A few months ago I saw an incredibly powerful video. It featured a black man and a deep bass, and the lyrics were simple.
I need you to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor. All of y’all who think we need more evidence you goofy. Arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain too, y’all hoed that boy. Arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor. All of y’all who think we need more evidence you goofy. I said arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor. You catch the vibe? Now get off my page.
It was a short video that got passed around Instagram faster than a California Wildfire. The simplicity made it powerful, I watched it and thought for the millionth time this year – what would my life be like if I wasn’t white? How would I feel if I couldn’t sleep in my bed without fear? What if every time my partner went out to run errands I worried about him coming back to me safely? The way they produced the video kept all the attention on the message. The choreography was simple, every time they said “killers” they turned and imitated holding a rifle. Every single motion, every word, every bass beat echoed in my ears as I was filled with rage for my fellow citizens with dark skin. I made another round of calls to Louisville demanding justice.
This video skyrocketed the career of Toby Nwigwe, his wife Fat, and producer Nell Grant. I quickly became addicted to their Instagram page, appreciating how much they could do with their small video production space with neutral greenish walls and matching or white clothes, always barefoot or with white socks. They busted out hit after hit that bled their feelings. “Catch a Wave” expressed how they prayed that everyone who got into their music with the Breonna Taylor video would catch the wave of racial justice and not give up. Lyrics like “Hope my whole hood make it home” drove into my brain that when you are black, coming home safely at the end of the day is not guaranteed. “Try Jesus” reminded me that black people are epically exhausted, especially right now. Try Jesus, don’t turn to black people to carry you, because they’re ready to fight now. Toby’s music helped me understand how weary he must be but also how ready he is to throw hands, because it’s about damn time for a change.
Recently they dropped the song “Eat” which featured Fat, and I am still struggling to put into words how that song made me feel. Showcasing their talent with simplicity, there’s a flute playing a tune on a loop as Tony comes on screen with four dancers, and they’re all sitting down. Toby is a talented artist, his voice matches perfectly with the beats produced by Nell. He gives me insight into his psyche as he talks about being surprised when he goes to someone’s house and sees that they have a bedframe for their mattress.
At first it seems like just another video, excellent but similar to what they’d put out before. Then the camera zooms in on Tobe’s mouth as he tells us several times that “every bar is worth a kilo”. As the camera zooms out we see the chairs are gone and Fat is behind him, interrupting him to say “yeah yeah, look”.
This is where my mind starts exploding. The way Fat moves with the dancers, low to the ground, as she says “I dropped two kids and I still snap back” I am filled with pride in women everywhere. Women who have kids, who don’t, who are free spirits or are career focused. Women that can do whatever they want and still be a complete bad ass.
It’s when Fat says “never going back to the grave shift or the slave ship” that I start to lose it. My entire body fills with emotion and it chokes at my throat. I’m experiencing a mix of joy, pride, and sorrow I can’t explain. To see these people embrace themselves, their skin, and their heritage, speaking truthfully about their experiences while simultaneously radiating hope for their future, gives me more emotions that I can process.
I think in part my emotions come from seeing this team experience joy as careers they’ve been building for years explode in a time that is so rife with pain for all of us. Seeing celebration in this time of tragedy was what I needed, but I couldn’t have known how to express that before. Towards the end of the video it’s a giant dance party, with everyone feeling the vibe and knowing they made a smash hit. Fat celebrates “I’m about to be on a first name basis with Beyonce” as Tobe takes over again. The words don’t quite match the celebration as he takes it down a couple notches.
If it’s an issue pack a pistol keep it tightly tucked. They’ll try to dismiss you on your nightly run. Or your daily run. Either way it’s tragedy. Please don’t try to take my life, that’s a catastrophe.
He brings it back up saying he’s going to put it on everything “like tony chachere” and the room explodes with Nell laying on the floor as Toby screams “cut the beat!”
I hope that everyone reading this immediately goes to watch this video. It’s the perfect mix of education and celebration. Tobe, Fat, and Nell, are dropping the songs we need right now because they remind us that we should be never give up the fight but we need to celebrate the people who have been oppressed that find themselves on top after a lifetime of struggle and hard work.