TIMEKODE drops politically-charged track to respond to police brutality in black communities
After several fatal police altercations involving members of the black community, DJ and producer Kwende Kefentse felt a sense of duty to make a statement.
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Kwende Kefentse could no longer sit around and say nothing.
After several fatal police altercations involving members of the black community, including the tragic beat down of Ottawa’s Abdirahman Abdi, the Ottawa DJ and producer felt a sense of duty to make a statement, both personally as a member of the black community, and creatively as a purveyor of art.
“DJs have a role in society, they occupy space and make people dance,” says Kefentse, known behind the 1s and 2s as Memetic.
“We saw this as an opportunity to say something when there is something to be said. A DJ’s job is not to create social discourse, but saying nothing about these things is a political decision as well.”
The co-creative director at TIMEKODE, Ottawa largest, longest running independent club night, started laying down beats in February of this year for what would later become TIMEKODE X Volume 2: Montreal, set for release this Friday at D'Afrique Restaurant & Bar.
Memetic has transformed a soulful love song, Running From Your Love, by Montreal’s Freak Motif into a provocative, deafening and thoughtful hip-hop track, groovy enough to make you dance and conscious enough to make you think about each step.
“This is a public service announcement,” the track states a few seconds in before the beat drops and Emcees Bender and Hyfidelik start dropping lyrical bombs as poetic as A-Plus and as political as 2Pac.
“Abused women getting strip searched and tortured, shoot to kill and maybe you ain’t getting warned first,” raps Bender over beastly drums and a sinister grooving baseline.
“Not just a few bad apples no more sir, it’s time we take a f---ing axe to the whole orchard.”
The original track by Montreal’s funktagon Freak Motif is a funk-driven tune centred around the complications between the relationship of two people, and how what is supposed to be a positive, safe space has become volatile territory.
Memetic saw similarities between that relationship and the crumbling one between police and the black community. But perhaps even more jarring to him is the public’s response to violence against black residents, especially when millennials pay more attention to Pokémon Go or Brangelina’s divorce than what’s really happening in front of them.
“I don’t know if there is a problem between communities of colour in Ottawa and the police, but there is certainly a problem with the way these instances are handled and the public reaction to it.”
Memetic used the example of the fatal beating of Abdi and compared it to the recent cycling death of Nusrat Jahan, who was killed Sept. 1 while cycling on Laurier.
“Immediately after the cyclists’ death, there was a press conference, public outcry, municipal councilors were rallying outside of city hall, there was media and articles about the safety of truck and bike accidents,” says Memetic, adding that that type of reaction was fair and warranted. It’s the type he wants to see when a member of a coloured community is killed.
“When Abdi got killed, there was none of that. No immediate rally in front of city hall, there were no articles about police and communities of colour. There was just quiet. This wasn’t reported on for three days.”
What Memetic is really talking about here is accountability. With the cycling death, everyone felt a sense of duty to stand up for the safety of all cyclists, but he feels the same outcry wasn’t echoed for Abdi.
“Look at what happened,” he says.
“When it happens to someone else, there is accountability. This track speaks to the public reaction around the wrongful deaths of people in communities of colour.”
Memetic knows he won’t change the world with one track, one party or one beat, but he hopes that, at the very least, people will think about the lyrics in the new track, ponder them, absorb them, feel them and one day, act on them to make the world a safer place. If he can start that process on the dancefloor, then people will be going home all the wiser.
“We want to make people turn up and think about the world they are going to walk out into after the party is done,” he says.
“The dancefloor is a dynamic place. People are not going to have an epiphany on the dancefloor, it’s more after the fact, when they are at home listening to the lyrics, they might realize it then.”
The new TIMEKODE release also boast remixes of The Last Question by Montreal's avant-funk outfit dArk mAAt’r, with vocals from acclaimed Montreal jazz artist Malika Tirolien, plus the first vinyl solo remix by prominent Montreal DJ Scott C of The Goods.
Vinyl copies of the release will be available Friday night at D'Afrique. Tickets are $10 for the show.