Music building bridges to understanding in the new Civil Rights Era: Rob Wood’s “The Black Tape”

Diego Parada
4 min readJul 28, 2020

Sacramento-native Rob Woods released “The Black Tape” as millions protest in streets across the United States.

In June, fireworks sound off in the distance setting cadence, emergency responders’ sirens are heard throughout the night, restless in bed as is the night.

George Floyd’s death on May 25th is one of many names that ring in the heads of individuals in the United States and around the world leading to mobilizations, marches, and parades for Black Lives Matter.

While Floyd’s murder is a continuity of police brutality in the United States, these movements seek to bring attention to the 400 years of tribulation that Black bodies have faced according to RNZ news.

Rapper Rob Woods from Sacramento, Calif., released his album, “The Black Tape” on Juneteenth with features from Adlnte, KJ Focus, K PRICE, Marisha Ashanti, and Sapphyre Blu to name a few. He released the tape a little more than a week after the murder of Geroge Floyd.

Now in Inglewood, Woods highlights emotions, histories, and realities in his latest album that had to be released in the era of Black Lives Matter that was caused by activism and outrage over Floyd’s death.

While his album’s release is basking in the energy of the new era of Civil Rights in the country, the lyrical sentiments did not start with George Floyd but are really 400 years old.

“It’s the time of today tomorrow, over 400 years, and that’s why it’s so important that we put our foot down and make sure that it’s a change because I want to change. I wanted it to not be relevant anymore,” Woods said.

While it may seem that Black Lives Matter is a drop in a pond, almost 4000 cities around the globe have participated in the protests. While these protests are to get messages of human rights and systemic inequalities across, it is also a wake-up call for the so-called white oppressor.

What makes the album different from other hip-hop albums that Rob Woods has made is that it is meant to build the connection between the greater message of the protests to music listeners.

“I just felt like me, my music, it’s like a bridge you know, bringing us all together, you know, this is my protest, this is my megaphone,” Woods said.

Rob Woods is one of the hundreds of millions of people who understand the Black Lives Matter movement. However, his familiarity with systemic inequalities combined with his ability to pour stories over rhymes allows him to reach an audience that may not have access to the protests. There is the COVID-19 pandemic that shows no sign of slowing down, thus serving as a determining factor for some people’s will to mobilize in fear of getting sick.

“The Black Tape” serves as an accessible version of the Black Lives Matter protest because it is in the form of music. It has a different delivery than what is viewed through mobile devices or television channels. The 30-minute album delivers messages over melodies and relevant symbolism through sound. The album is meant to evoke.

Another musician on the album emphasized the impact of the music by playing his saxophone. KJ Focus, from Richmond, Calif., believes that “The Black Tape” will send shockwaves through people because it is music made by Black people.

“Any music about us that’s speaking positive about what we’re doing and what’s going on in the world,” KJ said.

The music has the ability to lift and inspire the same people who are either adding to the movement or learning from the movement.

“‘Cause music is healing and, you know, that’s going to heal the mind of a lot of people, probably motivate a lot of people too,” KJ remarked.

KJ Focus featured on “Stuck,” a 5-minute song where he makes his mark through the bell of his horn. When asked about the album’s trajectory, Focus made it known that its impact will be felt in the genre and over time.

“It is going to be one of those greatest albums ever been put out, especially if I was going on if you want to put it just in the category of Black Lives Matter. That’s one of the best albums out there,” KJ said.

Newly graduated from San Francisco State University in Latino/Latina studies, Andrea Gil observes the rise of hip-hop to its spot in mainstream music and its ability to express ideas and stories.

Beyond the genre, she emphasizes that music has served as that vessel for political and social messages like gospel in church and even through the use of drums in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“When you go out to peaceful demonstrations, you notice that there’s always drums there,” Andrea said. “And that’s centered around the Black community as if it was one instrument that was carried over from Africa.”