Rihanna's 'American Oxygen' Wasn't About Eric Garner -- But It Could Be

X Ambassadors' Sam Harris talks writing Rih's new single.

I don't know about you all, but the first time I heard and saw the video for Rihanna's powerful R8 track, "American Oxygen," the first thing that popped into my head was, "I can't breathe." You know, since the whole idea of "the land of the free and the home of the brave" has been a little dented of late.

It turns out, however, that the song wasn't originally written about Eric Garner or any of the recent police-connected deaths that have spurred protests and riots. But that doesn't make it any less relevant in those situations.

"[The song] was written before everything happened with Eric Garner," X Ambassadors frontman Sam Harris told MTV News. Harris co-wrote the track, which premiered on Tidal. "[But] the fact that it was written before all this stuff happened doesn't really make a difference to me. I think it's just as important."

Rihanna American Oxygen

Harris started writing the song a year ago, beginning with the chorus -- "Breathe out, breathe in/ American oxygen" -- and going from there. He wasn't sure what the words meant at the time -- they just went with the beat he had going. That part alone took four to six months, he said.

The band's producer, Alex Da Kid, took the song to Rihanna and "the two of them had the idea to kind of make it an immigrant story," Harris said. "I worked so hard on that song and I think it really is a great time for a song like that to come out. ... The music video is so powerful. I was in tears when I saw it for the first time. It's timely and important and I'm just lucky to be a part of something like that."

Harris penned the song separate from his band -- who has worked with the likes of Imagine Dragons and Eminem in the past -- but you can expect new music from them soon. They're putting out their debut LP VHS on June 23.