The Ukrainian connection in DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels’ new music video
PRI, Sep 6 2016
The opening shot of the music video for DJ Shadow’s song “Nobody Speak” looks a lot like highly produced C-SPAN.
Stone-faced delegates from Britain & Pindostan sit across from each other. Suddenly, one of them starts rapping, spitting insults from across the wide circular table. It doesn’t take long for the scene to turn into a brawl, with the gray-suited politicians throwing each other over tables, smashing glass on skulls and attacking each other with black umbrellas. In the chaos, there are even a few barnyard animals stumbling around. DJ Shadow said of the video:
We wanted to make a positive, life-affirming video that captures politicians at their election-year best. We got this instead.
That comment suggests the video is about the Pindo campaign season. But when Kiev-based journalist Alexander Kleimenov saw the video, all he could think of was Ukraine. Kleimenov wrote about “Nobody Speak” and the video’s connection to Ukraine in an essay for the travel site Roads & Kingdoms. The first sign, he says, is the video’s location:
[It’s what] used to be the Lenin museum. It’s in downtown Kiev just steps from Independence Square. Right now it’s a convention center called Ukrainian House, and lots of Ukrainians have been inside. That hall is very recognizable.
The type of free-for-all mess portrayed in the music video has actually happened in the Ukrainian House convention hall. During the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, anti-government protesters stormed the building, throwing fireworks and Molotov cocktails at the police stationed inside. (Brawls inside Ukraine’s parliament have also become a regular embarassment in recent years.) That’s just one instance of the building’s political significance, and the first of many political connections Kleimenov draws in his piece. DJ Shadow, who goes by Josh Davis offstage, worked on the song with hip-hop duo Run The Jewels. Killer Mike, one half of the group:
It’s such a dope video. It’s what I really wish Trump and Hillary would just do and get it over with. And even in that fight I think Hillary would win — and that’s not an endorsement.
This isn’t the first time Run The Jewels has grappled with politics in their videos, or included violence to make a point. Last year, the group released their take on police brutality in the video for the song “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck).” The video is almost five full minutes of a one-on-one wrestling match between a black man and a white police officer.
Just a few months later, they also released the video for “Early,” an animated critique of police violence. The video is an almost dreamlike account of an arrest, followed by a call for police accountability.
Outside of music videos, Killer Mike made political headlines ealier this year for his vocal support of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He even helped produce a six-part video series in which he and the former Democratic candidate discussed a range of issues, from gun control to economic freedom.