The song “I Can’t Breathe” was written by artist H.E.R. alongside D’Mile, and Tiara Thomas. All three are African American artists, songwriters, and producers, which adds to the intense pride and emotion the song contains within its lyrics and message. The song itself was released on June 19, 2020 which was an eventful time in the United States given the amount of police shooting of unarmed black men and the protests. H.E.R. debuted the song in her performance at the iHeartRadio Living Room Concert Series, she also introduced the song by saying, “These lyrics were kind of easy to write because it came from a conversation with what’s happening right now, what’s been happening, and the change that we need to see. I think music is powerful when it comes to change and when it comes to healing, and that’s why I wrote this song — to make a mark in history.”

A big factor the song holds is within its very title, “I Can’t Breathe” directly recognizes the killing of George Floyd which alongside other unfortunate and heart breaking killings lead to the support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The song falls under Soul music and Rhythm & Blues (R&B), which is the typical genre for H.E.R. so it makes the message of the song be delivered in a very emotional and meaningful way, despite the fact that some R&B songs don’t touch upon serious topics. “I Can’t Breathe” is an excellent example of Rosenthal and Flacks statement on the sociological imagination, given that the artists takes it upon herself to incorporate the social/racial issues going on at the time to relate it to herself and those who listen to her music.

The three writers collaborated to create a smooth lyrical masterpiece that talks about multiple social issues, not just about the police brutality in America and George Floyd, but also about the history behind the racism many face today, and other institutional failings such as education, quality of life, etc. H.E.R. is known for expressing herself through her music and talking about social issues in other songs, but the song’s soulful rhythm is typical of fellow writer D’Mile who’s collaborated with multiple artists and even won several Grammy’s for his work with Jay Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and others.

The song’s lyrics directly target the social issues the writers had in mind when expressing how they felt with everything going on at the time, “Starting a war, screaming, “Peace” at the same time/All the corruption, injustice, the same crimes.” With the first line of the song the writers directly target the police injustices, how peace won’t come unless they take a stand, and how the police are the ones committing the same crimes. Another impactful lyric, “Prayin’ for change ’cause the pain makes you tender/All of the names you refuse to remember/Was somebody’s brother, friend,” here the writers acknowledge how not a lot of people remember the names of those killed and affected by these crimes. By saying, “Media perception is forced down the throats of closed minds/
So it’s lies in the headlines/And generations of supremacy resulting in your ignorant, privileged eyes,” here they also mention the systematic and overall life style inequalities African Americans face in America because of being placed at the bottom fo the food chain. Every lyric in the song holds history and power within it, whether it be racial injustice, social inequality, lack of education, and lack of trust in the system that’s failed so many.