The song/video is a powerful, soulful offering that questions the black experience today and how while things are better, there’s still a ways to go regarding systematic equality. Taking on the sonic sounds of James Brown’s “This Is A Man’s World,” Blake wails his concerns about the state of affairs.
“Who’s that man I see underneath the hanging tree? / He looks just like me, so tell me, am I really free?” he opens on the first verse. The emotive vocals of the choir add even more dynamics as the visual sees Blake’s dapper suit and tie slowly being stripped away, revealing bloody whip lashes on his back and shackles on his wrists; it’s a potent symbol for the underlying bondage still endured today despite the perceived freedom on the outside.
“Hanging Tree” will be featured on Sankofa.org’s forthcoming album, Broken Windows. Watch the powerful visual below:
In an exclusive interview with The FADER, Blake states: “I wrote “Hanging Tree” as a way to use my voice for equal rights, especially black rights, in the aftermath of tragedies like Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice and so many others whose voices have been silenced. When I recorded this song, I wanted to have a way to express my feelings, despite at the time not having an album to attach this to. I was lucky that a friend of mine introduced me to the work the Sankofa organization is doing and it really resonated with me. I felt their work embodied the same message I wanted to convey with this song. As a result, the Sankofa organization and I have combined efforts to spread this important message of equality through this amazing video, as well as through their EP17 Project, where the song was originally released.”