Iconic hard-rock crew Living Colour have been making waves with their version of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” a cover of the classic 1995 “Big Poppa” B side and the band’s first single since 2009.
Over crunchy, staccato riffs, the band turns Biggie’s vivid assertion of hardness into a protest song about the waves of gun violence by both police officers and citizens alike. Now the official video brings home that statement with remembrances of people who died from guns, from Amadou Diallo to Medgar Evers to Tupac Shakur, who originally thought Big’s “Who Shot Ya?” was aimed at him.
“You see the names you might expect to see like Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, Jr., but you also see the names of Kurt Cobain, Malcolm X, Dimebag Darrell, Martin Luther King, Marvin Gaye and Lee Harvey Oswald,” guitarist Vernon Reid tells Rolling Stone. “The absurdity of it all is staggering. We’re portraying the obvious crisis through the use of graphics and stats, but we are also hoping people see the mass proliferation of guns in new ways. We can’t keep ignoring the profligate amount of firearms so easily accessible to people. We respect people’s rights to bear arms, but you can’t argue the Second Amendment side of the issue without also looking at how the gun manufacturers are profiting from the death of others. The bitter irony of a song like ‘Who Shot Ya?’ is what happened to Biggie and Tupac. There’s what the song was originally about and what the song wound up being about. It’s a meta-tragedy.”
“The lyrical brilliance of Biggie left a mark on my mind. The story he told was compelling,” says lead singer Corey Glover. “‘Who shot ya? / Separate the weak from the obsoletes / Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets.’ So many tragedies are the product of American culture. The gun shouldn’t be your first or last resort. As a black man, a son, a father, I worry. As a citizen, I’m concerned how easily black bodies are thrown away with such frequency. As an artist, I must speak the truth.”
“Who Shot Ya?” was recently released as part of a mixtape with an all-star rap remix featuring Chuck D, Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought, Prodigal Sunn and Kyle Mansa. The Who Shot Ya? mixtape also features material that may appear on the band’s upcoming sixth album Shade, due in 2017.