Music is typically an accurate barometer to gauge a social climate. True to form, Kendrick Lamar’s performance at the Grammys centered on race, incarceration and power. In a deviation from her normally “safe” songs, Beyoncé surprised the world with the song and video “Formation.” These songs and images are clear indicators of a current social atmosphere that’s pregnant with a promise of revolution. Yet, these artists are not alone. Messiah Ramkissoon known simply by his first name or as the “liberation lyricist,” has been consistent in using his words to beautifully illustrate the ugliest aspects of injustice.
The New York-based gifted emcee has been moving crowds from the Apollo Theater to Washington, DC for several years. His lyrical range and teaching gifts are too large to be placed in one box. Messiah has electrified crowds using spoken word poetry to shed light on the HIV crisis, and with that same passion he creates songs that educate listeners about the impact of mass incarceration and a range of other social injustices. In his song “Bury the Blacker,” Messiah paints a clear picture of an often undiscussed topic of poor health conditions in urban communities that are driven by the lack of availability of healthy food options.
Messiah’s talent stretches beyond a recording studio. Since 2012, he has worked with incarcerated young men by providing creative writing workshops, counseling, mentorship, and other reentry services, and has facilitated workshops, performances, and presentations across the Unites States. Some of his “master classes” include topics such as spirituality and hip-hop, and hip-hop and health, all powerful messages that could be especially beneficial to youth of color and any marginalized demographic. Messiah’s words seem to appropriately apply to every stone that the builder refused.
This liberation lyricist may not have a platform as large as some other artists who are accurately capturing the spirit of the present day fight for social justice. However, what his platform lacks in size, his words make up in impact. If you haven’t heard of him before today, Messiah is “Who’s Next.”
Shanita Hubbard is a mom, writer, and social justice advocate. Follow her on Twitter.