Staring into a camera, Keedron Bryant opened his mouth and his heart. Out poured "I Just Wanna Live," a powerful song about life as a young black man in America that has been shared by figures including Janet Jackson and Barack Obama. It's about to be even more widely shared: Warner Records has not only signed 12-year-old Keedron to a record deal but officially released the song on Friday, the 155th anniversary of Juneteeth. "It's very exciting because this is what God’s called me to do," Keedron of Jacksonville, Fla., tells the AP. His mother, 38-year-old Johnnetta Bryant, wrote the song after praying in the aftermath of George Floyd's death. "[God] gave me those words so clearly," she says. Bryant says she asked her son, a former contestant on NBC's Little Big Shots, to "meditate" on the lyrics before recording them.
"I'm a young black man doing all that I can to stand," Keedron sings a cappella in the video shared online one day after Floyd's death, per the BBC. "Oh, but when I look around, and I see what's being done to my kind. Every day I'm being hunted as prey. My people don't want no trouble. We've had enough struggle." Music producer Dem Jointz later added music to the footage and Chris Atlas, head of urban marketing at Warner Records, loved the result. "I was like, 'Wow this is an amazing song.' We should be a part of making sure the world hears this on a larger capacity." All net profits from the song will go to the NAACP. Amazon Music will also donate $1 for each stream in the first 24 hours, up to $50,000. "That's actually giving back and using music as a healing mechanism," says Atlas. Keedron adds a big hope—"that we can change the world." (Read more music stories.)