Although Joey Bada$$’s “Temptation” does not necessarily have any direct musical lineages as other songs have, there are a plethora of different songs dealing with similar content issues. Just like Bada$$, a variety of Black artists turned inward to their music as the Black Lives Matter Movement became increasingly prevalent, and began talking about real issues of injustice existing within the Black community in America. Specifically, one of the areas that Bada$$ focuses on, along with many other artists of his time, is police brutality and its impact upon the African American community. In the very beginning of his song “Temptation” Bada$$ samples nine year old Zianna Oliphant giving a speech at Charlotte’s City Hall, following the murder of Keith Lamont Scott. In many ways, the murder of Keith Lamont Scott ignited the fire that was Joey Bada$$ and his creation of the album and his song “Temptation.”

This is something that is similarly mirrored in H.E.R’s “I Can’t Breathe.” Much like “Temptation” this song can be acknowledged as a direct response to the numerous killings of innocent Black Americans at the hands of the police. Both systemic racism and police brutality are at the forefront of “I Can’t Breathe” as H.E.R. utilizes her incredibly powerful song to pay homage to the murder of George Floyd. This similarity and connection between “I Can’t Breathe” and “Temptation” has deepened my understanding of just how helpless these tragic killings can and do make African Americans feel. In both of these songs, the listener can hear the pain in these artists’ voices, and can grasp hold of the impact these events have had on such incredibly young and talented individuals.

Furthermore, the connection between these two songs in their focus on the media has also opened my eyes to another issue relating to the entire movement for social justice. In “I Can’t Breathe” we hear, “Media perception is forced down the throats of closed minds.” In a very similar fashion, in “Temptation” Bada$$ reveals, “The media just tryna make a villain.” This emphasis on the role of the media illustrates the way in which so many different systems in American society all work together in their own ways to oppress the Black community, especially in relation to coverage of police brutality. The audio to H.E.R’s “I Can’t Breathe” can be accessed below in the following video.

Continuing on, another song that can be associated with this lineage and the theme of a response to police brutality is Childish Gambino’s “This is America.” Now without question, this song is directly pinpointing the flaws and issues of American society, most specifically in relation to the ongoing issues of police brutality. Although the song may not be a direct response to one specific issue of police brutality in America, it is no surprise that the song can be associated alongside Bada$$’s and H.E.R.’s. The lyrics alone convey the message that gun violence and police brutality are the reality of what life is like for those that are Black in this country. The song exclaims, “Police be trippin’ now (woo) Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy) Guns in my area (word, my area).” Much like the other two songs, this song further develops the idea regarding police brutality and how it severely influences the lives of many African Americans throughout the country. In relation to “Temptation” one can evaluate the way in which this song continues to illustrate the helplessness felt by African Americans everywhere, that is particularly reflective in the songs that started coming out as the Black Lives Matter Movement kicked off. The ultra-famous music video to Childish Gambino’s “This is America” is linked below.

A third song that can be grouped in alongside these other songs as direct responses to police brutality within society, is “Captured On An iPhone” by Dre. This song is specifically dedicated to victims of police brutality and racism in this country, and the title itself is incredibly indicative of how. The song was inspired by the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and other people killed by police officers or racist civilians, and goes to show the lineage that is present amongst these songs. Within the song, Dre reveals, “Hoping time will heal the pain I can’t even cry no more.” This again, further develops the idea that Joey Bada$$’s “Temptation” began to introduce. These songs, which are of direct response to instances of police brutality, illustrate the lack of hope and the feelings of helplessness that these murders continue to instill in the African American youth. Furthermore, this ties back into the idea regarding “I Can’t Breathe” and the media perception of these murderings, that have all been captured on an iPhone, like Dre depicts. All in all, this further illustrates the way in which there is a thematic tie between all of these songs, and the feelings associated with police brutality amongst the Black community. The audio to this song can be found below.

Another lineage that can be associated with Joey Bada$$’s “Temptation,” is the examination of the African Americans ability to be free within this country, and the systems that hold them back from doing so. In J. Cole’s “Be Free” Cole unpacks the ways in which African Americans are held back in society. Cole utilizes a metaphor of chains, chains that have held back African Americans for practically all of history, both literally and metaphorically. In his song, he explains, “All we want to do is take these chains off. All we want to do is break the chains of pain.” In Cole’s song, he is making a constant effort to convey the message that under the restrain of the American government and other social systems, there is practically no way for African Americans to truly be considered free.This is something very similarly echoed in Bada$$’s “Temptation” as it is stated, “The government been tryna take away what’s ours. It’s really all about the money and the power, I just wanna see my people empowered.” This illustrates how Bada$$ and Cole feel very much the same about the way in which society is structured in this country. Under the tight grip of the various systems in America, it is no surprise that African Americans struggle to feel free, as the very things that would make them feel free in the first place are often taken away from them. To better grasp this concept, take a listen to J. Cole’s “Be Free” for yourself, as I have linked it below.

Building off of this, another song that can be examined under the same microscope is Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar’s “Freedom.” In case it was not apparent enough in the title, this song delves into the issue regarding freedom for African Americans in this country, or the lack thereof. In the song, we see Beyoncé address her struggle with infidelity as a black woman, as well as alluding to the history of slavery inflicted upon African-Americans. Furthermore, Beyoncé touches upon the present and the way in which issues such as police brutality also continue to hold African Americans back. In the song, she sings, “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move/Freedom, cut me loose!/Freedom! Freedom! Where are you?/’Cause I need freedom too!”

Additionally, in Lamar’s verse we hear him countdown from ten to five, before switching to a syllable count, which could be indicative of something significant coming. In many ways this countdown could be representative of a countdown to freedom, a freedom from oppression that so many African Americans dream of in this country. This song further illustrates the prevalence of the desire for freedom within the Black community, and how the structure of society prevents that from being obtainable. Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar’s famous song “Freedom” can be evaluated and listened to below.

Lastly, in Joe Budden’s “Freedom Freestyle” we see yet another approach to this theme of freedom that is present with Bada$$’s “Temptation.” In the song, Budden flows over a rendition of Beyoncé’s “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar, which I just mentioned. This sampling directly illustrates the relationship between these two songs, which both connect back to “Temptation,” through the theme of African Americans’ inability to be truly free. In the song, Budden raps, “Land of the free, the home of the brave/Can’t let us be, we’ve grown from slaves/It’s there if you want to read/I mean it’s all in the page.” This exhibits the way in which this country is founded on the idea of being free, yet not all of its citizens are granted that same human right. This lack of freedom remains true today, and Budden acknowledges how African Americans have moved on from being slaves, yet still cannot be described as free. This connects to “Temptation” as it toys around with this idea of freedom, and what it actually means to be free in this country.

With any sort of basic understanding or awareness of societal structure, one can recognize the way in which African Americans are held back from being free, and are constrained to the oppressive nature of our social systems. This is something that presents itself not only in Bada$$’s “Temptation” but also in Budden’s “Freedom Freestyle.” This can be further evaluated in the video below.

Natalie Nevins