“Activism rap” is a term I personally like to use to categorize specific artist that use their platform to open the eyes of others to real issues. Joyner Lucas, a well-known artist but not quite a “rap star”, put his two cents in regarding the issue of racism in his song “I’m not Racist”. He dives into the issue without hesitation, speaking from both points of views, white side and black side. With his use of imagery, emotion and representation of the message, he has done an extraordinary and almost remarkable job. He makes a statement that blacks and whites can take a step back, look at this video and say “damn, now that’s true and real.” Lucas has been known for his signature style in his videos, always showing both sides to a story and the different positions of an issue. Like Lucas, a lot of other rappers have used this platform to speak up about our nations issues. Back in 1988 a rap group named NWA released their song “F*ck the Police”. The song shined a light on the issue of police brutality directed at the black community. This song came with a lot of force and aggression, unlike Lucas’s song “I’m not Racist” its effect on our nation was more negative then positive. Had the group been able to speak upon both sides and look at the overall issue as a whole their message might have been received in a more positive light. There is a right way and a wrong way to speak upon the issues to ensure that in the end you did more good than bad, and I think Joyner Lucas without a doubt nailed it. The video is a perfect representation of both white’s and black’s argument in racism. The video and song are hands down a five star. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go watch it now.
Lucas uses the day to day stereotypes of both white’s and black’s appearances and how we look at each other. When the video begins he has a white man portrayed as the typical “blue collar male”. Dressed from head to toe, the man is wearing a red trucker hat with the statement “Make America Great Again”. A little heavier set to express that “hillbilly look” with his cowboy boots and button shirt with blue jeans. It gives the viewers the impression of a “small minded” and potentially racist looking man. On the other end we have the black man portrayed as the typical “thug” with braids, baggy clothing, chains and tattoos, giving the impression that he is the type you’d see on the streets “selling drugs.” This is a very powerful move to really sell the continuing theme in the video that both sides stereotype each other. We are all blind to what each other has to offer because we are “judging a book by its cover” before finding out what it contains. It is a form of micro-aggression. Micro-aggression is a recently coined term which some use to refer to unintended discrimination. In an article titled “Exploring Race Past and Present” by author Brian K. Blount, Blount says “I think one of the things with micro-aggression is that sometimes it’s hard to tell what the reason behind it is. That is an excuse, often times, for one to say that, well, race doesn’t matter, there are other dynamics that are at play here.” (BB’s response pg 390). We don’t always realize that our mind can already be made up based on what we see not what we know.
The use of emotion Lucas portrays with-in the lyrics and delivery of the song is without a doubt beautiful and really hits you deeply. When he starts telling the black male’s side of the story he specifically goes deep into the scars imbedded within the black community. “And even if I wasn’t picking cotton physically, that don’t mean I’m not affected by the history, my grandmama was a slave, that shit gets to me.” (lyrics from the song) We all come from a past whether it be slavery, poverty, or working your way from nothing to something. Yet how many can say their grandmother or father, were treated a certain way or turned away from places because of the pigmentation of their skin? Something that genetically they cannot change. I myself am white, I can’t not begin to feel the emotions and sadness to hear a family member describe that they were told where to eat, sit, or walk because they have a different color to their skin.When Lucas delivers the bars (connecting lyrics in a rap) throughout the entire song, you can tell that he himself really feels the baggage that comes from his black ancestry. He speaks with force, and sorrow, to give you the feeling of sympathy, or compassion and makes you want to understand rather than go on the defense to argue with the stories he is telling.
As the conversation between the two males plays out from beginning to end it tells both sides of the story. He rips into the stereotypes of white vs black and black vs white with an iron fist, breaking down each one never leaving any question to the claim each side holds. That blacks would rather sell drugs then get a job, or the misuse of the government and what it does to the reputation of the black community. Why whites would rather protest the black lives matter with all lives matter in which Lucas says, “that is a protest to my protest”. He states that when Eminem (rap star) stood against Trump it showed that he was standing with black community not against them. Supporting, rather than twisting situation and creating yet another divide in our nation. During the entire song Lucas comes back to two specific phrases “I am not racist” and “There is two sides to every story” which he captivates flawlessly.
I would say this song is precisely what this nation needs to be woken up. He expresses empathy to each tale that is told. The song is bold and brilliant and challenges viewers to open up and listen to each story being told. He executed the perfect balance of storylines and exceeded the expectations of all viewers. Anybody who has yet to see this video I would strongly encourage you to sit down in a quiet setting and watch for the small details and really listen to the lyrics. It is a huge eye opener and really gets the conversation started. We need more songs, and artist who are willing to push beyond to boundaries to make a statement. It’s a five-star song that will not disappoint.
Blount, Brian K., et al. “Exploring Race/Racism past and Present: A Forum at Union Presbyterian Seminary.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible & Theology, vol. 71, no. 4, Oct. 2017, pp. 371-397. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0020964317716129.
Joyner Lucas, I’m Not a Racist, Video You Tube, and Lyrics