Steve Arrington Bridges Generations On 'Make A Difference' : We Insist: A Timeline Of Protest Music In 2020 This song, part of our 'We Insist' timeline of 2020's noteworthy protest music, was released Sept. 1.
NPR logo Steve Arrington Bridges Generations On 'Make A Difference'

Steve Arrington Bridges Generations On 'Make A Difference'

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"My great-great grandmama was a slave," Steve Arrington sings at the start of "Make A Difference." It's a stark opening line, a reminder that the forms of racism and oppression that can seem, to some, like distant history in high school textbooks are really not all that removed from our present.

Opening the song by counting the generations back to slavery also forms a neat parallel to the musical history woven through "Make A Difference," a song all about intergenerational connectedness, particularly between generations of Black political music.

As one of the great funk songwriters and performers of the '70s and '80s, Arrington himself is a major part of that history. Here, he calls back to the protest of a generation before his. With the help of producer DJ Harrison, a specialist in crafting fresh hip-hop from the sounds of the past, Arrington locates a clear-eyed musical optimism that places the song firmly in the lineage of Curtis Mayfield's great Civil Rights-era soul anthems like "Keep On Pushing" and "We're A Winner." Arrington spans and bridges generations with his songwriting, taking elements of funk and hip-hop to create a soul song that steps through centuries of political and musical history to demand change.