Every now and then, a song of monumental significance comes into play, a tune brimming with cultural echoes and reflections of the time, a riddim to stop us in our tracks, a track to speak to our souls, a banger to smack us all awake.
Ghetts And Kojey have just released such a riddim, alongside stunning and uncomfortable visuals, which only serve to deepen its impact.
A U.K. rap track that initially utilises only a muted vocal synth to provide a simple, haunting, melodic back drop, the track only kicks in proper after the first verse, when Kojey hits the hook, at which point only a guitar is added for a slightly stronger bassline. Later, there is one drum/clap (or possibly just a tap of the guitar) to keep pace. At the second verse, a stronger bass guitar is added, but is only plucked once, every 2 Bars, yet the entirety of the track is filled with music. You hear it, even though you don’t. A testament not only the the melody and flows from both Ghetts and Kojey, but to the grace and emotive beauty of it’s difficult subject.
The emptiness of the track is both necessary and poignant. Using only muted, melodic vocal samples for the most part, and delivering his bars softly, the gentleness of the delivery reminds us constantly that this is a song about innocents (in this case, Ghetts’ daughter, and by extension, all little black girls), but the content of the bars, (which stand out far more, given the quiet production) brings us depressingly back to the harsh realities of the world we live in, and in particular, to the plight of said black girls, and as a larger theme, the plight of blacks as a whole.
The visuals tell a story alongside a story. Characterised by the use of split screen to show us the important images that express the sentiments Ghetts and Kojey encapsulate, the video opens with Ghetts’ daughter asking why there are no dolls in the shops that look like her, and we are instantly reminded of the underrepresentation of black girls in popular culture. We see the little girl being poured cereal by an older black lady, wearing traditional clothing, just before asking her loaded question, which adds weight to it as a notion in and of itself, by providing a deep cultural reference, that unfortunately will go right over most people’s heads. Case in point.
In the next scene, and as Ghetts’ lyrics come in, there is a dual image of Ghetts with a woman, (his girlfriend, perhaps) caressing and showing love to one another, visually representing the gentle love and care of an adult black woman. A snapshot into a future he’s not sure his own daughter will find. Shortly thereafter the images change to that of Ghetts going in to his daughter’s room, as she wakes up, and her hugging and clambering on him, as kids do, playing around. Later Ghetts is seen making her breakfast, alongside images of him rapping at the camera, and there are cut aways to several different black women throughout, including a switch back to a shot of the earlier lady, standing behind the little girl eating her breakfast, which then evolves to include more and more black women, of all ages, playing the familial roles Ghetts speaks of. There are other cutaway shots in this section of beautiful and serene black women, of black family graduation portraits, and of several other graceful black women, in a number of differing environments. The point of which is merely to humanise these women for the masses, a necessary, but heartbreaking directional choice.
The bars remind us that while currently blissfully unaware of how she will be viewed and treated in later life, that an unfair and terrible fate awaits Ghetts’ daughter, whereby the men in her own community (who have the same colour skin as her), will routinely and mercilessly degrade her for it, whilst simultaneously and unwittingly degrading those same women of colour, from their own families. Ghetts acknowledges that whilst desirability is a unique and personal subject, continuously shouting about it on social media and in songs because it happens to fit in with the current aesthetic for beauty, is causing irreparable harm.
During the hook, we see Kojey dancing in the living room on one side of the screen, and Ghetts dancing and playing with his daughter on the other side, this later changes to Kojey on one side and a beautiful black girl dancing in a meadow on the other side, as well as another cutaway scene of a black girl in an urban setting, moving her body gracefully to the music. Not a stranger, himself to uplifting and enlightening racially laden riddims, Kojey softly sings the hook, in that unmistakable, emotive Kojey cadence, where he prays for the little girl to keep her light burning, despite what darkness may come.
In the second verse, the visuals show Ghetts taking his daughter to school, contrasted on the other side of the screen with urban settings occasionally, but mostly just sweet images of a Dad delivering his daughter to school, whilst addressing today’s mandem. Later we see split screen images of Kojey dancing, and different black men greeting each other. In this portion of the track, Ghetts reminds us that the whole notion of light skin being favourable, comes from growing up in a divided, racist world, where black men are viewed as monstrous, and that to fall into this (white dominated) version of what is deemed aesthetically pleasing, is to perpetuate the very hatred and isolation that they find themselves in.
Towards the end of the verse it cuts back to Ghetts, with breakaway shots of a black lady in a meadow, and a little black boy with a football looking lost and lonely, as Ghetts spits ‘urgh, he’s black and he’s ugly’, the visual providing a real sense of what it feels like to be so condemned. The boy only smiles when the bar ‘Nah, I’m black and I’m lovely’ is delivered straight after. Next comes scenes of Ghetts playing football with the boy, perhaps to signify the importance of teaching the mandem early, about the right way to move, for the entirety of the black race. Later still, we see images of black boys alone, cycling, walking, and Kojey sitting, contemplative, adding impact to the notion of isolation that almost all black youth face, and, by extension, imploring the mandem to stop condemning their sisters to the same fate.
As the hook comes back for the second time, we see images of Ghetts and his daughter and of other, unknown black men and their little girls, as well as little boys, all standing together, bound by their experiences, which then cuts back to Kojey dancing in the living room.
During the outro there are scenes of Ghetts playing pat-a-cake with his daughter, Kojey standing with his woman and his little girl, and Ghetts and his daughters’ foreheads touching with Ghetts looking forlornly into her eyes, seemingly broken at the thought of all she’s yet to face. The video ends with a loving, happy embrace between the pair, signifying again through the use of explicit imagery, Ghetts wish to protect and provide comfort to his little girl, in an apparent bid to enlighten all the mandem to do the same.
Over the course of this track and it’s visuals, Ghetts enlightens us to the harsh truths his lovely little girl (and so many others like her) are yet to face. The relatively empty music, his innocent and as yet unknowing daughter, and the softer delivery of bars, contrasted with the very adult themes of racism and hatred, all combine to create a juxtaposition which should serve to make you very uncomfortable. The visuals add breathtaking clarity to the notion that this little girl is pure as the driven snow, with nothing but love in her heart, but the bars remind us that she can expect be treated as a monster, even by those who are unfairly forced to don the moniker themselves, just a little way down the road. In this way the listener is subject to a few minutes of discomfort, throughout which we are reminded that this will be the overriding theme for the whole of Ghetts’ daughter’s life, and so many others like her, if the mandem with a platform and a voice don’t act to change the narrative, now.
The whole riddim is geared towards the youngers, but also at the youngers from Ghetts’ own childhood, now all his contemporaries in the industry, with big voices, big platforms, but some very wrong ideas. Ghetts reminds these mandem that they should not only be using these platforms to raise themselves up, but they should be raising up their women too, by attempting to impart the logic that if there is something wrong with blackness in women, then there is also, by extension is something wrong with blackness in general. He reminds his peers that is a notion noone should hold, let alone a person of colour. He explains that shoot down any woman for her blackness, is to shoot down all black women, including mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, etc., and implies that this, by extension, is also to shoot yourself down. Ghetts asks all black men to stop vocalising such a harmful perspective, whatever their personal preferences, and reminds them of their own loneliness and ostracism, brought about by so many others, in a plea to wake them up to their sisters’ plight.
The whole riddim is a plea to all to stop adding weight to the conversation that light equals better, as this division amongst themselves is brought in by outside notions of race and goodness and beauty, and only serves to keep them down as a whole, while at the same time, managing to provide comfort and understanding for the plight of the black man, and trying to educate rather than admonish.
Unfortunately an extremely necessary and timely project, this riddim can be described using only one word which works on every single level: Cold.