Jay-Z and Kanye West released a new video yesterday for their song “No Church In The Wild.” The video was filmed in Prague and directed by Romain Gavras, famous for M.I.A.’s “Born Free” video, the one in which cops rounded up and executed redheads.
“No Church In The Wild” opens up with a demonstrator (protesting what, we don’t know) throwing a molotov cocktail at police. The police, in turn, mercilessly beat and pepper-spray the protestors, who in turn destroy property.
It’s an alluring spectacle, an almost romantic back and forth between two violent groups. Supposedly, this is what anarchism looks like from the dispassionate and detached lifestyles of Kanye and Jay-Z. (Remember when Jay-Z responded to Occupy Wall Street by selling T-shirts?) Two equal groups protesting nothing. Roland Barthes would be rolling over in his grave.
The video is meaningless. This hyper-male (and there are only men in the video) shitfest is a dumbing down of conflict, an aesthetization of violence. And because they fail to take any side whatsoever, Jay-Z and Kanye simply capitalize on the idea of violence and protest.
They basically say “hey, people have been protesting shit around the world. Let’s use that in a video.” But what are people protesting? And who is actually beating whom? What about the fact that non-violent protestors have gotten the shit beat out of them? Or that so-called black-bloc tactics actually used targeted vandalism, not violence against people. All of that is lost in this video.
From The Funambulist:
The society of spectacle… prefers to capitalize on the violent side of the revolt imaginary in order to both discredit and co-opt a movement that was originally anti-capitalist. In this regard, it is not innocent that the rioters do not seem to seek anything else than a simple fight with the police force (almost like a sport). It is Capitalism’s great strength to be able to include within itself its own antagonism, and furthermore to be able to capitalize on the latter. Jay-Z and Kanye West are the perfect example of such phenomena as they represent the nec plus ultra of the anti-pro system components of a hip-hop music that was originally invented as a pure form of resistance against this very same system.
The video refuses to take a side, which is a side in itself.
Because, let’s face it, protest isn’t this hyper-male violent tussle between two groups playing “whose dick is bigger.” Often, it’s a bunch of grandmas sitting in front of banks. They’re the ones who really get shit done.