David Lyn's "Can't Breathe" Hits Hard on Police Brutality

David Lyn drew from his own experiences with police for his new music video.
David Lyn drew from his own experiences with police for his new music video. Photo by Nick Rufo
click to enlarge David Lyn drew from his own experiences with police for his new music video. - PHOTO BY NICK RUFO
David Lyn drew from his own experiences with police for his new music video.
Photo by Nick Rufo
David Lyn's new music video, "Can't Breathe," draws power from its simplicity.

In stark black and white, it portrays the 26-year-old R&B singer having the life choked out of him throughout the two-minute song. The one-shot video puts the viewer inside a car as a scene of police brutality unfolds.

"I was sitting in the studio watching the Black Lives Matter protests. I was really emotional, getting anxiety, " Lyn tells New Times. "I was going through my emails, and I saw a beat sent to me by Neri Beats. It had been sitting there for months. When I heard it, I loaded it up and started recording. It had so much soul. It's not very often I hear a beat that does that to me."

Lyn's experience with police is familiar to many Black people, so it wasn't difficult for him to look inward for inspiration.

"Once when I was 17, I was on the street arguing with a friend," he recalls. "Police pulled up, didn't ask any questions, and shot a Taser at me. Next thing I know, I was lying on the road and the police had his foot on my back. The friend I was arguing with felt so bad, he spoke out."

An American Senior High graduate, Lyn grew up in Northwest Miami-Dade. When he was 14, his older brother started experimenting with music-production software. One day he asked Lyn to test out the mic, at which point Lyn proceeded to belt out some Michael Jackson songs. And thus, a musical partnership began.

The older brother grew up to become IzyBeats (AKA Andron Cross), who won a Grammy last year as a producer on Koffee's Rapture, which was chosen "Best Reggae Album."

In 2009, meanwhile, Lyn won a singing competition on the BET's 106 & Park. That triumph drew led to opportunities for him to sit in with Carol City big shots Rick Ross and Flo Rida during studio sessions.

"They taught me how important hard work and dedication is," Lyn says. "They were already doing good, and they still worked in the studio like they didn't have anything."

But it was the late soul singer Betty Wright whose influence meant the most.

"I got vocal training from her. She helped me develop my voice," says Lyn. "She was very welcoming. Always a lot of kids in her house. She cooked us chicken wings and fries and dropped knowledge on us." 
But the success Lyn has found through his voice didn't insulate him from prejudice at the hands of law enforcement. On a visit to Los Angeles to record with his brother, Lyn had to deal with the humiliation of racial profiling.

"My brother stopped at Sam Ash to pick up recording equipment," he recounts. "I was sitting in the car when a cop told me to get out, that I was being detained. He emptied out my backpack on the street and put me in the back seat of his car. My manager came out of the store and the police said there had been a murder last night, and I fit the description. But they had no description of the murderer. I was judged as a murderer by him for no reason but the way I looked. It made me very angry, but you can't let your anger out, or they have a reason to pull out a gun."

So all the anger instead came out during the writing and recording session for "Can't Breathe."

"I was just trying to get my emotions out in the studio," Lyn says. "That's therapeutic for me. But my manager heard it and said, 'You have to put this out.'"

When it came time to make the music video, Lyn worked with a skeleton crew, including director Charles Lee and makeup artist Eukaris Isaac.

Initially, the team had an entirely different concept for the visuals, which were shot on location in Miami Lakes.

"I was getting frustrated. Miami is very hot, and I was ready to walk off and go home," Lyn says. "Charles was like, 'Sit down and relax.' In ten minutes, he came up with the idea of the video, and we started shooting. We put our heads together and used very little to make a lot."

Though the video is only one shot, it took some work to get it right.

"I think we did 13 takes. It was rough getting my head slammed on the car so many times," Lyn concedes.

The response to the video proved it was worth the effort.

"The video got over 10,000 views last week," Lyn says. "The DMs I've been getting — people let me know their own experiences and how the song touched them. It's helped people get through rough times."

The positivity generated by "Can't Breathe" has Lyn already planning a follow-up video for a song that will be included on his upcoming EP, Any Day Now.

"The song is called 'Wrong People,' and it's going to tie in with this video," Lyn shares."It will be a prequel where you can see how I end up on the car hood in 'Can't Breathe.'"
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland