Album: Call It What It Is (2016)

Songfacts®:

  • Call It What It Is finds Ben Harper re-uniting with The Innocent Criminals for their first record in nine years. The title track finds Harper invoking the names of Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, and Michael Brown (all African Americans fatally shot by white cops) over a bluesy riff.

    There's good cops
    Bad cops
    White cops
    Black cops
    Call it what it is
    Murder
  • Ben Harper has been doing these kinds of songs since his 1994 debut album Welcome to the Cruel World, which included "Like a King" and "How Many Miles Must We March." Radio.com asked him if he experienced racism growing up in California. He replied: "Yeah, I've been confronted with it. There's grades of it, levels of it, and different ways in different times of my life I've responded to it differently. But it's always present, and that's a shame, it's a real shame."
  • Asked if he was thinking of "Like a King" when he wrote this song, Ben Harper replied: "Yeah, I mean it's definitely, there's a through-line there and a direct connection between those two songs. Without being a sensationalist, but also without turning a blind eye, 'cause you can't do that, 'cause that's why we're where we are… And cultural and social injustice is not a spectator sport, and we have reached a racial tipping point in America and are at a crossroads."

    "Here's the challenge in a situation like this," he added. "Why #BlackLivesMatters matters so much to me, is that I don't think there is one black person you can talk to that has not had a situation in their lives that isn't at least somehow related to being mistreated or profiled. And this is a conversation here."

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