“How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?"
This question -- as timeless as it is timely -- is posed by Nina Simone in an 1970 interview captured on tape and incorporated into Jazmine Sullivan’s chilling rendition of the music icon’s 1978 track, “Baltimore.”
The song appears on a tribute album connected to the upcoming documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone” to be released on Netflix in June. The music video for the "Baltimore" cover features archival footage of Simone and activist Angela Davis expressing their thoughts on the black experience in America. A montage of protests from the 1970s is interspersed with news footage from the events that have unfolded in the city in reaction to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of injuries he sustained during an arrest last month.
"I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty,” Simone is seen saying at the beginning of the video. “And at this crucial time in our lives -- when everything is so desperate when every day is a matter of survival -- I don't think you can help but be involved.”
“We will shape and mold this country, I will not be shaped and molded at all, anymore," the singer and civil rights activist says. "So I don't think you have a choice.”
Lauryn Hill, Common, Mary J. Blige, Usher, and Simone’s daughter Lisa Simone Kelly also contribute to the documentary's soundtrack and tribute album.
Check out Jazmine’s Sullivan’s version of “Baltimore” in the clip above.
Watch the trailer for "What Happened, Miss Simone?":
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