Bay Area native H.E.R. makes police brutality and systemic racism the subject of her powerfully moving new single, “I Can’t Breathe.”
Debuted earlier this month on iHeartRadio’s Living Room Concert series, the song has been released with a music video online.
With “I Can’t Breathe,” H.E.R. commands attention from across the nation, making sure we do not turn away yet again from the pain and suffering the black community has gone through since the founding of this country.
She notes how people tend to forget how engrained racism and social injustice have been in American history, but that it’s time we stop ignoring that past and correct our mistakes because in the end we’re all the same underneath. She walks us through generations of pain with a soulful and heavy grace, singing not just about the recent death of George Floyd, but lives lost all throughout the years.
H.E.R. uses powerful language delivered with strong vocals, weaving her own carefully chosen words with references to other activist artists including the late great beat poet and activist Gil Scott Heron and singer Billie Holiday. H.E.R. takes inspiration from their wisdom and finds her own perspective, also using some of Floyd’s last words as the title of her song and in the lyrics.
“All of the names you refuse to remember, was somebody’s brother, friend, or a son to a mother that’s crying, saying ’I can’t breathe, you’re taking my life from me.’”
The now symbolic phrase, “I can’t breathe,” has been chanted at protests amongst protesters to show their solidarity for the black community and the long history of oppression and hate they’ve faced in the world.
While it may be hard for some to put into words the anger, frustration or pain felt after witnessing the death of George Floyd, yet another innocent, black individual lost to a deep and systemic issue in our society, H.E.R. finds the strength and wherewithal to transcend her anger into a meaningful and eloquent piece of protest art.