The trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has reopened some wounds for artists still trying to heal from the trauma stemming from the killing of George Floyd. La Bell, a Dallas rapper, singer and producer, processed her emotions over Floyd's death in a song and music video titled "Floyd's Song."
The song resonates just as much during the Chauvin trial as it did when Bell dropped it last June during the Black Lives Matter protests following Floyd's death. Bell also calls attention to other lives lost at the hands of police, such as Botham Jean in Dallas and Fort Worth's Atatiana Jefferson, with art from local artists displayed in the music video.
“When I went downtown, I had driven there on a whim one day, probably like two or three days after Dallas had its biggest case of people breaking into Neiman Marcus and all this stuff,” Bell says of the summer protests. “And when I went down there, everything was boarded up, but I saw that a lot of downtown Dallas was like an art gallery.”
Bell told her videographer that she wanted to include the protest art in her video to capture the social climate.
“It was the most beautiful thing because it was right here in the heart of the city, and it's like all this beautiful artwork about Black Lives Matter and brown lives,” Bell says. “I know that George Floyd did not die here, but we've had Botham Jean die here. I wanted to hold Dallas accountable because we've been there, too, like not too far from when Floyd died. I was able to capture the essence of the city that we live in that we have gone through the very same thing and that I'm now writing another song about somebody else that died somewhere else. You know, we're not exempt from that.”
With the trial, Bell says once again people are finding "Floyd’s Song" online. For her, it's not about the views or streams; it's about the man and the message that she wants to get across to anyone who finds the music video.
"You know this isn't a trick rap. I'm not trying to give you a whole bunch of metaphors and symbols," Bell says. "The simple part of it was that someone lost their life, and this is what we're dealing with, and we keep dealing with this. It's like a perpetual cycle."
The music video is layered, lyrically and visually. It opens with Bell seated in a chair in a gallery, slowly getting up and walking toward the camera. She leans down, shooting a disappointed glare at viewers before transitioning to a close-up of a painting, then a mural, as Bell stand in front. Throughout the video, we see more downtown street art created during protests.
The song's standout lyrics include the line: "Metaphors only exist if there's a thing to compare them to, like if a tree falls in the jungle, would you hear it too? Like if a knee was in your neck, would you feel it, too, or do you not have the knee to compare it to?" The impact of the words is enhanced through other instances of unarmed Black people killed by police, whether in their home or on the street.
Know Shame, a Dallas soul singer know as “The Hook Man,” is also featured in “Floyd’s Song.” He hums and sings as Bell raps on the track. Prior to working on Floyd’s song, the two didn’t know each other, but he had the old school Dallas sound Bell was looking for in a collaborator.
"There was a specific sound that I was looking for when it came to 'Floyd's Song,' and [Know Shame] has that type of scruffy, you know, Dallas sound that I really wanted to come through," Bell says. "And he was like, 'All right cool, I'll hit you back in 20 minutes.' I was like, 'This is a very important song! Don't rush it.' And he hit me back in like 20 minutes, sent me the hook, and it was dope."
Bell got her start in music after graduating from high school when she'd attend open mic nights at a Mexican restaurant in Lewisville and have rap circles with friends. The artist is now working on her next releases. She recently teased at a new song coming out on April 26 on all platforms, with a live performance on May 8 at Rubber Gloves in Denton. There, she'll be performing at an L25 "Gemini Season" music video release party and debut a three-part song with L25 and AV the Great.
The track "Floyd's Song," Bell says, resonates with listeners through its honesty.
"I think when people listen to it, it's not something that you have to think hard about," she says. "It's just all true. Like there's nothing in that song that's a lie, you know what I'm saying. It's hard to argue with the facts, but I think everybody takes it exactly for what it is."
Watch the video for "Floyd's Song" below:
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