Finding out cops killed an unarmed Black person has sadly become a frequent occurrence on social media. While many people are able to quickly move on after acknowledging the tragedy with comment or hashtag, Bobby Sessions knows the pain of what it’s like when that person trending is family.
The Def Jam Recordings artist’s cousin James Harper was shot and killed by police in 2012. Sessions initially heard about the shooting on Twitter before learning the identity of the victim. The Dallas-bred MC has made a point to speak out against police violence against the Black community ever since.
Although Sessions has briefly touched on Harper’s death before, he finally detailed the entire trauma on his latest project RVLTN (Chapter 3): The Price Of Freedom. The Texas native told the painful story on “Tales From The South,” a must-listen due to its heavy subject matter.
In part two of HipHopDX’s interview with Sessions, the Def Jam artist opens up about “Tales From The South” and why he felt the need to rap about his cousin’s death. Sessions also discusses his RVLTN series and touches on his debut album.
HipHopDX: RVLTN (Chapter 3) presents solutions and seems like the final arc of this story. Do you picture adding more chapters to RVLTN or have you wrapped it up?
Bobby Sessions: I wouldn’t say it’s wrapping it up. I would say I’m putting a pin in it for now. When I feel it’s necessary to reveal more chapters, we will do that. But I think we covered a lot of ground between Chapter 1 and 3, and I think the next body of work will be centered around what I was doing pre-Def Jam, which is back on the pillar of manifestation and manifesting your dreams. I want to get back to that music. But I felt like with everything that’s going on, it would be inappropriate to skip over what my heart was feeling, which was leaning towards RVLTN. But I’ve been working on really several projects at once.
Anytime someone thinks I’m quiet, I always have a lot of material that I’m working on. So, we already have a great understanding about what’s to follow Chapter 3, and it will be based around manifestation and helping people, creating the soundtrack for people to take an idea in their mind and hold it in their hand, the same thing that I was on before Def Jam. We’re going to continue that. My official debut album will reflect that messaging, but we created a space where people need that. RVLTN is the space where they can go and experience that, and now we’re going to get back to this manifestation music.
HipHopDX: Gotcha. Chapter 2 came pretty quickly after Chapter 1 in 2018, but Chapter 3 arrived two years later. Was that something always by design? Listening to it, I can tell some of it was recorded pretty recently.
Bobby Sessions: Yeah, some of the material was made last year. Obviously, with a revolution happening in the midst of a pandemic, it felt appropriate and urgent to add even more fresh material like “Still Alive” and “All We Got.” It felt like more of a pressing issue to get on the Bubba Wallace story, Colin Kaepernick, Kanye, Biden — a number of different things have been happening that are more recent events. So, I guess it’s a mix of both.
Unfortunately, when you witness a bubbling happening in society, you can write things before they happen because you see this is coming. What’s happening right now, what’s happening outside was inevitable. It had to happen. This is what happens when something is boiling over for an extended period of time and people keep turning a blind eye like things are not happening. This is what’s going to be the result of that dismissiveness. It’s good to see people waking up and deciding that enough is enough, and we felt it was appropriate to create the soundtrack for that.
HipHopDX: You mentioned it boiling over; one of the most gut-wrenching songs on Chapter 3 is “Tales From The South.” Hearing you rap about a shooting hitting home in your family and just the surreal nature of finding out your cousin died on Twitter … it’s hard to put into words. Most of us see something like that on Twitter, but it’s not someone we actually know. What was it like for you to go through that and eventually share it publicly in a song?
Bobby Sessions: That day was one of the most numb feeling days I’ve ever had. I’m seeing my mom on the news, speaking on behalf of our family. It was a lot of tension in South Dallas during that time over it because everybody knew my cousin was a good person. So, when you see something like that happen and you hear the stories, “I thought he was reaching in his pocket for something.” And then after they shoot him, they look in his pocket and it’s a cell phone. It’s nothing. There’s no weapon there.
Like you said, you see these stories on Twitter, but when it’s somebody you know, it changes you forever. I mentioned it vaguely in some songs before, but until “Tales From The South,” I never detailed the story of how I found out. I was working at Walmart … I think my location setting was on. My search thing on Twitter was for Dallas, so all the news I was getting for Dallas.
I was working at the Walmart in Lewisville, Texas at the time, just seeing, “Oh yeah, someone got shot.” And I’m like, “Oh, that happens every day. That’s always happening. Man, that’s crazy.” But then you’re going on about your day. And then I get a text from my mom, “Yo, you need to call me.” In 2012, my mom wasn’t texting like that, so I knew something was off. Her telling me my cousin has passed, and I’m connecting it with the story and it’s like, “Oh, man.”
So, I never detailed the story before that song. I just felt it was important to highlight mainly because that’s one thing to add, the sociopolitical commentary to what’s going on right now. Speaking like, “Oh, police brutality is bad. Mass incarceration is bad,” and things of that nature are needed. But I felt on Chapter 3, it would hit a lot different if I really got into the personal: how an event like this, how police brutality, how that literally affected the family.
I felt it was appropriate to highlight the personal agony that takes place when these tragedies happen and use my gift of expression to really put you in that place where you can feel it and hopefully develop a certain level of empathy. Maybe that can influence things going in the positive direction. That’s the long-winded answer.
HipHopDX: I appreciate it. George Floyd’s death was very different since it set off a firestorm. For whatever reason, that’s the one that made many people decide, “OK, enough.” But it just keeps coming. There’s another shooting, no consequences for Breonna Taylor’s death, etc. It just starts to become a blur. But at the end of the day, these people are someone’s family. “Tales From The South” is an important reminder.
Bobby Sessions: It’s a very real thing, and there is a certain level of … I guess we get desensitized. It just becomes another name on a timeline. There’s another hashtag. On the “Pick A Side” record from Chapter 1, I say, “We a hashtag. We a hashtag, for a toe tag, for a toe tag.” That’s literally what has taken place. There’s a new one every week. It’s hard to remember the names of all of them, seriously.
Even as a Black person, it’s difficult to remember all that because it’s one every week, and then it’s another one and then it’s another one, then it’s another one. It’s like we are getting justice for this one, and while we’re fighting for this, another one happens and then all the attention goes over here. And then we forget, we still need to get justice for the person that got shot on Wednesday because someone new got shot on Sunday. It’s nonstop.
Check out part one of HipHopDX’s interview with Bobby Sessions here and look out for the final portion of the conversation soon.