Stephen Jackson had a decent career as a basketball player, but perhaps he will be remembered in the history books for carrying the legacy of his friend, George Floyd. Jackson, who spent 14 years in the NBA playing for various teams, has now been a leading voice for social justice in the aftermath of Floyd's death in May at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Jackson, rapping under the name Stak5, has released the "Good Trouble" EP to process his grief surrounding the loss of his friend. "RIP George" is especially poignant as Jackson sets the scene at Cuney Homes in Third Ward, Houston where Floyd called home. The two met shortly before Jackson was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1997 and they were referred to as twins because of the uncanny similarities in appearance. Jackson has taken it upon himself to make sure Floyd's story is told and his family is taken care of.
Jackson went on Instagram Live Wednesday morning, the day of Floyd's 47th birthday, to explain the process of making the project.
"That time in the studio by myself, just writing, letting it out, I needed that," he said. "It did a lot for me."
"Good Trouble" opens with a powerful six-minute track that incorporates various news clips from victims of police brutality, a statement from Alton Sterling's girlfriend Quinyetta McMillon and a Tupac interview decrying society leeching off the ghetto over piano riffs and Gospel shouts as Jackson asks to "free me from these chains." He then raps, "Couch-diving, looking from some change/Know I'm never gonna get it/It's like the people got a problem with our lives, 'cause they hate to see us livin'." He is transparent about his frustration of seeing the cycle of racial injustices, white privilege and police brutality.
The seven-track project utilizes boom-bap and Southern bass to create a call for unity amid the desperation that continuous violence has bred. This role of leadership is nothing new for Jackson as during his playing days he was known as Captain Jack because of his ability to bring people together. He won the 2003 NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs and was part of the Malice at the Palace when he fought in defense of his Indiana Pacers teammate Ron Artest (later Metta World Peace).
He is not without controversy in the social justice movement as he raised eyebrows when he expressed his support for DeSean Jackson after the superstar wide receiver got in trouble for posting anti-Semitic comments. Jackson quickly apologized for saying that Jackson was "speaking the truth" and said he should have chosen different words.
On "Good Trouble," Jackson acknowledges his complexities and asks for forgiveness for his own sins as he sometimes acts out of anger. He expresses how he is trying to live above the burden of being a Black man in America.