May 20, but its message will resonate with listeners as the movement continues. On the track, James makes a case for why people should support Black businesses. “We go broke because we don’t buy black,” he spits. James also subtly references the pandemic on the chorus, rapping, “Black owned, nigga/Shit gettin’ ugly/Mask on, nigga.” —Jessica McKinney

Dame D.O.L.L.A., "Blacklist"

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Damian Lillard, a.k.a. Dame D.O.L.L.A., re-upped his calls for racial justice with his new spoken-word track "Blacklist."

The record is described as an "open letter" which finds the Portland Trail Blazers star addressing the ongoing issue of police brutality and racism in America. Dame touches on the backlash he and other celebrities have received for speaking out against injustices, the systemic safeguards for law enforcement, and Donald Trump's dangerous rhetoric that continues to divide the nation: "As a brother with a good heart, I say fuck you if you racist or white staying quiet, you disabling the changes," Dame states over a piano-driven instrumental. "And fuck bein' famous, tired of watchin' us complainin' Cops kill a brother, get released after arraignments." —Joshua Espinoza

Dead Prez, "Together"

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Nearly two decades after its debut, Dead Prez's politically charged "Together" song is finally available to stream.

The GetoPros-assisted track had a very limited vinyl release in 2001, serving as a musical salute to the political prisoners, activists, and anyone else who put their lives at risk in the fight for social justice. The song had remained off streaming platforms since its initial release; however, the recent civil unrest sparked by George Floyd's death had prompted co-producers Mike Heron and V.I.C. to share it via streaming.

"A few of us are fully prepared to defend ourselves, go to jail or die to cause a new experience of what it looks like to be a black man in this country — financially, physically, spiritually, and mentally," Heron told Rolling Stone.

"Living in this manner requires a certain commitment and a clarity that says, ‘who I am and what I stand for will cause a shift in my family, in the world and most importantly, in my soul,'” he continued. “This song is dedicated to the new generation of soldiers committed to the work." —Joshua Espinoza

Trey Songz, “2020 Riots: How Many Times"

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After joining one of the many protests against racism and police brutality, Trey Songz decided to accelerate the release of "2020 Riots: How Many Times," a Troy Taylor-produced track that sheds more light on the systemic racism in America.

"Three or four nights ago I woke up in the middle of my sleep … I couldn’t sleep. My chest was hurting. I got up and called my producer, Troy Taylor and I said 'We’ve got to make music that really touches the soul, that really addresses what the world is feeling right now. Especially our people,'" Songz recalled. "So we came up with '2020 Riots: How Many Times.' With the words in this song I just wanted to speak to everyone's hearts and acknowledge the pain and anguish everyone is going through right now. I know this ain’t usually my message and you’re not used to hearing this from me, but this is the person I’ve always been."

A portion of the proceeds from the single will go toward Black Lives Matter and the Community Justice Exchange's National Bail Fund Network. —Joshua Espinoza

Elijah Blake f/ Donald Lawrence & Co., "Hanging Tree (2020 Stripped)"

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Previously released protest songs have received a significant boost over the past couple of weeks, as countless Americans take to the streets to protest racism and police brutality. N.W.A's "Fuck tha Police," Killer Mike's "Don't Die," and Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" are just some of the records that have seen double- or triple-digit surges in online streams in the wake of George Floyd's death. Grammy-winner Elijah Blake's 2017 track "Hanging Tree" has also received renewed attention, so much so he decided to release a stripped-down version of the record, featuring Donald Lawrence & Co.

"Still watching and feeling the affairs of this country unfold, I felt the need to use my voice to add to the movement, cause the way they do my kind, I just want to cry," Blake said in a statement. "You guys dug this song up and it’s finally getting a chance to heal as I intended when I originally wrote it. Seeing you all use it while marching or reciting the words in group chants or even passing it along in group chants has been bitter sweet but so necessary and necessary in this fight for change. Let’s keep it going." —Joshua Espinoza

Lil Baby, "The Bigger Picture"

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Lil Baby has shared the track "The Bigger Picture," which opens with news reports covering the anti-police brutality protests that have taken place across the country in response to systemic racism and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others. "Seems like we losing our country/But we gotta stand up for something/So this what it comes to/Every video I see on my conscious/I got power now I gotta say somethin’/Corrupted police been the problem where I’m from," Baby raps on the track's second verse. —Abel Shifferaw

DaBaby and Roddy Ricch, "Rockstar (BLM Remix)"

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DaBaby and Roddy Ricch have a dropped off a Black Lives Matter remix to their Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song "Rockstar ." The remix of the Seth In The Kitchen-produced track, which was featured on DaBaby's Blame It on Baby album, sees the North Carolina rapper adddress the Black Lives Matter protests and his personal experiences with racism. "As a juvenile, police pulled their guns like they scared of me/And we're used to how crackers treat us, now that's the scary thing/Want anything we good at and we cherish it/Now we all fed up and n**gas comin' back for everything," DaBaby raps on the new version of the song. —Abel Shifferaw

T-Pain, "Get Up"

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T-Pain has shared a music video for his new track "Get Up." The song, which was produced by LevyGrey, 11VN, and T-Pain, begins with a clip from a Malcolm X speech. Proceeds from the track, as well as new merchandise that T-Pain has dropped to coincide with the track's drop, will go towards Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. Head here to shop the pieces.

"This song was actually meant to come out at the end of March, but I decided to switch it out last minute and release 'Wake Up Dead' with Chris Brown first," T-Pain said of the release. "We had all of the artwork and marketing assets created months ago. It’s very ironic because it all has so much more meaning to it now with everything going on in the world. I thought it was silly to hold this song. I want people to be motivated, inspired, and to continue to Get Up and push forward."  Watch the song's music video up top. —Abel Shifferaw 

LaDonnis f/ ER, "Black Boy"

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Atlanta rapper LaDonnis joined forces with ER on his new track "Black Boy."

The record was accompanied by an equally powerful visual that features a slew of video clips that have left an indelible mark on Black culture. We see footage from the 1992 Los Angeles riots, 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute, the Black Lives Matter Protest in Birmingham, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s last speech, as well as clips from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air opening, Jay-Z's "Marcy Me" video, and the 2017 Best Picture winner Moonlight.

"This song was written as a mantra. A mantra for times like these. A mantra of self love," LaDonnis said in a statement to Complex. "I want to extend this mantra to all of my brothers and sisters. I am you and you are me. The atrocities I've seen across our nation and specifically in my backyard of Atlanta, GA, have sparked something deep in all of us. We will be heard. We will be seen. We will not be silenced. Black is Beautiful. Black is worthy. We are Black. I love you thank you." —Joshua Espinoza

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