Toki Wright and Big Cats release "For Amiri Baraka" tribute
Photo courtesy of the artist
The world's community of thinkers lost an amazing individual on Thursday with the passing of Amiri Baraka, born LeRoi Jones. He was 79. With uncensored and unrelenting poetry, essays, plays, music criticism, and other written works, he captured an underrepresented side of American life. From the racial tension captured in his play Dutchman to the dissection of music history amassed by black Americans in Blues People, his writing had academic weight and endless possibilities.
Toki Wright and Big Cats, who will release their Pangaea collaboration this year, felt the loss especially heavy, and decided to create a song to remember Baraka. "He was a huge influence on both of us," Big Cats says.
The track, titled "For Amiri Baraka," features guest vocals by Lydia Liza and Eric Mayson, and rolls more like a meditative, somber poem than a straight-up hip-hop song. Like the creations of the also-departed Gil Scott-Heron, this is one to listen to a few times to let everything sink in.
Toki had these words to add about Baraka.
Greetings to All,
When someone has an impact on you, it's important to express gratitude. On January 9th, 2014 writer/poet/activist Amiri Baraka passed away at the age of 79. We were in different places but heard about his passing at the same time and decided to put this together. Baraka gave a lifetime of dedication to telling the stories of struggle and directly put himself in the fight for justice. He's had a personal impact on Big Cats (sharing poetry in a classroom years ago as a student) and Toki (the book Blues People is required reading in some of his lessons).
Though it wasn't our plan to make this our first offering, we decided to sit down and create this from scratch yesterday before practice and release it today. We felt the need to give thanks and encourage people to continue to stand for what you believe despite the fear of rejection or retaliation. No matter how uncomfortable it makes people. As they say nothing changes when you are comfortable.
We believe that without real human interaction we will lose our true connection. That's the mission behind the work on our collaborative project Pangaea. So much of what we are force-fed today lacks passion. Baraka was one of those people that stood in the face of fear and spoke his truth knowing that he would face retaliation. He left libraries of information that we encourage you all to check out.
Keep The Fire Burning,
Toki Wright X Big Cats
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