46 years later, a painfully timely Richard Pryor routine becomes a viral Spotify hit


It doesn’t have a catchy melody or a beat to inspire some new online dance challenge. But there it was Friday morning at No. 8 on Spotify’s U.S. Viral 50 chart: “N— vs. the Police” by Richard Pryor, from the late comedy legend’s Grammy-winning 1974 album “That N—’s Crazy.”

The classic bit has Pryor riffing on the routine mistreatment black Americans face by police — and on the widespread disbelief among white Americans that such mistreatment takes place.

And it’s just one of a number of old tracks that have bubbled up onto the Viral 50 chart — typically a reflection of which songs are taking off on TikTok at any given moment — in the wake of nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd last week by Minneapolis police.


Amid the nationwide protests over police brutality, Killer Mike and El-P released Run the Jewels’ prescient new “RTJ4” album two days early.

June 4, 2020

Beyond the Pryor routine, the closely watched tally includes Gil Scott-Heron’s proto-rap anthem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and N.W.A’s indelible “F— tha Police.” Public Enemy is represented with “Fight the Power” and James Brown with “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud, Pt. 1.” (On Friday, more than three decades after he left N.W.A, Ice Cube tweeted a list of companies he said “have benefited in the past or continue to benefit from prison labor.”)

Wake Up Everybody,” Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ mid-’70s R&B jam about the need “to build a new land,” is on the chart, as are two key artifacts from the 1990s gospel-soul scene: Kirk Franklin’s “Revolution” and “Optimistic” by the long-running vocal group Sounds of Blackness.

Several more recent selections are mixed in among the oldies, including “Don’t Shoot” — the Game’s star-studded 2014 remembrance of another unarmed victim of police violence, 18-year-old Michael Brown — and Childish Gambino’s 2018 “This Is America,” which has also jumped back onto Spotify’s chart of the 50 most popular songs on the platform overall.

Also on the Viral 50 tally: “Don’t Die” from 2012’s “R.A.P. Music” album by Killer Mike, whose group Run the Jewels just released its timely new LP with a song in which the rapper delivers these lines:

You so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me
Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”
And you sit there in house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give is a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy