Hip-Hop Artist Marvin Brooks Reimagines Classic Hymn in “I Went Down”
Hip-hop artist Marvin Brooks to release “As I Went Down,” his interpretation of the gospel song “Down to the River to Pray” via Position Music.
On June 19th, America will celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. In honor of that day, Hip-Hop artist/singer Marvin Brooks will release “As I Went Down,” his interpretation of the classic hymn “Down To The River To Pray” on Position Music.
Musicians have always looked for ways to express their experiences through music and art while simultaneously looking towards the future. Today, artists are navigating at a time in which there is more and more awareness of historical racial injustice with inequality being brought to the forefront of the news and our lives. With social momentum building, music continues to play a key role in bettering the lives and culture of the marginalized and telling the stories that should never be forgotten.
Enter Marvin Brooks, a Ghanian-German artist, who believes that the best path forward is through togetherness, not division and sees Juneteenth as the time to do exactly that. With this in mind, Brooks decided to reinterpret the timeless “Down To The River To Pray,” a song originally composed by an anonymous African American slave that contained coded messages for escaping the American south in the late 1700s and 1800s.
The original song is believed to strategically include the lyric, “in the river” as runaway slaves would walk near the water because it was more likely to cover their scent from the slave owner’s and bounty-hunters’ dogs.
Brooks’ single “As I Went Down” serves as both a sobering reminder of the plight of those individuals while offering a ray of optimistic hope for the future. The original song more recently rose to fame after it was featured in the Coen Brothers’ Academy Award-winning film Oh Brother Where Art Thou. Brooks’ version features electronic bass, a cut-up choral vocal sample, and hip-hop percussion that lays an uptempo sonic foundation for Brooks’ to sing and rap over.
On the first verse, Brooks poetically raps:
“They gave us different names just to justify their ownership/rules are still the same/chances we don’t get/but still we show love to everyone that shows respect.” He then later emphatically pens: “too many people asking why/oppression is the reason you see pain in the black man’s eyes… the energy may shiver/but positivity is what we need more than ever/stories must be remembered is/the truth is we’re stronger and better—together.”
“‘As I Went Down’ is a personal song about how I view this world,” Marvin Brooks says. “My view as a black man, as a storyteller, emotionally realizing that as much as we should never forget the history, we can only change the future, together.”
Brooks currently calls both Ghana and Berlin home and holds the special traditions and cultures from the two countries close to his heart. His dual-citizenship and hometown pride is a major creative muse in Brooks’ musical output. The natural entertainer and performer has already supported artists like Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent on their European tours.
“As I Went Down” is the third of four solo single releases from Brooks that will precede his full-length release in Fall 2021 on Position Music/2WEI Artists.