A new anthem of hope

A shot from the "Closed Eyes" video with Minista Paul Scott, Big Lah and Mr. Tibbs.


Marcus Cox said he wants his music to be a voice for those who don't have one.

Marcus Cox said he wants his music to be a response to violence and to be a voice for those who don’t have one. (Photo provided by Cox)

Drugs, crime and murder.

It’s a familiar narrative to Durham musician Marcus Cox, as he’s watched drugs and crime tear communities apart, but it’s also a story that inspired some of his latest work.

Several years ago, after hearing about the murder of twins in Richmond County, Cox began to write songs in response to the tragedy.

“Personally I can’t help but feel it,” he said. “We’re all brothers and sisters.”

Although Cox didn’t realize it at the time, this music would be the start of the Closed Eyes Project.



The project draws on material he’s written over eight years and strives to offer a more positive outlet for residents in the face of trouble. It features three versions of the song “Closed Eyes”—a hip-hop version, a “Soul Survivor” version and a “Make Your Own Remix” version.

The “Soul Survivor” version features a spoken word artist on the track and is meant to appeal to those who aren’t as familiar with rap music, while the “Make Your Own Remix” version allows Durham residents to add in their own rap over the instrumentals.

While working on the project, Cox collaborated with a few other musicians and activists in the community, including Big Lah, Prynce 8 and Minista Paul Scott.

A shot from the "Closed Eyes" video with Minista Paul Scott, Big Lah and Mr. Tibbs.

Pictured here is a shot from the “Closed Eyes” video, featuring (from left) Amon Muhammad, Minista Paul Scott, Big Lah, Mr. Tibbs and Marcus Cox Jr.

Cox said he came up with the name Closed Eyes because he wants the music to be a light to someone who may feel as though no one notices or cares about them. He hopes that people, especially youth, will turn to the song instead of crime and violence.

“I’m not a preacher; I’m not a teacher,” he said. “I’m just a real person that likes to create.”

Cox has lived in the area since 1992 and is a graduate of North Carolina Central University, so he said he felt a calling to give back to the community through his music.

He said he hopes people will turn to the music during trials and tribulations and know they aren’t alone, that someone cares about them.

“I’m hoping that they’ll turn to it for comfort,” Cox said. “Together we can really help people.”

Durham resident James Smith said he thinks music is one of the best ways to speak to people and project a more positive message.

He said crime is a problem in the community, but Cox’s hip-hop song has the ability to reach out to the youth in the area as well as other age groups depending on the presentation of the music.

“Music would be a real good avenue,” Smith said.

Minista Paul Scott, a Durham minister and activist who credits the song with comforting him after his grandmother’s death, said he wants to use the music to address the root problems of violence, including poverty and white supremacy, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to talk about the issues.

“The major misconception is that especially the black community is apathetic to violence,” he said.

The goal is to get residents more involved and take preventative measures against violence, especially with its tendency to increase during the warmer months, Scott said.

He said he also wants to confront the idea that violence is a drive-by type of occurrence and out of residents’ hands.

“I say that the problem is too many citizens driving by,” Scott said.

Cox said he wants the Closed Eyes Project to be a gift to the community, one that’s free of judgment and full of love.

“Ever since I was a kid, I prayed for peace,” he said. “Love is the key in my vision to everything.”