This past Saturday night at the Atlanta-based radio station Hot 107.9’s birthday concert Kanye West, who was headlining, performed a freestyle rap song that addressed the recent Charleston shootings. This was the mass shooting that took place at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina just last week. West rapped, “See, that’s the magic of racism, it works on itself.”
West delivered this line in the middle of his set, crouching down low to emphasize the gravity of the situation. “See that’s the magic of lack of resources, it works on itself,” he sang. “500 niggas getting pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-popped, and North Carolina didn’t help.” Despite getting the name of the state in which the shooting took place wrong, West delivered his two-minute freestyle with such earnestness that those in attendance deemed the performance “poignant.”
West is not the only artist who has spoken out about the recent shooting, which has become a hot point of debate in the media. Killer Mike and Lupe Fiasco have both used social media to publish expressions of grief at the racially charged attack, which seems to be only one in a long series of acts of violence against black communities in America in recent months, although this particular shooting stands out for having been especially atrocious. The perpetrator, 21 year-old Dylann Roof is currently in custody and facing nine counts of murder. He is a self-declared white supremacist, although right-wing media outlets have been attempting to downplay this fact.
Kanye has received some criticism because his freestyle performance was not, lyrically speaking, totally coherent, and because the beats he used for this salute were not, musically speaking, totally interesting. But in times of national tragedy, the hip-hop community probably doesn’t mind putting artistry aside in favor of such rallying and cathartic lyrics as what Kanye finished his rap with. He freestyled, many times over: “Don’t let them make you believe that I’m crazy.” Music fans are encouraged to interpret that line any way they choose.
West’s performance at the event also featured a guest appearance from hip-hop artist 2 Chainz during “Mercy.” After the show, the friends ate dinner at a local Waffle House with their peers Big Boi and Andre 3000 of Outkast.