Metro

Worcester rapper’s ‘I’m not racist’ video spurs conversation about race in America

screenshot

Joyner Lucas feels like “life is changing before my eyes.”

It might have something to do with the fact that the Worcester-based hiphop artist’s latest music video is tipping toward 3 million page views on YouTube in just two days.

“Bro what’s happening right now?,” Lucas said on Twitter on Thursday, as articles highlighting the emotional and topical nature of his video, which taps into discussions about race in America that many tend to avoid, ricocheted around the Internet.

Advertisement

By the afternoon, it was on YouTube’s “trending” list. On Facebook, it was shared nearly 1 million times and had roughly 24 million views.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The video is called “I’m Not Racist,” and features a white man with a beard, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, sitting in an empty room across from a black man.

As the video unfolds, each of the characters deliver emotionally-charged rap verses written and performed by Lucas, who is not actually in the video himself. It becomes a seven-minute dialogue that CNN dubbed “the brutal race conversation nobody wants to have.”

From the start, the tension in the video is palpable, with the slow and at-times bass-heavy music adding an extra layer of intensity to the lyrics.

It begins with the man in the Trump campaign hat rattling off a series of offensive stereotypes about black people — “I see a black man aiming his gun; but I’d rather see a black man claiming his son,” part of the verse goes — as the music crescendos.

Advertisement

For three whole minutes, as the camera circles the room, the man in the hat continues to list reasons he feels angered or afflicted by black people in America, while peppering in the words “I’m not racist” to justify his opinions.

Halfway through the video, the tables turn, as the black character sitting opposite the man in the Trump hat explains his experience in the country as a person of color.

“Screaming ‘All Lives Matter’ is a protest to my protest, What the [expletive deleted] is that?,’ ” he says at the outset, before answering the questions outlined in the other man’s rant.

The black character, who at one point heatedly slaps the hat off the white man’s head, goes on to discuss cultural appropriation, interactions with the police, and systemic racism.

“I wish we could trade shoes or we could change lives, so we could understand each other more, but that would take time,” the lyrics continue. “I’m not racist, but there’s two sides to every story and now you know mine.”

Advertisement

Lucas, who was not immediately available for comment, told CNN this week in an interview that the video is about “an average white man speaking his mind on how he actually feels about black people” and an “average black guy talking about his interactions with white people.”

“These are suppressed feelings that both parties have but are afraid to express,” Lucas said.

The video has a bit of a surprise ending, as the music and the energy in the room shift dramatically and the two men embrace in a hug.

When the screen goes black, these words appear: “We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us, and wealth classified us.”

WARNING: The video below contains explicit content and lyrics.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.