XXXTENTACIÓN, an American rapper from Lauderhill, Florida, recently released his newest music video to his most famous song “Look At Me!”, or so fans thought. In his music video he starts out with his hit song rapping and performing as if it were the actual music video and after the first verse, the artist switches songs to another, earlier released song, known as “RIOT.” “RIOT” is a previously released track about racial disparities inside the United States that the artist decided to implement in the music video to spread a message he wanted to convey. The audience for this music video is the youth and people on social media. In the “Look At Me!” music video, XXXTENTACIÓN raps about and shows these racial disparities through visual art work, his lyrics, and the use of credibility (ethos), emotion (pathos), and logical reasoning (logos) to tell his audience that these problems still exist and that there is a need for change.
XXXTENTACIÓN uses visuals in the music video to show how African Americans have been treated throughout time and history and are continuously harassed by people in power and through history, usually non-minorities.
In history, we see many misdeeds being done to African American minorities, mostly comprising of violent acts against them including murder, and physical attacks. In the video, the artist presents a case back in the 1955 where Emmett Till, a young African American boy, was taken out of his house in the middle of the night, with his mother watching, was murdered for no reason at all. The actual death of Emmett Till was much worse than shown in the music video but was alluded to in it. XXXTENTACIÓN used this allusion to show people how terrible it was to be African American in the past and how horribly they were treated. He was only fourteen when the murder occurred. That killing was a senseless crime committed by some men just because they felt like killing that teenage boy. This imagery evokes pathos because the death of a young child is very depressing and in the U.S., children are very precious and no one wants to lose one of their own. Also due to the injustice of the killing, it provides a sense of disgust to the audience. The artist also used non-real footage of the event and created his own scenery where a group of people woke up a teenage boy in the middle of the night, punched him, and held a knife to his throat. We as an audience we can assume he was killed. This use of imagery helps XXXTENTACIÓN provide the evidence that there are racial disparities in the U.S. This scene from the past where a minority was killed with no reasoning behind it, and still nothing was changed afterwards to prevent this from happening again.
With this evidence through history, we can relate it to actions done now, in today’s society, and reflect back upon them. The next visual presented is the murder of Philando Castile who, in 2016, was killed by an American police officer. The officer had pulled over the man while he was driving and proceeded to view the driver as hostile. He had his family in the car with him which evokes emotion, or pathos, towards the audience because it was a fairly recent occurrence where people, mostly social media users, had a strong negative reaction to it. People saw someone in power, the police officer, and someone innocent, the African American driver, get shot multiple times and killed. This angered people on social media because there was again, no reason for the murder. It also saddened people on social media because of the illogical act behind it and a life was lost. This relates back to XXXTENTACIÓN’s message that the racial disparities back when Emmett Till was killed is still around today in our current society. This would make an audience feel enraged by the similar tendencies with the Jim Crow segregation era.
XXXTENTACIÓN also uses lyrics to express his purpose to the viewer. He focuses on death and murder for a large part of the song. The first lyric said by XXXTENTACIÓN is
“Have you ever seen a n***a hung with a gold chain?”
This phrase means that even successful African Americans who make a decent living, as represented by the “gold chain,” can be subjected to being killed just like any other person. This can be a form of logos in that, whenever someone was hung during slavery, no matter if they were freed or not, they were given the same treatment as a slave or someone with low class.
Another powerful line that also demonstrates the ridiculous idea of killing someone due to differences is
“But yo, you’d rather hear me say, ‘F**k black prejudice! Let’s murder different races, grow hatred, and form irrelevant views and etcetera’, knives thrown, damage ’em, lives blown, oblivion hole cold, oblivious”
This phrase can be broken up into three separate parts. The word oblivion pertains to the idea that when you are dead, you don’t know what is happening in the world around you, therefore you are oblivious. The second word, hole, pertains to death and being buried. When you die you are buried in a six foot deep hole in the ground. The third word, cold, refers to the human body in the sense that when you die, your body seems to be cold to other people when they touch you. This entire quote refers to unnecessary murders that take place now and throughout history. These lyrics relate the old way of thinking that people should be segregated and not want to mix together, to how he believes that the U.S. still has those views today in our current society.
XXXTENTACIÓN brings up political power between races and who is considered to be “top dog” meaning who is the more powerful to show the audience that there is still a hierarchy of ethnicities placed in the U.S. like there was in the Jim Crow era. A powerful quote reflecting this idea is
“Cause this is a game of cat and mouse and you’re going to bleed silent.”
Here he is saying that because African Americans, or the “mice,” are deemed as smaller than the socially powerful people like police and government,or the “cat,” then the government disadvantages African Americans and keeps their voices quiet as they suffer, or “bleed,” from their lower social position. This lyric is an allusion to hierarchy such as the hierarchy when segregation was legal where the lighter the skin color someone has, the more wealthier they were considered and more advantages they had; compared to people with darker skin color where they were deemed as poor and with many disadvantages.
XXXTENTACIÓN also has used a speech in his original song to further strengthen his claim of racial segregation and mistreatment of minorities. In his full version of the song on SoundCloud, a KKK speech was inserted in the end to further express the point that there is hatred towards minorities for no reason. The speech states,
“We don’t have a reason to hate them [minorities], just because they breathe, we hate their filthy bums.”
This quote demonstrates the hatred towards minority groups has no logic behind it since the speaker says the hate comes “just because they breathe” and not because of any wrongdoing. The idea that there is no logical reasoning behind the hatred proves his argument that there is no reason to be segregated and to have hate between races and that people that are on the opposite side of his argument have no logical reasoning to defend their views. The speech was taken out of the music video, and as a replacement, there is a prolonged image of a white kid hanging from a noose. which was more of a visual effect in where we saw something terrible happening. The visual of the white kid being hung on the noose is an allusion to African Americans being hung. Also in the background, there is no music, that way the attention of the audience would be placed on the visuals and not any audio. The expression on XXXTENTACIÓN’s face while pulling the rope and the silence in the background provide a more serious tone to the scenery. This action can be deemed as being in a racist way which is similar to the effect of the use of the KKK speech. The connection between the two pieces of art is the visual representation of the white kid being hung from a noose resembles the hatred of the KKK speech. Also how the KKK grew famous not just as a hate group, but they hung African Americans and tortured them as a form of a hate crime.
XXXTENTACIÓN uses the video in the first few seconds as a way to get people to click on the video and in a way, catfish them, and eventually, put in his intended video to express his message of racial disparities and how there is a need for better treatment between races. He displays how throughout time and history race has played a big role on how people were treated and how common some of the actions are today. He also expresses his desire for this world to be a better place. Through visual, and audio effect, he talks and shows factual evidence pertaining towards racial differences and forms an overall message that we need to make this world a better place through the better treating of each other and that as of right now, we were no better when it came to getting along together racially, than back when slavery and the mistreatment of African Americans were seen as normal actions done in everyday life.