The streaming charts are filled with genre-agnostic artists — Post Malone, Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish — groomed in a world where continually curating one’s digital self-image is a prerequisite of modern existence. Rapping cowboys and teens with the voice of Regina Spektor and the fashion sense of a Juggalo are the new norm. Taken to its logical conclusion, this phenomenon leads to artists like RMR — a masked singer who went viral interpolating a Rascal Flatts song, set a video that nearly parodied your average trap visual — as quickly as it seeks to defang them. On the surface, Mustafa’s “Stay Alive” follows this trend.
The video is set in Toronto’s Regent Park and features your traditional rap video shots: Mustafa sitting on a basketball rim, friends hanging out in a staircase, and swarms of young men shooting finger guns at the camera or hanging half their body out of a slow-moving car. Nevertheless, there’s an earnestness to the proceedings. Mustafa’s voice is raspy and his falsetto wobbly, but there’s an underlying soulfulness that cuts through the somber guitar melody. The song for all intents and purposes is about gun violence, and a plea from Mustafa for others not to succumb to the same fate. “”All of these traps and all of these street signs,” Mustafa sings during the song’s chorus. “Nothing will be yours or mine.”
But as the 23-year-old singer repeats the phrase “Just stay alive,” it’s difficult not to view it against the chaos and death overtaking the globe. Part of “Stay Alive’s” beauty is that its such an imperfect song from a new artist searching to find a voice and control it. Nevertheless, what Mustafa has managed to find shows promise.
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