There are some moments in time whose importance is palpable. It is impossible to deny that 2020 has presented a handful of these history defining occurrences, and Denver has been impacted by them in a great way. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a strong force in the city as weeks of protests swept through the streets calling for justice after the murder of George Floyd and the centuries of similar oppressions. With these powerful scenes unfolding, the people at The Barbershop Uncut felt that Denver’s hip hop community had the potential to showcase important voices and people who had something to say about the situation. The result is I Can’t Breathe (Again), one of the most impactful songs to come out of Colorado in recent memory.
Comprised of an all-star lineup of A Meazy, Ramond, Chy Reco, Wil Guice, and Mic Coats, I Can’t Breathe (Again) holds a mirror up to society in a very real, raw, yet poignant way that is direct and emotional. When speaking on the studio session that lead to the final track, producer Mic Coats stated that “It was a really powerful, unique experience. I think for all of us there will never forget how magical that night was”, and he wasn’t alone in feeling that way. Every single artist talked about how everything that happened within those four walls felt different, nearly magical. A Meazy talked about the process itself, saying that he wanted to make sure no one was prepared beforehand. He wanted the raw, angry energy that everyone in the room was feeling. Once the music started being made, A Meazy says that “it turned into this therapy session almost, you could feel everybody’s emotions” and that it was an experience where “you had to be there to understand how powerful it was.” Ramond touched on the fact that before the studio session it felt like he didn’t have an outlet to voice his emotions, that there was no one to talk to. The session turned into that outlet for him, saying “it was a beautiful experience.”
Some artists cried because of how difficult it was to write a song about such devastating subject matter during such a painful time. Some artists didn’t even know how to turn the energy they felt into music, there was just so much to say. There was a sense of the moment and just how important it is, and each artist seemed to channel that inspiration into something greater than themselves or the music.
Another thing every artist made clear was that this song is truly greater than the individuals involved in its creation. From Mic Coats digging deep into his soul (and the crates) to create a beat with a perfect blend of power and catchiness to Wil Guice helping guide the direction of the track to Ramond, Chy Reco, and A Meazy laying down some of their best verses ever, I Can’t Breathe (Again) feels transcendent. It is Denver’s protest song from the people, and it needs to be heard. As Chy Reco said, “the music will be the voice for the movement. The music is gonna be voice for change.”
One aspect of getting heard is getting on the radio. It’s not always an easy task to get a track into rotation, but I Can’t Breathe (Again) proved impossible to deny space on the airwaves and KS 107.5 started giving it regular spins within hours of being sent the song. The response since has been promising, and the song continues to get plays as it’s reach steadily increases, hitting the ears of people across the entire state.
While the song’s impact goes beyond the influence of any one artist on the track, the personal waves it has made are important too. There is a true sense of pride among this team of artists, the feeling that this is why they make music, to do something bigger than make songs. Having the space to voice these complex emotions also proved to be personally beneficial to each artist, and served as an outlet to better understand their own feelings on everything happening.
Hearing I Can’t Breathe (Again) on the radio was a big event in a personal manner as well. A Meazy, who has been making music for some time now, mentioned that his grandma had been sitting in the car listening to the song on the radio all day and gave him a call to tell him how proud she was. He said she had never called him to say that about his music before. Chy Reco is using the track to help teach his kids about the current state of the world and to show them how to make positive change. It was also the first time he’s heard a song of his in the radio, which became an emotional moment for the Chicago born artist.
This is where art expands outside of entertainment. This is where the hip hop community in Colorado can affect positive change in a powerful way. The response I Can’t Breathe (Again) has already garnered is both impressive and important. Songs like these need to be heard. Blast this at the next protest you go to. Show it to a friend. Play it in the car. The message is integral and cannot be forgotten. There is a feeling that the music being made today will be looked back upon in the same way Gil-Scott Heron and Bob Dylan’s music is; protest music that changed the way we see the world. I Can’t Breathe (Again) is a good place to start in 2020.