Misnomer Joins the Fight for Judicial Equality
“What is justice/ For whom is it constructed / Is it for healing the hurting / Or dealing sucker punches?”
Athens-based band Misnomer's newest single “Justice” (featuring Linqua Franqa) bids listeners to question their notions of justice and consider the effects of the justice system on those marginalized by society. But beyond the abstract questions and pure musical talent present in the song, Misnomer also offers something more tangible to the battle for judicial reform; the band vows to donate 100% of download profits from “Justice” to The Sentencing Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for prison reform and equal justice.
In keeping with the mission of The Sentencing Project, the narrative present in “Justice” - both explicitly and implicitly - details the stories of people affected by corruption in the judicial system; namely, the disproportionate number of people of color imprisoned for non-violent offenses.
Misnomer's trademark uncategorizable multi-genre jazzy-dance sound blends organically with Linqua Franqa's cutting lyrics and scathing raps to tell a familiar and dreary story all too common in American society. The song opens with the melancholy crooning of horns, as if recalling the voices, pleas, and broken dreams of those incarcerated. The song then transitions into a more frantic rumba section as a representation of Latinos behind bars, and then Linqua Franqa’s rapping in the final section serves as an ode to the staggering number of African Americans imprisoned. Aided by the instrumental ensemble to set the scene and the mood, the cutting lyrics bring the narrative full circle by centering on the plight of a fictitious (but still very real) character named Fernando.
Fernando suffers from schizophrenia. He’s arrested and locked up for possessing marijuana, a substance he uses to self-medicate with while holding down a full-time factory job and caring for his young daughter. One haunting verse encapsulates the message of judicial inequality and the outrage which inspired the donation pledge to The Sentencing Project:
“If you're trust fund it's just fun / But if your checks bounce it's cuffs on”
“Justice” composer and bass trumpet player Paul Nelson says that the character of Fernando is not meant to represent a single afflicted individual, but a composite of many. The inspiration for the song itself came from Nelson’s interactions with different people all dealing with the harsh and unfair realities stemming from (in)justice in America. According to statistics lifted straight from The Sentencing Project’s website, 1 in 3 black American males and 1 in 6 Latino American males face incarceration in their lifetime– a jarring statistic on its own, but even more so when compared to the 1 in 17 white males who may face the same fate. It’s a startling injustice worth protesting as much as The Sentencing Project is a cause worth supporting, and Misnomer uses their art and platform as a double-whammy to do both.
Though “Justice” has hardly been live for more than 2 weeks, the band has already grossed several hundred dollars on The Sentencing Project’s behalf, with views and downloads still steadily streaming in. You can join the movement and show your support for The Sentencing Project and Misnomer by downloading the song here, and be sure to check out the music video as well.
Ensure you never miss a show or release by following Misnomer on Facebook; they’ve got a few future dates lined up, including a slot at the Seeds of Sound festival in Sparta, GA October 4 through 6. It’s all speculation at this point, but rumor has it that Linqua Franqa’s set is just before theirs, so there may be a chance to hear the two perform “Justice” live, together and in the flesh. Don’t miss out!
Photo credit: Eric Hangartner