Think: George Floyd

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1025
DJ Terence Toy.

As uprisings sparked by the murder of George Floyd spread like wildfire across all 50 states and around the world, something felt amiss for Los Angeles based DJ Terence Toy — specifically, he felt a musical void.

Toy has been DJing for more than 40 years with more than three of those decades steeped in jazz and house music. After the tragic event, he saw his contemporaries of color posting “regular” mixes on their platforms. These cats are at Toy’s “level and higher.” They were saying nothing about what happened when a police officer murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, suffocating the man for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

He got busy doing his part by curating a selection of anthem music for his online radio show, By Any Jazz Necessary titled, Think: George Floyd. He shared it widely — urgently from his Soundcloud. What follows is the DJ’s take on events and his top three tracks from the episode that speak to this moment. Settle in for some learning.

Toy looked on social media checking everybody’s injection of music when the protests were at their peak.

“I have black friends of mine saying nothing — in essence not even using the tool of a DJ to do something other than, ‘look at me, check out this track I’m working on,’” Toy said.

He got fed up and wrote a Facebook post on June 1, thinking a few people will see it. 

“Maybe people would like it or say something about my speaking [out] about myself and other comrades, other DJ’s around the world not saying nothing about what happened,” Toy said. “So what if [George Floyd] was passing a fake $20, so what if he was a criminal, he didn’t deserve to be killed. [There] was just no acknowledgement, musically.”

In his post, Toy asked his fellow musicians, producers and DJs: “So nobody is going to say anything, musically about what happened?”

The number of likes on his post kept rising and he realized he hadn’t yet done anything to speak his peace.

“I thought, ‘what can I do?’” Toy said. “I’m 59 years old, I ain’t gettin out there and protesting, that’s a young man’s job. I have a son I have to be here for.” 

He decided to do a By Any Jazz Necessary [episode] which streams online at KSTARS. He researched the web realizing he needed songs to grab attention, black people’s attention, white people, young people. After he did the dedication, Toy received responses from people about music that they created or talking about what they thought he should have put on the episode. Toy said it’s the most controversial episode he’s done. 

“This white friend of mine,  female, lawyer — she sent me a message. To sum it up, ‘I can’t believe you did an episode for George Floyd. He’s a criminal.’

“I want all of this because it’s not like the songs are my songs. It’s just songs that are in my body, [and] mind.. I did my best. I had to pick one [song] that would open the show and hold people’s attention. That couldn’t be the first one that I wrote down, Strange Fruit, because that would scare everybody.”

Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit (1939) is about lynching. Toy knew he’d be taking a chance. But that’s what this episode is about, playing songs about change and about brotherly love. 

He opened with a jazz piano version of Prince’s Controversy, to get people thinking immediately that this wasn’t going to be a normal episode.

“I didn’t want to use Prince’s version because I wanted people to hear that; ‘Con-tro-ver-sy…’ [mimicking the song notes on the background piano], and be thinking, ‘Oh dope ….’  then they start remembering the words, Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?

From there he added Marvin Gaye’s, What’s Goin On? and kept going, setting listeners up mentally. Then he hit them with Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln “moanin and groanin” on Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace. 

Toy’s masterfully dubbed speech from President Obama at the 2010 Congressional Hispanic Caucus, [“There is no Latino America or black America or white America or Asian America. There is only the United States of America.] will hit your heart with vocals, deep house and Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama in unison, declaring, “We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal.”  

Toy’s Top Three

KRS-One Sound of da Police (1993). “That song grabbed me when I was a kid and still [does] today, because it’s what’s going on still, police doing criminal stuff. I’ve been pulled over by the police, harassed by the police. Once I was leaving a friend’s house and they thought  we had gone to a drug house …. I mean, I was a teenager … in high school. They pulled us over, made us get down in the middle of the fuckin street hands behind our backs. Once they got us up, handcuffed us, detained us temporarily, one of the officers recognized me from playing basketball for Gardena high school. He asked me what I was doing there. I told him we were going to visit some girls. I was a teenager, I didn’t smoke or drink at that time — nothing. But with the exception of him recognizing who I was, how much further would it have gone? This one speaks true to right now, the brutality of the police, how they behave towards us, what they think and do and how long they’ve been doing this via slave trading, overseers …  literally. Trust me, I looked up ‘overseer’ … because of KRS-One’s track tongue-twisting overseer with officer.”

John Coltrane track, Alabama,” (1963) [During the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, September 15, 1963, four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted dynamite beneath the front steps of the Church. The explosion killed four young girls]. “There’s all kinds of stuff written about why [Coltrane] did that song. He did it because of the young ladies that were killed there. He wanted to express his anger through his horn. In that time they were doing lots of protest pieces. Artists were expressing themselves and not just musicians but writings from Langston Hughes and others.”

“My boy, Jovan’s version of Gill Scott-Heron’s Bicentennial Blues (1976) – [originally spoken word, Think blends Gill’s prose on top of house beats]. I played Bicentennial Blues at a club gig one time. One of my friends, a white guy, came over to me and let me have it, tried to read me about playing this song. He just was so upset about this Gill Scott-Heron song. You know, white people don’t want to hear what their ancestors have done. Not even the ones that are our friends, that we love. They are really our friends and they wouldn’t do anything against us as black folk but they also don’t want to hear what their ancestors have done. I played the song because I remember the reaction I got from my boy, 15 years ago, how he disliked it. I played it to provoke people.” 

This couldn’t be a regular episode where Toy plays the songs all the way through. He had too many. More importantly, he didn’t want the episode to have only aggressive, anger songs coming from a black man.

“I wanted some songs to be about hope,” Toy said. “I had to keep it real. I didn’t want my white friends to think I’m being 100% militant. I wanted them to reflect that I’m not being prejudiced … to acknowledge through my compilation that I have all of these songs in my body. I’m recalling them for you guys and all of them aren’t angry songs. That wasn’t what I was trying to do.”

Toy did this because people lose interest fast. He had to hit it while it’s still on people’s mind. Now that he has people’s attention, he plans to go quite a bit deeper on part two.

“Everybody, including me, has to do their part. I did this to represent change and so people could hear it and go, ‘oh yeah, I remember that song.’

I remember when I first heard James Brown’s, I’m Black and I’m Proud. My mom was taking me and my sister to the mall to get some clothes. I was black, I was a kid and was like, ‘yeah, say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.’

“Time flies when we’re learning,” Toy said as he closed Think: George Floyd.

Editor’s Note:  Future Anthems

With this look at anthem music, it’s frequently true; these chants are oftentimes older songs— a touchstone to the past, relatable to in the present. It’s for that reason they are anthemic. People are exposed to them further which brings deeper historical understanding. This was Toy’s intent with Think: George Floyd. He succeeds in highlighting where we have been and offers a deeper awareness.

Carrying that message to this moment, we look at a handful of new releases as present protest anthems that we believe will be subsequently considered in a future —  now being determined. 

Lockdown – Anderson Paak – ft. Jay Rock

PIG FEET – Terrace Martin feat. Denzel Curry, Daylyt, Kamasi Washington, and G Perico

Light -Michael Kiwanuka –

Sweeter (Live) –  Leon Bridges -ft. Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper

Details: www.kstarrs.com/jazztyme-happy-hour-show and https://soundcloud.com/terencetoy/thinkgeorge-floyd

30 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so very much Random Length News & writer Melina Paris. This will further remind our people to; “””think:::george-floyd”””!!! Bless Up EVERY BODY, Tt

  2. I have known TT since 1999. He didn’t know me back then. We met later. Some people judge. Others don’t. All I have to say is “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future”…. Tt is an LA house Legend via Houston and is ageless. Numbers don’t add up. Peace! And B Wild! Welcome 2 tha dawn!
    R. Acevedo

  3. Terrance Toy thank you for bringing us awareness through music , we need to be reminded of the pain that we as black people face every that we tend to normalize. We must never forget and your music over the years have celebrated OBAMA and now GEORGE FLOYD

  4. This was Amazing work again from The DJ Music Maestro T. Toy. !!!
    I’m so Happy to know this Gentleman. Who’s Love and Dedication for Music Runs DEEP as the Ocean. Giving us John Coltrane, Max Roach, Billy Holiday, Mr. Gil Scott, And many others. Just like George Floyd and Terence Toy. Unforgettable names that have Changed the World with PASSION LOVE and REVOLUTION !!!

  5. Great article T…. I was thinking about doing it, but U did it salute to U. The song choices, selecting what on your heart and in your head to provoke thought and conversation (uncomfortable) for some…. but it had to be done. Thanks waiting for your next drop. ☮️ T.Toy

  6. Wonderful Terance… ✊❤️
    A reminder how music still plays a very important and integral part in telling our too long a history of how “People of Color” continue to be victimized by this country.
    “were it not for music, we might in these days say, the beautiful is dead” ….. Benjamin Disraeli

  7. Andre edwards, Nice article T, really interesting to read the thought process behind the project and how you selected each track.

  8. Awesome article with poignant remarks by our brilliant DJ producer Terence Toy! Thank you for your contribution to this ongoing dialogue about race relations in America. Your upbeat and positive musical messages are dynamic and proactive for our community.

  9. Thank you for this. I have been a good friend. of My Toy for quite a while now and have learned to shut up and listen When he speaks. keep up the fight T. #BLM

  10. Melina Paris thank you for seeing the need to share this amazing in-depth article on how Terence Toy arrived at creating this masterpiece. Terence Toy is well known for his contributions through DJing and producing, but this piece tells of our history, hurt, and hope through music; it is one of his greatest works.

    TToy you did an outstanding job of tapping into such a heart wrenching moment as this by compiling a thought provoking, yet soothing story told through song. Well done my Brother.

  11. Great article. Thank you very much.
    Terence has always been a great and genuine dj expressing his art from his heart.
    I’ve enjoyed many a conscious, emotive and percussive-laden set from Brother T.
    Sunday morning church at DYMK with Dr’ King’s words bringing us truth and hope.
    This is TT Territory. Keeping us informed of what time it is.
    Coltrane into KRS One…and the beat goes on…and on…President Obama
    a.k.a. “Our House Head Bodysurfing Prez”…and on…Max Roach…and on…Queen Nina Simone…and on…
    Thank you for staying true Terence.
    Definitely feeling this!
    Think: George Floyd
    BLACKLIVESMATTER
    Alo’HA nui loa,

    Jose “cheMMa” Rodriguez

  12. I’ve known Terence for 12 years. He came
    Through for me for my wedding when my DJ friend backed down. I didn’t know him very well at the time but he blessed me with an abundance of tracks and shared with me where to get more.
    He has always included me in his house journey and made me feel that I mattered. I appreciate his hard work and professionalism as an artist and he continues to inspire and grow with the times. He puts his heart and soul into his craft. He shows devotion to his tribe and I am very blessed to call him my friend. His recent track was well thought out and served us well.
    Thank you for all your efforts and for touching our hearts and souls … and getting us to boogie in our homes now …. one day back on the dance floor!

  13. It’s great to see those in our musical community using their platform to express themselves and influence other’s in a positive way. Terrance Toy’s song choices demonstrate his passion for music combined with his desire to express his political sentiments and emotions without being aggressive and divisive but rather thought provoking and reflective. Great read… Thanks Tt we love you. #BLM #THINKGEORGEFLOYD #HOUSEMUSICFORLIFE

  14. AMAZING article!
    I’ve been close friends with TT for more than 2 decades…and he still amazes me when we talk. He’s DEEP & AWARE and it shows up in his music.
    Thumbs up ! Keep doing what you do Terrance Toy

  15. If you listen and do not feel the fire from within Tt, then you probably won’t get his vibe!
    Never the man to shy away from standing tall and proud in his artistry, I’ve always known T to be music maker for the people.
    I first met Tt in Los Angeles at a adterhours back in the early 90’s, by met I mean he was a legendary DJ that I fanned out on. Through the years I have followed Tt and his career, mostly at various events in the House and club culture scene in Los Angeles.
    Professional and personable at a constant. Tt always packed a dance floor with his thoughtful sets.
    Years later I would be sincerely privileged to partner up with T for an event concept named Boogie Down Brunch. I can live my life and say one of my musical heroes I worked with!
    All that being said we now have a situation we’re all simultaneously thrust into. An historic pandemic in our daily lives and also systemic racism boiling up to our collective feet.
    Seeing what Mr. Toy is doing to bring our ears in awareness of racism and more specifically the unfortunate taking of George Floyds life, is uplifting and Inspired.
    I was taught in church when it is time to pass on, it is the body that dies not the soul or spirit. They will never be able to kill Mr. Floyd’s spirit that is claimed by the creator.
    Anyhow, these are just my thoughts and feelings in how I see Terence Toy showing all of us how deep and important his work and creativity is, even amongst all this chaos Tt paves a familiar road home through music.
    So proud of my friend and musical hero and I will always support and listen up when Terence has words, music and art to say.. .
    #BLM

  16. I don’t remember or know when I was introduced to Tee-T, and nor did I know when I met him, that he had such a large footprint in the sands on the beaches of beats, rhythms and rhymes, dripping wet of house and jazz tracks. I do know that he was/is thorough, debonair, fly and can cold rock a party! I’m sure I’ve heard him spin at The Catch One, on the radio station, or one of the many clubs I’d frequent back in the day after first moving to El Aye. Let’s fast forward and be real; Tee-T is on a level that most WISH they were on! Tee-T has always had a message in his music. I mean, that’s what a true, real DJ is supposed to do. Dictate the feelings and emotions of the many to sway one way or say it LOUD! Anthems are nothing if they are not heard. Before all the social media, and folk clogging up the dance floor in front with their phones, filming the maestro spin the mood to the people. Whether the drums made us call and respond or if it was the “WOOOP WOOOP, . . it’s the sound of the police!”, this brotha has always had his hands on the pulse of the people, giving us what we want and needed. Like a shot fired in the air, that hand clap and bass is everywhere. The echo, the flow. He talks with beats heavy, and hats high! Some of us hear him clear, while others will be jealous. Those of us who do recognize his chants and instrumentals, only have respect and revere him beloved. He is indeed, a soldiers in this fight, and about time, someone recognizes him as such. How ever you see fit, or where ever you fit it, Tee-T will escort you, so you can get in! I can only speak from my experiences with him, and of how I have seen him treat others. No one can ever say that Tee-T was/is disrespectful or quiet when he spins. You just got to listen in, while his hands make you soul clap to this. I hope this article, will enlighten those in the dark, so they know the right side of history. We need more people to be committed to their craft so that we all get “there” together. Mr. Terence Toy, is spinning his part of this story thru staccato rhythms and the treble of truth laced with our stories and struggles. In a trance, he will make you think and dance. No more southern trees, cause we are no longer strange fruit. Tee-T will not allow it to rot, or be bloody at the root!! A true soldier of and for the people. On the ones and twos, on a Saturday, Sunday, or in the middle of the day, school is in session!! Please, treat yourselves to this moment and educate. I’m so happy that my brother, my peer, my comrade, my friend, Mr. Terence Toy is laying it down so you can jump all up in it, and step all over it. He has been making us march for quite some time now, and now, its time El Aye recognizes. In the midst of the chaos being replayed at 2, 4, 6, 10 and 11 pm, take time to listen for the call of change. Listen for the reform and love being dropped in sync, on 16 bars, and on the one. Thank you Tee-T for a job well done. The revolution IS being televised and it IS being broadcast thru the purple haze of our air waves! Wake up, y’all….wake up, y’all. This is the last and final call!!!

    Terence Toy: The Man. The Music. The Mix. The Message.

  17. My brother T2 has always paved a path with his musical improvisation. However, his desire to go beyond that, and address world issues, while entertaining us AND also provoking thought/discourse, is his true gift. RESPECT.

  18. The writing of this article by Melina Paris, while thorough & eloquently presented can not musically explain the experience Terence delivers on his hour and ten minute excursion. It’s imperative each person experiences the journey for themselves.

  19. This is such an inspirational article. I’ve worked with Terence many times & this is a perfect example of how he always puts 200% into everything he does. This was exactly why I chose him to be the first headliner of my event “Unity” & wanted him to set the tone for the vibe of what the event would represent. What a beautifully, well thought out & curated set with so many important messages. Thank you for this wonderful piece on a brilliant & passionate artist.

  20. Growing up in the same household with my brother Terence, we didn’t always see eye to eye, as most siblings don’t lol but I learned a lot from watching my brother grind HARD. Weekend, Weekdays all throughout the year he would always strive to be at the very top of his craft. That was admirable! Now that I am a grown man, the dedication to hard work I witnessed my brother handle effortlessly rubbed off on me and for that I’ll always be thankful to have a brother like Terence Toy. This article gives u a glimpse of what I was able to experience for the first part, the most important part of my life.

  21. Music is the universal language and Terence Toy speaks it fluently to help express the deep pain and suffering and the ongoing fight for racial equality and justice in this country. 

    What strikes me, is how many stories of white “friends” he relates that remain silent or uncomfortable when confronted with our dark history. It makes me sad and angry that black men and women feel like they need to censor their anger and pain to protect white feelings. 

    Honestly, as a (gay) white man, who has been on the receiving end of bigotry and discrimination, I had no idea how racist the US *still* was until 2008 when Sarah Palin entered the public stage and started stoking racial flames during John McCain’s campaign. 

    I recognize my white privilege, because I’ve never been racially profiled. But I also recognize that it’s my responsibility to speak up and challenge the power structure in this country the same way our allies have been fighting for gay rights. In the words of MLK, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

    Institutionalized racism and police brutality have been there from the beginning, smartphones have only allowed us to document it. How do we as a nation reconcile the killing of people of color, with our core values — especially people who call themselves “christians?”

    How is it possible that 57 years after Dr. Martin Luther King marched on Washington, we are still allowing these injustices to continue? Why does equality for everyone threaten some? What kind of nation do we want to be? When our elected leaders refuse to represent ALL Americans, we must rise up and demand change or replace those in leadership. 

    Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and I take comfort knowing that trump’s dangerous rhetoric and racism is galvanizing the majority of Americans against it. It’s not white against black and brown. It’s anti-racists against racists and we all have a responsibility to fight. 

    Thank you Terence. Thank you for using music to help articulate the story and find hope and healing through shared experience. 

    NOTE: Elections have consequences. The upcoming election is literally about life and death for many. We need to show up and overwhelm the polls. Don’t forget to VOTE on Tuesday, November 3rd!!

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