Anderson Paak has dropped a new single, “Lockdown,” and it begs the question – How is the world claimed to be in a state of “lockdown” while Black Lives are being taken and robbed every single day? The world cannot simultaneously be at a standstill while it is also on fire. The world cannot continue to be perceived as in lockdown while a revolution is being birthed in the streets. He wants you to acknowledge our rise while we also uncover our demise.
This notion and paradox that Paak is contemplating in this single is one that is very crucial to examine – the notion that once the world entered a state of lockdown – the people are also waking up to the unjust, cruel world we do inhabit and are being called to take action.
Those of us who have already been awakened to the perpetual state of “Lockdown” that African Americans have been forced to occupy every day are feeling even more restless than usual. This is our moment of “lockdown” where our society is finally having to be forced to address our country’s racist past and present, police brutality, white privilege, cultural appropriation – we want to keep this attention and the Black Lives Matter Movement to go beyond a lockdown, we want it to blossom for future generations to come.
Anderson Paak starts off the track singing, “You should’ve been downtown. The people are risin. We thought it was a lockdown. They opened the fire, them bullets was flyin. Who said it was a lockdown? Goddamn lie.”
Paak illuminates in these lyrics the presence of fear and paranoia that plagues African Americans’ lives daily – that even when the world was in a claimed state of lockdown and isolation; Ahmaud Arbery couldn’t even go for a run in his neighborhood without being shot. There is no such thing as a “lockdown” for African Americans – they are forced to always be in a state of caution and alertness. They must always know what to say or do if a police car pulls them over. They must always think two steps ahead of them, must warn them before they reach for their wallet that they are unarmed.
They must make it known to police that they are putting their hands on the wheel before they move, to not wear their hood up or a mask on even when it is freezing outside or nightfall. Yet, we know that this is never enough. To a police officer, a black person is perpetually guilty, there is no innocence until proven otherwise – the mere presence of their skin color is more than enough for a cop to claim that their life is not worthy of being lived.
Paak is also relating the ideology behind the word “lockdown” as a euphemism for the mass incarceration of African Americans and the state of poverty that African Americans are forced to inhabit as well due to the effects of systematic racism and redlining. This keeps African Americans and other POC’s into a state of perpetual lockdown regardless if we are in quarantine or not. Mass incarceration of African Americans is nothing but slavery re-incarnated in the flesh.
Paak sings, ”We just wanna break the chains like slaves in the South, started in the North End, but we in the downtown.”
He also brings out the paradox of a lockdown equating to the presence of isolation, the streets are supposed to be eerily silent and serene – yet people are tone-deaf to the loud bullets that are being sounded off into the night, to the protestors chanting the names of those who have lost their lives to police brutality and racism. There is a sweeping state of a revolution that half of our society is adorned in, while the other half is ruminating in denial and holding onto dear life for their privilege.
He even goes on to equate the silence that a lockdown is supposed to induce to the silence of those who have not spoken up in regards to the Black Lives Matter Movement – those who would rather remain complacent and muted on the subject because it doesn’t affect them, or because of the threat that their privilege may be taken from them if they do.
Paak sings, “Said “its civil unrest,” but you sleep so sound. Like you don’t hear the screams when we catchin’ beatdowns?”
Although this song carries a heavy message, Paak doesn’t change the tone that his music has always carried – a feel good, smooth, jazz-inspired song that you can easily sway too. The contradiction of him pairing deeply sorrow lyrics with a sonically lightweight, care-free beat to it creates this sensation of normalization – the realization that this state of constant oppression and fear that African Americans have been plagued with for centuries should never be something that is “normal” or “routine” for them.
This single that Paak crafted not only drives home the important messages that need to be heard right now, but he also sets the track to sonically be melodic and comforting at the same time. It’s clear that Paak didn’t make this song with just the sole intention to use his platform and to pass along the right messages, but he also wanted to help bring a feeling of allievatiaton and support for his fans as well.
The music video that Paak dropped for “Lockdown” has a surprise Jay Rock verse hidden in the middle. His verse is not featured on the actual track at all, but his verse anchors so much truth and wisdom.
He raps, “So what it means when they shoot at it? Generation, genocide. What happened to enterprise? Heard the man infiltrated, Black Panther, re-energize. Ain’t nothin to try to figure out, they tryna kill us out. If I take a kneel, see my fist, I’m a killer now.”
Featured in the music video as well is Artist Syd from The Internet, and Jay Rock raps his bars to her with such a calm and straightforward demeanor that it looks like you are witnessing a common conversation that takes place inside the community of African Americans, other POC’s homes, and friend groups.
The whole vision for the music video puts a strong emphasis around unity, around listening to others voice their frustrations and fears, around supporting, and uplifting one another during this time as the fight continues and will continue till the necessary change and justice is served.
One of the last sequences in the music video is a shot of Anderson Paak crying and comforting his real-life son, Soul Rasheed. The shot quickly pans out and transitions into a flash of the names of those who have lost their lives due to police brutality. All of the names start to pile onto another until the image of a single fist being rose is unearthed. “The People are Rising.”