By Thomas Bunn
Jill Scott once asked artists if they had the capacity to speak the words of the time? I often ponder if that’s still a universal requirement of artists and musicians today, and although I already know the answer, I still like to believe so.
However, we live in a time, where if you turn on the radio station, especially the so-called “urban radio” stations, and listen to the lyrics of the artists, you’d think, that all was well in the world, the streets are paved in gold, and the thought that a political and social revolution was on the cusp, would be furthest from your consciousness.
A few years back, I met a musician named Shaud Jones, also known by his stage name, H.I.M, which stands for Hustle Is Mandatory, through my cousin, the legendary music producer Mike Towns. A mutual respect for art and music grafted us brethren.
His debut project, released earlier this year titled Dana Made H.I.M Do It, was an ode to his late aunt and best friend, Dana Augusta Wright who passed away at an early age, leaving him searching for answers, and bursting at the seams with an energy that needed to be released. We collaborated on several promo campaigns that went over well with the public and the album has since received great reviews from fans.
His follow up project is called #NOMOREHASHTAGS, and I recently sat down with H.I.M to discuss the inspirations behind his latest single #Protect Us, which is a powerful song that speaks to the recent police killings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota with Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
“I got the inspiration for #Protect Us, I would say, after watching my social media timeline being flooded with the murders of Alton and Philando, and to see this in real time, it really just left sadness, anger, and frustration, but immediately I was inspired to do what I know how to do when these feelings are present, and that’s go to the studio, sit there for hours, listen, and create whatever is in my head,” Jones said.
There’s not a day that passes where the conversation of the Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality movement aren’t discussed, especially when they seemingly happen every week, with 23 year-old mother of two, Korryn Gaines of Baltimore being the latest addition to the commemorative hash tag trend on Twitter.
H.I.M and I spoke about the movement and he said, “The anti-police brutality movement is what it should be because we, the citizens of America, should not be brutalized by the ones we pay and are chosen by the government to uphold its laws. So I support what’s right and what promotes forward progress, and for me police brutality won't cut it without justice.”
I recently had the opportunity to direct the music video for #Protect Us, which focuses on an individual processing the multitude of emotions spawn from feelings of hopelessness in an era where technology is the “great liberator” and the Internet is the Mecca of free speech.
Produced by Keanu, and mixed and arranged by Mike Towns of Mike Towns Sounds, it’s an end project we’re extremely proud of, that captures the tones and sentiments of the moment and has been hailed as an anthem.
“#NOMOREHASHTAGS chronicles the rest of my feelings I had toward the senseless acts of violence that happened that week as well. To me, it feels like a mini-movie with words that are meant to detail the events and emotions that transpired through most of the general public,” Jones says about his new EP.
Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” I give honor and respect to brothers like H.I.M who’s taken a stand and is using his platform to share his art to connect the cultural narrative in a way that’s genuine and original. His voice is about as authentic as a Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Mitchell and Ness.
Like it was plucked right out of a movie, #Protect Us drops us into a surreal nightmarish soundscape that’s juxtaposed against H.I.M reciting Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. From there we’re thrust into a world of clashing emotions and beautiful choir riffs that crystallize the thoughts of a people who throughout the ages, have crafted beauty from the remnants of anguish, who still, fight for the day when being killed at the hands of police no longer reduces one’s existence to a hash tag.
His latest single #Protect Us, can be found on iTunes and Bandcamp under H.I.M and or #Protect Us. Support the artists who support the people. The music video can be seen exclusively on www.inglewoodtoday.com.