Following the last few years of heightened public attention to shootings of unarmed black men, 20-year-old rapper Joey Bada$$ has taken his rapidly rising status and platform to speak out on what it means to be young and black in America in his new video for “Like Me.”
In the video, the Brooklyn MC gets romantically entangled with a friend’s ex-girlfriend. The dating drama leads to a violent confrontation, with the rapper’s friend accidentally shooting the girl before the police subsequently kill the armed man. As Bada$$ runs away, unarmed, the police stop him and shoot him while he raises his hands in the air.
The powerful clip features visual references to some of the most widely protested cases of young, unarmed black men who have been shot to death, including Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. With a hoodie on and his hands raised, Bada$$ embodies some of the most pointed signifiers of these cases. “My way of protesting is through my music,” he told Mother Jones. “With this newfound stature I have this voice where if I say something, a lot of people listen to it.”
Bada$$ is one of several hip hop artists to not only speak against police violence, but use their art as a form of protest. In December, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA told Gawker that every cop involved with the Eric Garner case should have been indicted. Last month, Garner’s daughter Erica released an emotional tribute song about her father’s death with another member of her family, Steven Flagg.
Bada$$’s debut album B4.Da.$$ entered the Billboard 200 at number 5 upon its January release, with the rapper debuting “Like Me” on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last month. The single features guest vocals from BJ the Chicago Kid and production credits from J Dilla and the Roots.