Remember when conservatives were up in arms about Common being invited to the White House? One thing they used as ammunition to equip their gun was “A Song for Assata,” a gem from Common’s fourth album Like Water for Chocolate (2000).
In three verses stretched over nearly seven minutes, Common compassionately unites a horrifically historic period in Assata Shakur’s life with the elements of freedom as she defined them. Cee Lo Green complements the riveting tune with a soulfully sympathetic chorus.
“A Song For Assata” is one of Common’s most poignant records to date. He vividly recounts events stemming from May 2, 1973, the night Assata and two other Black Panthers were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike. During the stop, a shootout commenced, leaving Assata wounded and Trooper Werner Foerster dead. She was later convicted for Foerster’s killing and incarcerated in an all male prison. Law officials beat her during the trial and period of incarceration. Assata escaped prison in ’79 and fled to Cuba where she received political asylum.
Prior to the song’s conception, Common traveled to Cuba to talk to Shakur about her life as a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army and take on freedom. He included a sound bite of their interview at the end of the song.
Freedom! You askin’ me about freedom? Askin’ me about freedom? I’ll be honest with you; I know a whole lot more about what freedom isn’t than about what it is, cause I’ve never been free.