Thoughts on "Driving While Black" / by Alex Young

"This is pro-black, so black it make you nervous."

Watching the memorial service for Muhammad Ali broadcasted on ESPN, Jordan Montgomery's debut solo album plays in the background. Titled "Driving While Black," Montgomery's project is a coming of age story of what it means to be young and black in America.

Since Ali's death, many stories and quotes about his champion individuality and demand for respect amongst all humans echo from the people the boxer touched. "Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong," Ali said.

Paralleled by the day of remembrance and recognition for the heavyweight champion of the world, Montgomery's music raises awareness about a problem we still face in America and around the world, racial injustice.

The Pittsburgh resident, activist and rapper, a product of 1Hood, a collective of hip-hop artists who believe art is the best way to challenge inequity and unify humanity, presents an album inspired specifically by social and political issues, like police brutality, affecting the African American community.

Conceptually, "I wanted the album to serve as a time capsule. I feel like the sound and content represents how a lot of young people feel about the modern injustices that we've witnessed," Montgomery says.

From the heavy guitar chords DJ Thermos inserts in the song "Bodies in the Trunk," and declarations like, "This is pro-black, so black it make you nervous," which Montgomery says in "Black People," the rapper resonates with the frustration some Afro-Americans feel about their treatment. The track "East Side" illustrates the life-threatening possibility of being racially profiled and arrested by police.

Though "Driving While Black" travels through troubling times of the black community, it also offers a beaming light of hope for those who relate to the album's content. Montgomery's lyricism is revolutionary and celebratory. With bounce provided by producer Christo, the song "Only Thing" offers excitement and pride around black culture. "We the only thing I hear poppin', we them boys you can't stop us,"  Montgomery raps.

However, commercial, white audiences' adoration of black culture cannot cover up the lack of respect some people have towards its creators.

Jordan Montgomery's "Driving While Black" album makes listeners aware of the injustices some people face simply because of their skin color.