Garner died right outside their studio, and now they’ve channeled their anger into this new song.
The Rising Sun All Stars. Image via the Rising Sun All Stars' Twitter page.
Several months after witnessing the death of Eric Garner happen right outside his Staten Island-based recording studio, Gary Nieves, Jr., along with his rap group, The Rising Sun All-Stars, have released a single in honor of Garner’s life. They knew Garner as a “gentle giant” who often hung out on their street, not only selling loosies but also helping resolve conflicts. Available for free to listen to on SoundCloud and BandCamp, their song, I Can’t Breathe, represents the group’s attempt to grapple with Garner’s death and the grand jury verdict that cleared the police officer who killed him. Nieves wrote the music for the track; NenJah Nycist, one of the band’s two singers, wrote the lyrics.
“Hard to sleep / When these cops on the beat / Choking out motherfuckers that look like me,” raps Nycist. “No mystery just misery.”
The band is currently offering the song to listeners at a “pay-what-you-want” price, and they promise all the proceeds will go to the family of Eric Garner. In a recent interview with NY Mag’s Vulture blog, Nieves says he channeled his grief at the loss of Garner into the song.
“What pushed me to the point where I knew [recording a song] was something that felt right was thinking about what Eric’s reaction might have been,” Nieves told Vulture. “What if the song was about another guy out here? There are other guys serving the same type of role that he did... I think he would like the song... I think he would like the message.”