R&B singer Janelle Monáe, just moments after declaring on NBC’s “Today” show Friday morning that “we will not be silenced,” was cut off by the network, and, well, effectively silenced. She had just concluded a small speech concerning police brutality to support the Black Lives Matter movement when she was cut off.
While performing with a number of labelmates, Newsweek reported August 16, Janelle Monáe sang three songs outside NBC headquarters in Manhattan: “Tightrope,” “Yoga” and “Hell You Talmbout.” The latter is a protest song written in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which surfaced last year after several young and unarmed black men died during shootings, arrests, and while in police custody. Since then, the deaths of both unarmed African American men and women have have only added impetus to the movement.
The song “Hell You Talmbout” contains chants of the names of many of those who have died at the hands of law enforcement in the past year or so. The names of Eric Garner, Walter Scott, John Crawford, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown are all chanted after the command to “Say his name” or “Say her name” is given in the song. Going further back in time, the song also brings up teenager Trayvon Martin, who was notoriously shot dead by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012. And even further back in time — the name of Emmett Till is announced. He was just 14 years old when he was murdered by white racists in Mississippi in 1955. (According to The Guardian, Till’s death inspired a protest song by Bob Dylan. The song “Death of Emmett Till,” the lyrics of which can be read on Bob Dylan’s own website, was released in 1972, although a bootleg version was recorded from a radio show in 1962. The latter version of the song can be heard on YouTube.)
Janelle Monáe last week led a march in support of Black Lives Matter in Philadelphia. She closed “Hell You Talmbout” with a short speech in support of the movement as well.
“Yes, Lord,” she said. “God bless America. God bless all who’ve lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know that we stand tall today. We will not be silenced.”
But just as soon as she said that they would not be silenced, a “Today” show anchor cut Monáe off and began talking over her, telling viewers, “We’ll have much more from Janelle Monáe … coming up.”
Newsweek noted that the show’s website featured videos of the performances of “Tightrope” and “Yoga.” However, “Hell You Talmbout” is not to be found. NBC has yet to comment on quick exit on Friday’s “Today” show or the absence of the “Hell You Talmbout” video — not to mention the Black Lives Matter speech — on the website.
Janelle Monáe is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter/producer who made a name for herself by dropping an unofficial album, The Audition, then releasing a couple of conceptual collections, an EP and a full-length album. After a couple of international hits, like “Tightrope,” the 29-year-old singer became a breakout star in 2012 when she was featured on Fun.’s No. 1 Billboard Adult Pop Songs hit “We Are Young.”