CULTURE: Vashtie’s “This Machine Kills Racism” Mixtape

This Machine

Shocked. Disillusioned. Heartbroken. Angry. Disgusted.

I’ve been feeling this way for a while now, but, the incidents that surfaced in the past week have had me feeling these emotions (and more) to the maximum.

Yet, I can’t decide which is worse. The disturbing witnessing of these acts alone or the crippling inability to stop it? It’s like watching… oh wait. I was going to say it’s like watching someone being hurt and not being able to help.

This frustration was truly paralyzing. The hopelessness paired with the helplessness was killing me. I felt ashamed and half-dead, riddled with guilt.

Shameful, because I am literally watching people being murdered and I can’t stop it. It’s like I’m half-dead, because how do I continue to live my life with constant news of people being killed every day. On one hand – how do you go to work or enjoy dinner with friends like normal, when the world you once knew has disintegrated. Then on the other hand, you are enjoying life for a moment, posting a selfie with your baby niece on Instagram you’re met with a video of a man being killed on your popular page. Enter, Guilt. Not wanting to revel in the joys of my life and then when I do – it’s stolen and I feel bad for enjoying a life that someone else has just lost.

Whether you can identify with these feelings or not, the effects from these events are truly impairing the world around us.

I didn’t post much on social media in regards to this because I needed to sit with my feelings. I understand the power in showing solidarity on social media, but I think sometimes it can give the false sense of accomplishing something for the cause. And, as an artist – I really wanted to create something for people in a more meaningful manner than in a few passionate, 140 character Tweets.

In sitting with my feelings, I found myself asking “When will our beloved musicians and celebrities DO SOMETHING?” Maybe that something could be to make music, cancel tour dates or even hold a sit-in at Hollywood Studios. But then, I wondered why I was waiting on others or forcing responsibility in their hands? I had to ask myself , “What was I going to do?”

I decided to make a mixtape.

Tracklist

I am, among other things, a DJ. And like everyone else, music inspires, expresses and consoles me.

I created this mixtape because I wanted — needed rather — to share my feelings during these turbulent times. I hope this is as cathartic for you to listen to as it was for me in creating it.

In the very least, I hope it will entertain you but I truly wish that this mixtape will spark thoughts, conversations and solutions.

I selected music from all genres, decades and countries. Like the folk sounds of Bob Dylan’s “Times They Are A-Changin” that speaks of the Civil Rights era,  Nina Simone’s 1954 recording of “Strange Fruit” which poetically discusses lynching. I even incorporated Irish Rock Band, U2’s, track of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that tells the tale of British Troops killing of unarmed civilians in the 70’s.

I personally selected all the music I loved and aimed to pin point all the emotions I was feeling through this project. From the dignified “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown to the loaded energy of The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton”.

I also peppered in audio clips of various inspiring interviews and performances; mainly Nina Simone discussing an artists duty, Jane Elliot’s views on White Privilege and Saul Williams performance of Amethyst Rocks.

What I learned in the creation of this mixtape is that – throughout time and beyond borders, everyone (White, Black, Jewish, Muslim, Man, Woman, Trans, etc) has faced injustice. So, for those in the now who are not Black and are conflicted about #BlackLivesMatter, hopefully you can see other people you do identify with that have also been oppressed. And ultimately, yes, today has a lot do to with race, but the overarching theme is that this is about equal human rights for the entire human race. Now and forever.

I included the years the songs were recorded in the track listing because I also wanted people to see that the American Black Community has endured the same issues today as they were in the 50’s and beyond.

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Norman Rockwell, “The Problem We All Live With”

The title of the mixtape, THIS MACHINE KILLS RACISM, was inspired by folk singer Woody Guthrie’s slogan “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” which he pasted on his guitar in the ’40s. His statement reflected the Great Depression and the displacement of farmers during the Dust Bowl. He would inspire other influential musicians that took a stance on their times, like Bob Dylan. I chose his song “This Land Is Your Land” as the closing for it’s positive, revolutionary yet ironic nature.

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I hope that this mixtape — “THIS MACHINE” will kill racism. That music, in general, will kill racism. That each of us, a machine in our own right, will do what we can to end this. Because the music is exquisite, but I’m tired of singing the same song.

So that is it. You may love this mixtape or you may hate it, but I’d rather say something than nothing.

I don’t have the following of a Kardashian or the influence of a Kanye – but, I have a voice, a set of skills and a platform. In fact, you do to. So, what will be your contribution?

I dedicate this to anyone and everyone who was a victim of violence, be it a civilian or an officer – but especially to the countless Black Lives that we are losing at such an alarming rate right now.

Very, very special thanks to DJ Noumenon, Mieko Jones and David Morales for the love, support and assistance in making this mixtape come true.

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