The Root is celebrating Black Music Month with stories that dig into the soul of black artistry and with The Pop Up, our new video series featuring in-office performances from black artists we adore. Sol Development are our first performing artists for The Pop Up, and they do not disappoint.

The hip-hop/jazz/soul ensemble, based out of Oakland, Calif., pride themselves on being a live and direct soundtrack to the movement for justice, freedom and hope. Mission accomplished. Their latest single, “Helicopter,” focuses on the narrative of the black and unarmed Terence Crutcher, who was gunned down in Tulsa, Okla., by police after his SUV broke down. Crutcher was said to be waiting for help.

Sol Development’s “Helicopter” musically explores the experience of feeling as if you’re being watched. One of the vocalists in the group, Felicia Gangloff-Bailey, said that the song shares the feeling of paranoia from being black in America. “It’s a message that says, ‘No, we are more than that. We’re teachers, we’re preachers, we’re knowledge seekers,’ and you hear the evidence of that in the song. You’ll hear the paranoia, but you will hear affirmation as well.”


There’s helicopter footage from Tulsa police officers flying above the scene on the ground, which is the audio Sol Development used in their song. Circling above, one of the officers can be heard calling Crutcher a “bad dude.”

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Gangloff-Bailey said that the cops were “able to discern that this was someone who looked like he was on something. They were able to make a decision that it deserved his life because they felt threatened.” That’s the typical response of officers who shoot unarmed black people: They felt threatened. These shootings have left many people of color traumatized.

Sol Development are here to help us heal. Vocalist Lauren Adams said: “We feel it—it’s a feel—and that feel begins right here. If I can tap into your natural rhythm, your biological rhythm, oh, you’re going to feel Sol Development. You’re going to feel that live music. That’s black music. That’s what we do.”

Check out Sol Development’s soul-stirring performance of “Helicopter” for The Root’s The Pop Up music-performance series. And make sure you come back to catch other black artists like Victory Boyd, Deva Mahal and Pineapple Citi! Happy Black Music Month!