Brixton-based street poet Bryan ‘Beady Man’ Wilson has teamed up with Scud FM/Meatraffle duo Mysterion Zapien for a new single directly addressing the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, with all proceeds from the track donated to a local youth organisation.
‘Amerikkka’ began as a spoken word piece performed by Bryan on Alabama 3’s And The Band Played On video podcast (see below). Of the track Beady Man says,
“I wrote the spoken word piece ‘AmeriKKKa’ as a direct response to the murder of George Floyd. The piece was written one day after the event. I had feelings of anger and upset in equal measures. I wrote it in 20 minutes harking back to my knowledge of past events and trying in some way to tie them in to the current situation specifically in the US.
“I hoped that people who did not know of Fred Hampton or Rosa Parks may educate themselves by reading up on them. I also hoped that they would look up the 13th amendment in the American constitution that basically states that slavery and indentured servitude were to be made illegal EXCEPT as a punishment for crime.
“I hope that the murder of George Floyd can act as a catalyst for positive change and that the Black Lives Matter campaign becomes a movement not just a moment.”
The piece was heard by Zsa Zsa Sapien of Scud FM and Meatraffle who began to work on an existing piece of music to fit Beady Man’s words.
“The original music was based on a melody that sounded like circus music that I tried to bend and shape into something more serious sounding,” says Zsa Zsa, “but as it evolved it began sounding more like madness, the madness we are witnessing in the world today. The muted trumpet riff gives it a sadder tone and when I added it to a rhythm I had on my drum machine it jelled, and the basic loop was formed.”
The track was then handed to Scud FM member and producer Gavin Mysterion who worked Sapien’s music with a fresh recording of Beady Man’s vocal into the finished track.
“The wizardry for me comes from the plant that grew from the seed syllables of Beady Man – and the musical water notes that flow from the river Zsa Zsa,” says Gavin, “it was a beautiful collaboration that worked as a true democracy the way a democracy should – without a care for personal wealth or personal ego – for the betterment of people in need about a subject humanity can no longer ignore.”
Film makers Lou Smith and John Clay answered the call to put visuals to the track, each producing their own take on the song’s message. Of his visuals, which can be seen below, Clay says;
“The plan was that I would “white up” and perform the various phases of what I think of as ‘The American Nightmare’. So long as my all white crew felt awkward during the process, the better the results would be. The grimacing, the smiling, the looks of anguish, all those pained expressions detailing the collective memory of millions in the plantation – I had to locate them within my face and body. Not being able to film it alone, Catherine Chambers not only provided make-up, fake blood and her camera, but saw fit to direct me into forms of dance. This was essential in the depiction of the black body as fetish item for white audiences, keen to approximate their fears of the ‘savage’ they had caught upon the shores of West Africa and other portions of the dark continent.
“I allowed my mind to conjure ideas of exploitation, often through sport, film and dancing. The sitting in front of the TV as America watched itself was my nod towards its insular nature. America as populated by its indiginous population was a tough one to figure out, only when a crew member lit up a cigarette did I realise that the glow of fire beneath my whitened face conjured up the image of the natives who we perhaps reductively associate with campfire and deep meditation. Thus that image was born.
“The blood could be any number of things, rather than the simple codification of another dead black man. The gun fingers and the shadows were all thought up in the edit.
“Thankfully, we painted my fist in black and the rest was all about our endurance. We wrapped at five in the morning and I edited the video in the remaining days to meet a self imposed Saturday deadline.
“My enduring memory was that of paradoxical dread. I normally have fun on film sets, regardless of the theme, and this one was no different. Having fun keeps people invested, especially as this was pro bono work for the crew. Despite guilt setting in when people would say ‘good’, or ‘that looks great’, the feeling that I had essentially become a meta version of the parading slave boy was when we – in our tiresome wisdom – tried to get a selfie.
“After realising how horrible the idea was, we stopped filming completely.
It’s the strangest shoot I’ve ever been a part of, and it could be my proudest work to date. Very much indebted to Berek’s stoic suggestions and to Ryan for painting my hand over and over again. Catherine was able to intuit exactly where my face had to be in and out of the shadow.
“I don’t watch the piece often. It’s too much.”
Lou Smith’s video can also be seen below:
The track is available to buy now as a digital download for £3 from Bandcamp. All funds generated by the song will benefit Brixton-based organisation Indigo Youth, a not for profit organisation set up to deliver projects for disadvantaged young people in Lambeth and neighbouring London boroughs. Their projects focus on four key areas Music, Production, Creative Arts, Heritage and Enterprise.
Further information about Indigo Youth is available here: https://www.indigoyouth.com/about