Your NPR news source

Noname's First-Ever Video Is A Clever Read Of Racist Fear-Mongering

The music video for “Blaxploitation,” like the Chicago rapper’s sophomore album, Room 25, is jam-packed with metaphor and symbolism.

SHARE Noname's First-Ever Video Is A Clever Read Of Racist Fear-Mongering
A screenshot from Noname's "Blaxploitation." (YouTube)

A screenshot from Noname’s “Blaxploitation.” (YouTube)

On the heels of her impressive sophomore album Room 25, Chicago lyricist Noname drops her first-ever music video, for the song “Blaxploitation” — but rather than put her face front and center, she uses the visual debut to juxtapose the thumbed scales of innocence and criminality that black kids are forced to confront while growing up in the city.

On bustling city streets under a full moon, the Alex Lill-directed video depicts a little black boy who stands giant to the skyscrapers. To him, the city is his glowing playground — but to the cars on the street scurrying like ants under the pitter-patter of his footsteps, he’s a threat. Cue the fear-mongering.

As he frolics, hysteria seeps into the confines of white living rooms: A family of three nearly spill their TV dinner trays as they watch the evening news vilify the not-so-tiny tot. From the glow of the screen, a chyron reads “Chicago Under Siege: Monster Baby Must Be Stopped.” The metropolitan police try to stop said Monster Baby, throwing a net around him. After this moment of temporary detainment, baby boy would rather drown the city than be taken prisoner again.

Over bass-heavy ‘70s swag, a nod to the song’s namesake, Noname, born Fatimah Warner, raps about stereotyping, pandering and serial swipes from American culture-vultures. “Who chicken-boned, watermelon-ed / Traded hoodie for hipster, infatuated the minstrel / When we cool, they cool, we die as coon,” she rhymes in the second verse.

The last scene of the short video shows what’s really happening — the same baby boy sits contently by a bunch of cardboard boxes in a yard. It’s a clever and swift switch that shows how blown out of proportion perceptions can be. Back to reality.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


The Latest
This weekend, comedians descend on Chicago for the revival of one of the world’s largest improv festivals. No topic is too hot to handle.
Art
The up-and-coming Chicago artist has landed a major commission on the West Side, one of six projects tied to the city’s moment in the national political spotlight.
De La Soul brought their signature energy, Chicago’s Kara Jackson brought the prose and more reviews from Union Park.
The 20th anniversary show comes as the rapper-actor is eyeing an EGOT and releasing an album featuring a duet with girlfriend Jennifer Hudson.
Art
Experiencing a new augmented reality art installation in the park requires a mobile phone — and extra patience.