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Songwriter Elijah Blake steps into the spotlight with Hanging Tree, hopes to be a voice for the voiceless with song


DL WarfieldElijah Blake has written songs for big names such as RihannaRick Ross and Usher, but his new song “Hanging Tree” just may be the one to make him a star in his own right.

The song’s weighty theme of racial violence, paired with the videos’s image of scars on Elijah’s back — referring to the whippings black slaves in America endured during slavery — are tough to hear and watch.  

But he tells ABC Radio that releasing “Hanging Tree,” was necessary amid today’s political climate.

He explains, “I almost didn’t finish it at first. I was like, ‘Wait, this is heavy’ and I played it for my friend. She was like, ‘Oh, I know an organization, Sankofa, who’s actually doing stuff like this with the youth.'” 

Sankofa is legendary actor Harry Belafonte‘s social justice organization. You can watch the video for “Hanging Tree” now via

Belafonte founded Sankofa to raise awareness of issues like violence, immigration reform and mass incarceration in America.

“When I went into the booth and I heard the beat for ‘Hanging Tree,’ the first line that came to my head was, ‘Who’s that man I see underneath the hanging tree,'” says Elijah.  

“Young black men, for the first time in my generation, were watching modern day lynchings of Trayvon Martin, of Eric Gardner.”

“To watch [Gardner] being choked to death and him saying ‘I can’t breathe’ … I can imagine how it felt for a young boy [in the past] to be walking across some trees and seeing somebody hanging and it just be normal,” he adds.

As for the influence Blake hopes the song will have, he tells ABC Radio that he felt he “could still be a voice for the voiceless…and feel like I’ve done something to push the movement forward.” 

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