How a DJ’s Experiences With Immigration and Family Separation Inspired a Song for Change

As the refugee crisis widens across multiple continents, prominent musicians like Coldplay, the RZA and Amanda Palmer have released songs and music videos that grapple with issues of displacement and immigration. On Thursday, Carnage, a DJ and producer, added one more to the growing canon: “Letting People Go,” a music video that traces the journey of a family from their Nicaraguan hometown to a U.S. detention center.

But Carnage’s aims are not just to comment on politics or empathize with the plight of others. His motivation is deeply personal. Carnage, born Diamanté Anthony Blackmon, grew up in Guatemala and came to the U.S. as a child who did not speak English. A generation before him, his grandmother and mother illegally immigrated to the U.S. and were detained and separated in one of the same Texas border cities where migrants are being held today.

“I feel so bad because my own family went through this,” Blackmon said in an interview with TIME. “All this stuff happening now is getting back to my own life.”

For the last five years, Blackmon has been a prominent DJ and producer in the hip-hop and electronic music worlds. He made songs with Young Thug, Migos and Mac Miller; this week, Drake brought him out during one of his concerts in Amsterdam.

Blackmon frequently played at raucous electronic festivals like Ultra and Tomorrowland but was forced to reckon his bacchanalian and largely apolitical mindset following the death of his friends Miller and Avicii, both of whom struggled with mental health issues. “It made me double-think about everything I was doing: the partying, not sleeping, the exhaustion,” he said. Conversations with his family over Thanksgiving about President Trump’s detention policies furthered his interest in engaging with difficult subjects; he created “Letting People Go” with the indie-pop trio Prinze George as a conscious departure. “This wasn’t made for festivals,” he said.


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