Bryan Peeler is a 10-year-old student at North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary School. In August, he'll start the sixth grade at School of the Arts. He loves to sing and his newfound love is rapping, but he's also preoccupied with a concern many kids don't have to worry about. And he's using his talents to convey his concerns to his peers — that is, black kids — to never run in the face of cops.
Under the moniker BJ Peelz, Peeler teamed up with his stepdad and musician Rodrick Cliche to create a track called "The Talk," which begins, "Black kids in America, it's time that we had a talk; I need you to listen up."
The song continues, "You might be not guilty, feel shaky, but never run, never run for your life/ Ask Michael, Ask Tamir, Ask Trayvon/ Did they hear not to run or play with guns because cops will take your life."
Cliche had part of the song written before deciding to incorporate a kid's perspective. "It sounded too grown before, so I started talking to [BJ] about the concept and we changed it around and he actually started giving me some lines. It was pretty cool."
Peeler says his mother sat down with him and his sister three years ago, after the murder of Walter Scott at the hands of then-North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, to have "the talk." "We've had this discussion before, but it's hard to even know how to conduct it," Cliche says. "But we felt like it was necessary at the same time."
The family has since continued to discuss the stern instructions to never run should the kids find themselves amongst the police, and that's a message Peeler wants to make sure others heed as well.
"The meaning is strong," he says. "It's about how us black kids and boys and men should behave around cops, because we're black and we're different colors than these white cops — if we say something that might offend them, or if we're acting cool and they try to get us to do something that will get them to have a reason to arrest us or do something to us."
The song also makes reference to Dylann Roof and the police's generous treatment of the man who had just murdered nine churchgoers in a place of worship, Mother Emanuel AME. "Did I mention the cops bought his food?/ Even put a vest on, protecting dude/ I promise this sound crazy but it ain't no lie/ I can't believe they let this man get burgers and fries," Peeler sings.
Though Peeler has been singing for years, most recently recording with his church, Seacoast, this is his first venture into rapping. And it's officially his new favorite art form. "It's all he's talked about," Cliche says.
"The Talk" is the first track off Cliche's upcoming album titled Negro Pies, a reference to a scene in Life with Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy where the men are refused coffee and pie in a whites-only diner. "This song is just for black kids but Negro Pies is going to be a perspective of what it's like to be black in America," Cliche says, "and that's not just from me. It's going to be a lot of different people [like local emcees] on that."
As for feedback on "The Talk," Cliche says he's gotten both positive and negative comments, with some members from the black community disagreeing with the call to 'not run.' "The way they're raised they say you gotta run; they say they don't have a choice and that we're saying to give in. But that's not what we're saying," Cliche says. "We're only talking to kids, that demographic who don't have anything to hide. That's the message: don't run. Learn how to have a positive dialogue, learn how to conduct yourself in a certain kind of manner. That's really what the message is for me."
"The Talk" was produced by C7VCK (Rodrick Cliche, 95 Grvmz.) The video was shot around Charleston and released on Peeler's birthday, Sun. April 29.