Last week, Yasiin Bey surprise-released a new song, “Basquiat Ghostwriter,” inspired by the police brutality and the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Now the rapper – formerly known as Mos Def – has paired the abstract track with an equally manic video, featuring footage of the titular artist painting graffiti that informed the lyrics, Okayplayer reports.
“Ghostwriter” finds Bey weaving abstract, yet politically charged, imagery into a web of noise samples, jazz-punk drums and spastic synthesizers sampled from Basquiat’s band Gray. The clip features photo-negative shots of Basquiat painting various phrases – “Most young kings get their heads cut off,” “A lot of Bowery bums used to be executives,” “Hollywood, Africans, popcorn, sugarcane, tax-free, heroism, 200 yen” – on the street, interspersed with snippets of pigeons, computer games and professional wrestling.
The video debuted Wednesday at A Country Called Earth. “Good tidings in this season of the lion. Black August action,” Bey wrote in a statement. “Peace. Happy Wednesday morning. In commemoration of the birth week of one Marcus Garvey, herein is an arrangement of visuals for the sonic composition ‘Basquiat Ghostwriter,’ directed and produced by A Country Called Earth. Special thanks to I. Attallihi, J. Cuba and S. bin Sharifu. FREE THE LAND. We are already in outer space. The local time is always now. Free Shmurda. If you are reading this, you are already reading. We appreciateyuh. Negus. Eternal pedigree. Noble Empire. So real. Surreal. L T P F J. peace.”
Bey says the lyrics to “Basquiat Ghostwriter” were also assembled from the artist’s paintings and notebook sketches. “Let us be reminded of Sandra Bland, Fegurson [sic], Baltimore and all the injustice of the world, as well as the beauty,” the rapper wrote in a statement announcing the track.