Earlier this week, Australian rap duo Brothers posted a video addressing police brutality, tagged #BlackLivesMatter. After backlash from fans and fellow hip-hop artists on social media, they have removed the clip and issued a statement.
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The pair – who are of Middle Eastern heritage – begin the video by rapping from the imagined perspective of George Floyd, the 46-year-old African-American man whose death on May 25 reignited protests worldwide. A video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he said “I can’t breathe” went viral on social media.
Brothers member Izzy starts the video with the lines: “Officer, I can’t breathe / Your whole bodyweight’s on my neck / I was never resisting arrest.”
Later, he also raps, “Officer, I can’t breathe / Is it because of the colour of my skin? / Then you win / I’m Black / Does that change anything?”
Watch the video here, as archived by Australian hip-hop channel DME TV:
The rap drew both praise and criticism in the comments on Brothers’ original post. On June 2, Indigenous rapper Tasman Keith took to his own Instagram account to address the video. “If you are not an artist of colour don’t use this moment to build your platform by rapping about our issues from our perspective with a hashtag,” he wrote.
“Instead, post artists that have been speaking on this before it was viral. Know when to lift voices that are more important. I get the gesture, but stop. This is real. Not a trend.” Other hip-hop artists, including Tkay Maidza and Shadow, expressed support in the comments. See the post below:
The next day, Keith posted a video addressed to Brothers, who at the time had not responded to the criticism.
“My problem isn’t when white artists or artists that don’t come from a coloured background show support by putting up a rap verse or whatever medium they choose to do that through,” he said. “My problem comes when you don’t do it from your perspective, and you try to jump into ours when you’ve never been about it.”
He added, “As an Indigenous man, as a Gumbaynggirr man, as a Blak man on this soil, I can’t fucking choose when I want to tap in and out of it. I have to grow up with this shit and live with it every fucking day. My great-uncles, who were in the Stolen Generation, pass that trauma down to me every fucking day. I can’t choose when it’s happening or not.”
“That’s why I think it’s wrong as fuck that these dudes can use this moment in the world as self-gain and try and make it something beneficial to them rather than lifting black voices now.” Watch his full video below:
On June 4, Brothers removed the rap video from their Instagram account and issued a statement in another video.
“We had no bad intentions and no intentions to do it for views or to gain views,” said Brothers member Sebz. “We seen the video [of George Floyd’s death] on social media and it was disgusting and really pissed us off, which is why we did the video to raise awareness.”
“We did it in a way we know how, which is through our music. Because we thought if we did it through our music a lot more people would listen to it. Because a lot of people do listen to our music. But we’ve seen that it’s upset some people, which is why we’re deleting the video out of respect for them. And we are sorry, but we are going to continue supporting and raising awareness through our social media.”
See the statement here:
Prior to posting their apology, Brothers had approached Keith to go on Instagram Live for a discussion, according to screenshots posted by Keith of his Instagram direct message conversation with the duo. Keith declined, telling Brothers to “just publicly apologise, take the video down & call it a day”.
“You chose to post the video publicly without thinking it through or talking to people of colour. It is untimely, uneducated & a reach,” Keith said later in the conversation. “I’ve said what I’ve needed to say, and so has everyone else. Do the right thing, not the thing that’s going to get the most attention which you guys seem to always do.”
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receipts. 1pm today. they’ve had time to remove it or issue an apology but they’d rather go live for more clout. I ain’t stupid & CRB don’t play that. I’ve tried being civil so this is the last I’ll speak on it otherwise the music will talk. they’ve shown their intention, & it’s clear. There are more important things to give the attention to rn. this is done. @brothers_officiall are cancelled.