The family of Eric Garner and a group of artists including rapper/activist Talib Kweli each recorded a new song sharing the same title—”I Can’t Breathe”—in response to the ongoing and recent killings of Black men by police officers around the country.
Both songs take their title from Garner’s cry while NYPD officers choked him to death in 2014. The song above, credited to the “Garner Family” on Soundcloud, features vocals from Garner’s siblings Ellisha and Steven Flagg. “I can hear my brother crying, “I can’t breathe,”/Now I’m in this struggle, and I can’t leave” sings Ellisha on one of the choruses before Steven raps his discontent with “a system that will never love me, a system that took my brother from me.”
The Garners’ song employs a refrain similar to one created by actor Samuel L. Jackson in 2014. The other “I Can’t Breathe” song, featured above, uses Jackson’s refrain as the chorus and features verses from Kweli, KRS-One and Onyx’s Sticky Fingaz. The song also features production and rapping from dancehall artist Mad Lion.
Both songs arrived as artists responded to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police on social media and in song. Jay-Z released the song “Spiritual,” while singer Miguel dropped the unfinished “How Many.”