As Barack Obama, the United States first multiracial presidents last term is slowly coming to an end, Commons performed for NPR at the White House this past week. He performed during an event held at the White House SCSW South by South Lawn.
The video of his performance shows a variety of instruments being used, from piano to flute, guitar to trumpet and so on.This small concert not only depicted a plentitude of instruments, but also messages to the viewers. He choose to implement songs from his upcoming album Black America Again. He sung his newest songs at the Tiny Desk Concert; A Little Chicago Boy, The Day Women Took Over, I Used To Love H.E.R. and A Letter To The Free. Within this short 20-minute concert, Commons was able to touch grounds on the racial battle Black Americans are still facing, feminism and lastly, a song about his father who had passed away to cancer in 2014.
The performance began by Bob Boylan, a voice for NPR, introducing this concert as a way to give voice to people who have something to say, a message to get across. Commons successfully delivered a voice to a multitude of people. In this song, A Letter To The free, he explains that it is about the thirteenth amendment. If you are unfamiliar with the thirteenth amendment at the top of your head, it states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the part shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” He explains that the song is about mass incarceration. Commons raps, “Slavery is still alive, check the thirteenth amendment.” He raps about the new age of Jim Crowe Laws. His lyrics are divine and well thought out. Touching on more recent subjects, like Alton Sterling, he raps sentences like, “Police and policies patrol philosophies of control.” And “Instead of the n word they use the word criminal.” Next, was the song The Day Women Take Over. This song is about how much better things would be if women were treated equally and the fight for feminism. He names important female figures like Michelle Obama, Rosa Parks, Oprah and Beyoncé. He sings, “Beyoncé made the music for the revolution.” He raps about how women should get equal pay, kids shouldn’t be tried as adults and how women are depicted in society. Lastly, he dedicates a song to his father who had died from cancer in September 2014. In the song, he walks the listeners through his dad’s life- from growing up in Chicago to college in Ohio to moving to Denver. While doing so, he is able to explain what he learned from his dad through the course of his life.
Now, this may seem like a languishing concert for anyone who attended, it was not. Although the subject material was heavy, Commons was able to smile in between songs and crack jokes. After his first song in the video, he picks up an Emmy Award and says laughing “I’ve been looking at this Emmy like I want one of these.” the audience then started laughing. Commons was able to give a voice to important subjects with an artistic and soul touch, keeping the audience in awe throughout the concert.