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Listen to the Drive-By Truckers’ New Song About Racism, ‘What It Means’

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The spell of shootings of unarmed African Americans has been on the mind of Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers. Today (Aug. 2), the group premiered the lyric video for “What It Means,” a new song from their upcoming album, American Band. You can watch it above.

“‘What It Means'” is a song I wrote a couple of years ago protesting the Ferguson decision and the Trayvon Martin killing,” Hood told Rolling Stone, where the track premiered. “Unfortunately, the song is still timely today. I hope and pray that one day it won’t be.”

Over a mournful country shuffle, Hood references those events and realizes that, as much as we think we’re more enlightened on racial issues than in the past, it’s largely window dressing and looking deeper reveals the hypocrisy in the system. “I mean, we try to be politically correct when we call names / But what’s the point of post-racial when old prejudices remain? And that guy who killed that kid down in Florida standing ground / Is free to beat up on his girlfriend and wave his brand new gun around,” he sings.

Racism is a topic that Hood and the Drive-By Truckers have often tackled in their work, most notably on 2001’s Southern Rock Opera, a concept album about growing up in Alabama in the ’70s, where Lynyrd Skynyrd were ubiquitous. One song, “Wallace,” is an imagining of Alabama’s pro-segregationist governor, George Wallace, arriving in Hell, seen from the Devil’s point of view.

American Band is the Truckers’ most political album of their career. “[T]hese songs are mostly set front and center in the current political arena with songs dealing with our racial and cultural divisions, gun violence, mass shootings and political a–holery,” Hood said in the press release. “American Band is a rock and roll call to arms as well as a musical reset button for our band and the country we live in.”

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