11. Kamasi Washington, “Fists of Fury”
“I use hands to help my fellow man,” sing Dwight Trible and Patrice Quinn, “And when I’m faced with unjust injury / Then I change my hands to fists of fury.” Those original lines are from the main theme from the Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury, and Kamasi Washington shows his brilliance as a jazz arranger by fleshing out that kung-fu theme into a masterful ten-minute epic. In so doing, he transforms a somewhat cheesy song into an inspired statement of action and social justice. The performances on the track, led by Washington’s soaring solos, might be highly disciplined, but make no mistake, “Fists of Fury” seethes with rage. “Our time as victims is over / We will not longer ask for justice / Instead, we will take our retribution,” the singers state soberly at the song’s climax. In a year that spawned some interesting political statements from American artists, Washington’s was easily the most powerful.