With Black Man in America, early Prince associate and respected producer Andre Cymone manages to eloquently and soberly distil the social injustice experienced by the titular black man in 21st century America. The unflinching title track could well serve as a flashpoint for the revitalization of socially engaged protest music in an era defined by the selfie and general apathy towards those not within our immediate sphere. “Brothers getting’ shot / No hesitation / A way of life for a generation. . . .You don’t know what it’s like to be a black man in America”, he sings before leading a chant of “No justice, no peace” over a rolling funk/rock groove.
Over the course of these four tracks–all of which follow a similar thematic–Cymone clearly and without histrionics lays out the fears and concerns of the black community. Given the pending administration, things may well get worse from here if we’re not careful to take note now. “What is life? / What do we stand for today?”, he posits on the spare “Black Lives Matter”. By closing with an almost unidentifiable, heavy version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, he takes the otherwise lightweight, acoustic favorite of the coffee house set (read: white audiences) and recasts it with a sense of pleading desperation and frustration that, like some of the most effective protest music, manages to move both the mind and body.