Let’s start 2019 on a positive note, shall we? Admittedly, as the calendar ticks over, it’s easy to take stock of the fact that things look bleak – Brexit, Trump’s still there, we have killed 60 per cent of the world’s wildlife in the last half a century, science’s greatest minds have given us a short 12 years to divert disastrous climate change – but there is still hope. And it is this upon which FEVER 333 thrive. Their mission statement of ‘community, charity, change’ is a call to action – as opposed to simply liking well-meaning pictures on social media – and, crucially, one that actually offers a degree of solution, rather than simply yelling that everything is fucked. If their gigs – demonstrations, as the band call them – lead by example, by donating a share of ticket monies to local charities, then STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS is a foghorn blasting out their manifesto over a soundtrack that’s electrifying, sometimes confrontational, and designed to get you on your feet and ready to fight back.
The ire of FEVER 333 is thrown into your face during the first 30 seconds of Burn It. Jason Aalon Butler’s lyrics take in police brutality, poverty and inequality, as he sings of Los Angeles being on fire. But the energy of the song, the inspirational message, comes from his fearless declaration of having ‘A mouth like Malcolm’ and ‘Fists like Ali’. As a man of colour who has been on the receiving end of racist bullshit from the police, his anger is fierce. It continues in the calmer rap of Inglewood/3, in which he describes in detail the ghetto in which he grew up. But it’s not simply a list of grievances, rather the sound of realising we need to fight for change, of a man refusing to be a victim, wanting to live positively. ‘You’ve got to burn it down,’ goes the chorus to Burn It, but crucially, you do this in order ‘To build it up again.’ It’s this balance of rage and togetherness that is the greatest victory here.