While many view Black History Month as a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans, JID wants to call a little attention to America’s history of institutional abuse of its Black citizens. His new single, “Skegee,” is named for the city of Tuskegee, Alabama, a city central to both Black achievement and where the US conducted the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study from 1932-1972.
In the first verse, JID addresses the conflicting choices with which many Black Americans are faced: “You peep all the karma that come with makin’ the cream,” he rhymes, posing the dichotomy before pulling back the curtain to reveal the game behind the game. “Get your eyes cleaned for something you have never not, not seen.” An interview with former mayor of Tuskegee, Ronald D. Williams, also reveals insight into the city’s history.
In the second verse, he shows how these forced choices are the results of policy, not just tough situations that cropped up out of nowhere. Although JID says he was recruited to Tuskegee University, a prestigious historically Black institution, the name only calls to mind the 40-year experiment in which Black citizens of Tuskegee were involuntarily studied for the effects of untreated syphilis and denied treatment (or even information about the existence of treatment once it had been developed). While JID’s recollection isn’t entirely accurate (there’s no evidence that the unethical study deliberately infected its subjects), his song may very well be many fans’ first-ever introduction to the existence of such a study — and why it remains important to this day.
With so many Americans currently refusing COVID-19 vaccination, it’s important to understand why some of them might mistrust the government, knowing this history, as well as acknowledging how much work is left to be done to repair that broken trust if true progress is to be made.
Meanwhile, JID fans continue to eagerly anticipate his follow-up to 2018’s breakout DiCaprio 2. In the meantime, he’s had several standout moments on compilation albums such as Revenge Of The Dreamers III, the Judas And The Black Messiah soundtrack, and as part of Spillage Village’s fourth studio album and major-label debut, Spilligion.
Watch JID’s “Skeegee” video above.