“What’s Going On?”: OLU from EARTHGANG on Love & Humanity

“I didn’t plan to write this guest editorial or release this cover for that matter.”
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You know we’ve got to find a way / To bring some lovin’ here today.” –Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”

My dad would always sing Marvin Gaye songs at our church. It’s crazy; I’m doing the same thing all these years later.

This past Friday, July 24, was the two-year anniversary of my father’s passing. As strong as I’ve grown, I still miss him so, so much. 

Last year at this time, I was on the set of the “Sacrifices” video for Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III. Dreamville flew my mother up to New York to be in the video so all of us could be together as a family. That was a special moment, being able to transform what would typically be a somber time into one of triumph and celebration, and to share it with the people I live and work with gave me unspeakable joy.

I believe that is the power of art; the power of music. That is the magic and the miracle of what we do as creators. 

This cover is my gift to my father and anyone separated from loved ones, or feeling low or apathetic about the current state of our world. Y’all keep your heads high and your spirits higher. We will get through this and love more and more on the other side.

I didn’t plan to write this guest editorial or release this cover for that matter. I was watching Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods for the fifth time. The entire soundtrack was Marvin Gaye. Something told me to sing… I had been feeling so low with this anniversary approaching, and the way the world is spinning. What’s going on? What’s happening to our world? It seems the further we progress, the more we regress.

Every day it’s a different story, a different country, a different crime against humanity. At a time when we’re all doing the best we can to survive and sustain, it feels like God placed the world in a soda bottle and shook us up. 

We all had plans for 2020. We all had goals to better our lives. And here we sit, fighting a global disease, struggling to eat, struggling to keep a roof over our head, struggling to educate our children and keep them safe, struggling to save the world from climate change while fighting racism, sexism, classicism, and individualism... It’s a lot to deal with. It’s a lot to process. So singing becomes this cathartic activity when you can’t cry because you aren’t exactly sure what you are feeling.

The world has come to another crossroads. With all the technological improvements, the spiritual knowledge we have regained, all the suffering we see, we’re now being provided the opportunity for the best of humanity to come forth. We have a chance to change the way we’ve been living for the last 100 years; to create a new world with new ideals that protect our lives, protect nature, and restore the balance on Earth. 

During the first global quarantine, remember how the lack of cars on the road allowed the planet a chance to breathe? You could see the Himalayan Mountains from parts of India that are usually covered in thick smog. Fish were returning to the Venice canals. The rest of the planet was thriving as we sat in some sort of timeout. If we change for the better, the world will thrive like never before.

I hope that greed and hate die; they’re diseases. They run rampant across the globe, causing untold hardship for the human race and mother nature. These are the perfect breeding grounds for institutional racism. Stripping opportunities and quality of life away from a group of people simply because they are different or to profit, hurts entire nations and causes countries to crumble in ruin. They say you can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats children and the elderly. Two of the most vulnerable populations on this planet are abused, mishandled, overlooked, and left to fend for themselves.

And our women should never be subjected to the atrocities we put them through. I could never understand why anyone would want to inflict harm on these precious people. Whatever power brought us here, I always wonder, would it be pleased with us? 

Forgive me if it seems like I’m rambling, but these are constant thoughts I have. Maybe these are thoughts many of us have; thoughts of how we can come together to address the suffering we all experience in one way or another.

I’ve traveled to about 20 countries in the past four years, some countries multiple times, and the disparities of quality of life are astounding. Simple amenities we take for granted here simply do not exist everywhere. It’s been difficult not being able to travel lately. I miss connecting with the world. I miss learning from new cultures. I miss eating traditional food down in Soweto, Johannesburg. I miss running on the beaches of Barcelona. I miss sitting on the curb eating at the Jerk Taco Man in Chicago.

OLU at Bondi Beach while on an EarthGang tour in Australia, December 2019

OLU at Bondi Beach while on an EarthGang tour in Australia, December 2019

OLU visiting the historic churches at Lalibela while on vacation in Ethiopia just before Orthodox Christmas, January 2020

OLU visiting the historic churches at Lalibela while on vacation in Ethiopia just before Orthodox Christmas, January 2020

I had plans to visit the Caribbean and South America this year to reconnect with the African Diaspora in these lands. I want to go to Carnival for the first time and see my beautiful Black people living and dancing and celebrating freely. I want to learn new rhythms and eat food and discover how we’re all connected. What better way to understand your neighbor, or humanity, than visiting and immersing yourself in that culture? That’s when the real connection occurs. People become more than faces on TV. Your connection to the world and each other is rooted deeper. You realize we can live together and thrive together regardless of our differences. You see that people are already coming up with solutions to make life spiritually, physically, emotionally better.

Truthfully, it’s driving me nuts having to stay here and continuously see the hate some Americans proudly display to people who are different. It’s clear that sickness has gripped them; that insecurity has invaded their conscience. Hating someone takes a lot of work, y’all. It sucks the energy out of you and leaves you like a raisin in the sun. I wish they could get the chance to experience the world and its beautiful diversity. Maybe they would appreciate differences more and learn something new about themselves.

OLU with James Blake, J.I.D, and WowGr8 from EARTHGANG at the Roc Nation Brunch, January 2020

OLU with James Blake, J.I.D, and WowGr8 from EARTHGANG at the Roc Nation Brunch, January 2020

I lay down on the floor a lot, and sometimes the songs come to me, but this past week I’ve been so drained and empty, just watching the country set fire to love and compassion... Then, those small glimpses of hope appear. You see people starting home gardens. You see people beginning new healthy relationships with each other. You see under-served communities practicing cooperative economics. You see homeschools sprouting up where children are given healthy starts and taught the beauty of their culture. You see community and cooperation between one other that isn’t so transaction-based. People are learning, creating, and changing for the better. 

That’s what this song, “What’s Going On,” is to me. It’s a reminder that somewhere, some of us, most of us do care. We see with our hearts and think with them, too. That even if we’re trapped in the rat race, we know this isn’t the answer. We know there is more love in us.

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