Celebrities Responded To Alton Sterling And Philando Castile With A Week Of Musical Tributes

Beyoncé, Jay Z, Schoolboy Q, and more honored the victims of police killings

By Adam Fleischer and Sasha Geffen

This week, we learned the names of two more black men shot and killed by police. Deaths like these, caught on video and widely distributed, can instill an unbearable restlessness in America. Who can watch Alton Sterling’s son weeping and do nothing? Who can hear Diamond Reynolds’s grief for her boyfriend Philando Castile and keep still?

This week, black musicians offered words of comfort and healing to those devastated by America’s systemic racist violence. From Beyoncé to Miguel to Schoolboy Q, these songs reflected black Americans’ anger and pain — and the relentless struggle toward a world where cops no longer have the power to turn names of living, loved people into hashtags.

Beyoncé Dedicates "Freedom" Performance To Victims Of Police Shootings

During her tour stop in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday night, Bey paid tribute to Sterling, Castile, and hundreds of others killed by police, projecting their names onto a gigantic screen during her "Freedom" performance. She also posted a lengthy note on her website, urging fans to contact local politicians and writing, "“We are sick and tired of the killings of young men and women in our communities."

Jay Z Drops "Spiritual" And Addresses Police Brutality In Letter

Like his wife, Hov turned to music to release some of his feelings. His tribute, "Spiritual," was actually a song that he started years ago, around the time of Mike Brown's death. "I'm saddened and disappointed in THIS America," he wrote in a letter posted with the track. "Blessings to all the families that have lost loved ones to police brutality." The song is Jay's first solo single in three years.

Miguel Wonders "How Many" Black Lives Will Be Taken Before There's A Change

Miguel, like so many, couldn't sleep this week. To remedy his pain, he recorded this powerful exploration, contemplating aloud, "How many black lives does it take to wake the change?" Earlier, he opens the song with an audibly heavy heart, singing, "I'm tired of human lives turned into hashtags and prayer hands / I'm tired of watching these murderers get off." He said it's a rough version of the song, and he'll continue working on it until it's finished.

Mistah F.A.B. Eulogizes Alton Sterling With "6 Shots"

The title of the Bay Area rapper's song is a reference to the incident that led to Sterling's death, but the sentiments expressed on the song remained equally -- even more -- relevant following Castile's shooting. "So all you white folks that still say we all equal," he raps, "I bet you wouldn't trade pigmentation with my people / Everybody wanna be a n***a 'til you gotta be a n***a / Until yo' son is the one dead from a trigger."

Schoolboy Q Expresses Anger Toward Those Who Filmed The Alton Sterling Shooting

What should have been a celebratory week for Q, who released his first album in two and a half years (Blank Face LP, on Friday), was instead filled with exasperation. "I'm supposed 2 Happy I'm sitting Here fucked up about everytHing goin on," he wrote on Twitter. He channeled some of that into his verse on the Black Hippy remix of his single "That Part," rhyming:

“Gangbangin’ like we stand for something / When Alton Sterling getting killed for nothin’ / Two cowards in the car, they’re just there to film / Sayin’ ’Black Lives Matter,’ should’ve died with him / Wrong n***a in yo’ hood, you gon’ ride on him? / White n***a with a badge, you gon’ let that slide? / Tell me how they sent that footage off and slept that night / I feel bad that my daughter gotta live this life / I’ll die for my daughter, gotta fight this fight”

Swizz Beatz And Scarface Are Overwhelmed By The Continued "Sad News"

The two rap vets link for a somber song about the state of affairs, with Swizz crooning on the chorus, "A little boy got shot down today / I hope his family is OK / I hope his family is OK / Is it our race that pay?" Later, Face chimes in: "America with three Ks / Freedom got a shotgun / For all the homies shot down by white boys and not one / Convicted / Of wrongdoing / Is it justice we pursuing?"

Chris Brown Decides To Release "My Friend"

Though the song doesn't specifically reference the shootings of Sterling or Castile, Breezy said he released it "for free for anybody dealing with injustice or struggle in their lives." On Instagram, he took a more direct stand: "This shit is fucking horrible and it needs to fucking stop."

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