Last post, I started a discussion of Lecrae’s Church Clothes 3. Today, I want to finish a brief analysis of the short film that contains four songs from the album. At the end of the “Gangland” section of Lecrae’s Church Clothes short film, an African American male falls in the street after a drive by. The camera pulls out and shows the body on the concrete. The movement of the camera upwards, away from the scene, provides an image of detachment, but it also calls into attention, when the image reoccurs at the end of “Deja Vu,” the surveillance of the neighborhood. The beginning of the “Misconceptions 3” section contains numerous overhead shots of a car driving and the young gang initiate from “Gangland” riding a bike through the streets. This vantage point feels very reminiscent to police helicopters patrolling the community, continually maintaining an eye on those who live within the confines of the city.
Yeah, the whole world’s gone crazy
People riot in the streets
Killin’ unborn babies
Catchin’ shots from police
I done seen days go crazy, time fly by
Maybe it was yesterday or maybe 65
Peace then war, sworn in, die
All too familiar, more lifetimes
The video concludes with “Misconceptions 3,” a song that samples Nas’s “N.Y. State of Mind.” By sampling Nas’s song, Lecrae links his song, and ultimately the video, to Nas’s Illmatic (1994), an album that, like James Baldwin’s essays on Harlem, provide the nation, and the world, with a view of life within the communities that Nas and Lecrae resided within. Nas’s song draws upon images of criminality in the community, police presence, and the effects that those issues have on those who strive to do their best while living in substandard conditions. (Look at my post on Vern E. Smith’s The Jones Men for more on this issue.) While the entire song contains images that we could unpack here, I want to focus on a specific line that highlights what I have been discussing. In the second verse, Nas raps about the Queensbridge Housing Projects, “. . . each block is like a maze/ full of black rats trapped plus the island is packed.” Here, he compares the housing project with incarceration (block) and dehumanization (rats). Since the island (Rikers Island) is packed, Queensbridge will have to do for containment.
They told me to rap: What’s that?
Is it tracks? Is it facts?
Is it trap? Is it rats?
What metaphor? Is you ready for the medic stored inside it?
Concluding, I want to take a second an point out the concluding scene in the video. The gang initiate from “Gangland” finds his comrade on the street, dead. His bike is the one that the camera follows at the start of “Misconceptions 3.” The video partly traces his journey to a secluded spot where he finds a gun buried in a cigar box. He picks the gun up and then rides away, presumably in search of the killers. However, the video ends with an image of him throwing the gun into the water. Watching this scene, I could not help but think about other African American texts that presents guns as symbols, possibly of manhood. Richard Wright’s “Almos’ a Man” immediately came to mind. Rather than using the gun, though, the boy throws it away, signifying that manhood does not reside behind the barrel of the gun.
There is so much more that I could discuss here; however, that would take a very long time to do. After you watch the video and listen to the songs, let me know what you think in the comments below. I’m interested to hear your thoughts about this video, specifically in relation to Beyonce’s “Formation” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.”