Review Summary: The best music visual of 2017, bar none.
As social activist Harry Belafonte stated to Billboard, "artists are the gatekeepers of truth and have a unique opportunity to instruct." He couldn't be more on point with that statement, but the message isn't resounding in the majority of artists of today. That message, in a sense, is suppressed by the intoxication of a mainstream culture that instead educates sex, drugs, and extravagant fantasies to the masses, hiding the real problems that exist in society. Artists are no longer what Belafonte deems "the gatekeepers of truth", but instead muddled down to hypocrites and liars that indulge themselves into their wealth and success and forget the realities of many who don't stand upon their pedestal. That's why it's relieving to see a small, but relevant roster of artists breaking ranks and wise beyond their years bring to light the struggles and reality of the new America that exists today. A country infected with division and struggle, especially with social issues that garner most of the fanfare. Thanks to the social justice organization Sankofa; one that enlists artists who are activists themselves, alongside with the music service TIDAL, comes a short visual experience called "SEVENTEEN" that is a gutting reality check of the racial carnage that is prolific around black communities across America.
Divided into three main chapters, this visual follows a black teenager named Jacobi see his promising life turn fatal. "INNOCENCE" begins with a whitened headshot of him, presiding differently in each chapter, echoing the opening lines of Mali Music's tribal "Trouble" as he proclaims "you just bring trouble....". As the camera watches Jacobi enjoy a day in the pool, a contradiction of the tropical outing and it's dreary lyricism, you feel it won't be peaceful much longer. The cinematography in this enhance the relationship between song and story, as it does in "DAYDREAM", an shift as Jacobi self-reflects of his life and whether it has promise because of his skin, blaring the epic that is Raphael Saadiq's "The Answer". Capturing views of Los Angeles, the dramatic strings and Saadiq's emotion fit perfectly alongside the story. Ending with shots of empty streets, it offers a sense of remorse as he bikes to his death. By the time you reach "TWILIGHT", his demise is documented in detail that captured my sympathy for him. With Ty Dolla $ign's nightly "No Justice" playing in the background, you're taken abound by the shot of an older Jacobi surrounded by police lights beaming on his face. He made reckless choices, and it leads to this moment. Symbolic imagery really take heed here, as shots of a scared Jacobi with his hands up and a gun in his hand allude back to the Trayvon incident of a few years ago. As SEVENTEEN ends with a slow-motion sequence of his death and a damning end with Ty echoing the final line, "sh*ts getting worse," its emotionally-charged narrative push its initiative forward. After experiencing this visual, I felt misunderstood, and left in awe of how horrible tensions have spilled into blood of so many men, women, and children in black communities. It left an everlasting impression on me that only resonates everytime I return back into the video. Thankfully, there's still hope in what Belafonte echoed earlier. It's wonderful that these artists are taking a stand against this outrage thru their music and heart, and they deserve commendation for helping guide the movements that stand against this issue.