Kojey Radical celebrates his blackness and black excellence despite the odds stacked against black folks on ”WATER”
Water is a powerful and important resource. It quenches thirst. It causes havoc in the same way it brings refreshment. It could bring about peace or provoke war. As the UN estimates, the world would face a striking water crisis by 2030 if steps aren’t taken to save the world from the debilitating effects of global warming and climate change.
But, if there’s one quality of water that is both striking and fearful, it is its power of malleability. It is said that water takes the shape of its holding material. It also find its way around any obstacle on its path, either through occupation or circumvention. The occupation is done through force of destruction.
For his new work, UK rapper and poet, Kojey Radical employs water as a metaphor to tackle a variety of themes. His 8 minute video, aptly titled ‘Water (If Only I Knew) explores the subjects of race, blackness, excellence and humanity through the medium of dance and music. These themes aren’t new fields of exploration for the experimentalist rapper. His three previous EPs- :”Dear Daisy” (2014), “23 Winters” (2016), “In God’s Body” (2017) – have all explored social unrest, racial divisions and identity within his own environment.
The United Kingdom, like many other European countries have laws that discriminate against people of colour-no matter how much they tend to deny these facts by believing their country as the cauldron of multiculturalism. The recent unfortunate fire disaster at Grenfell Tower where hundreds of residents, mostly immigrants and people of colour died in the flame, and the Windrush immigration have further exposed the inherent racial imbalance apparent and backed by British laws and existing within the society.
In an era where alt-right movements in Europe and US are pushing their governments to tighten rules on immigration, overlook police brutality and killing black kids for no justifiable reasons rather than being black and immigrants fleeing wars, hardships and havocs in their native countries getting discriminated against and their rights to live as human beings are being curtailed, Kojey Radical’s “Water” is of great significance.
The firsts part of the video – “If Only”- begins with the image of a black person in handcuff. An image of a young black girl sitting pensively on a swing outside follows. A preacher man is seen gesturing to the young girl to rise up. Two young black girls are seen enjoying the beauty of the universe. The raspy voice of British actress and Black Mirror actress, Michaela Coel accompanies the visuals. She points out how the system isn’t built to accommodate black folks and how black folks become victims of cultural appropriation and exploitation.
‘With colour pigmentation, you must accept that your historically pivotal leaders were likely to be killed. With darker pigmentation, you become an example of exoticism under the Western microscope’. Michaela delivers this hard truth in a soft, deliberate tone reminiscent of a mother sharing some hard truths with her kids yet cautious enough to not scare them. This was after her lucid presentation on how, as a young child, had to conceive and live within a certain realm: ‘I built my ideals on standards I learnt as an infant and I had imagined my own”. This statement by Michaela is informed by the unfavourable system existing and how to navigate through it.
The two girls from the begining of the video breakup and begin to dance. Kojey Radical finally appears, joining them to dance. Pegging the commentary of Kojey and the dance movements, one can draw parallels with the heralded “This Is America” video by Childish Gambino minus the chaotic background happenings in the Gambino video. Over hard hitting trap beats, Kojey Radical, in a gravel-like voice opens his verse with this striking lyrics: “If only you knew/ I got fresh wounds bigger than you/ funny how they all wanna watch my steps/ but they can’t run a mile in my shoes’. Though it sounds like a personal statement, the lyrics capture sentiments of people of colour who get battered by a system not built for them.
And for all of it, you must smile and dance. Yeah, keep dancing knowing revenge would taste so much sweeter once you’ve made it – Michaela Coel
The 24 year old rapper and visual artist has built a reputation as a vocal and opinionated rapper. A social commentator who has been compared to American superstar Kendrick Lamar. He is a firm believer of free expression. In a 2017 interview with the Guardian newspaper in the UK, Kojey spoke on what it means to be describes as the voice of his generation: “I’m waiting for a day when the idea of speaking out and being opinionated is the norm. That’s when being a voice of a generation means something, otherwise I’m just a voice in a generation.”
As the verse continues, Kojey poses the question: ‘how did you sleep through the violence? You just get used to the sirens, you just got stuck in the cycle’. The descriptive lyrics reflect how people have either become numb to the abnormal due to excessive exposure or those tasked with fixing the system seem unperturbed. At the end, he speaks of coming up tops despite the obstacles surrounding him.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you – Maya Angelou
The second part of the video- “Water”- shows the young black girl on the swing once again. This time, she’s in an alley heading home. She finds a morose looking boy sitting on a bench outside his home. The next scene set things in perspective regarding the demeanor of the boy: His parents are having a fight inside. The fight eventually turns into a very beautiful ballet dance that highlights the various shades of love: the good and the turbulent periods. The expression of love continues outside where three ladies sit watching the affection on display.
Kojey Radical is seen in a boxing ring with the preacher man in scene one as his trainer. There’s a switch in song style but not message. The beat assumes a tropical reggae-hiphop ambience, with uplifting horns serenading the edges of the beat. Kojey Radical takes a dig at today’s media. ‘I still don’t watch the news, barely trust the facts now’, he raps. This is a criticism of today’s media where through news tampering and propaganda, what is churned out is mostly suspicious and unworthy of one’s trust. As George Orwell wrote in his book 1984, ‘he who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” The media is guilty of propagating falsehood and anti-black sentiments for centuries- and still continues in this century as well.
Mahalia Burkman, featured on the song, provides a dose of soulfulness with her singing and biting raps about ‘coming back to this’ after being gone for a long time. (“This” refers to the discriminatory system). She blames it on ‘something in the water’; a phrase that Kojey Radical builds on calling on God to ‘come and take away the pain’:
‘Something is in the water, bad things in the water. Something is in my brothers; something like no other’, she sings in a calm manner. That ‘something’ is the poison that keeps holding people of colour back like the discriminatory laws designed to keep people of colour at the periphery of society. ‘I can’t put my finger on it/ all I know is we don’t want it/ all I know is if we carry on we’ll fall/ all I know is if we take this honour we’ll lose it all’’, she sings towards the end of the song.
“Water” (If Only I Knew) is a celebration of blackness- excellence, strength, love, beauty- while projecting the challenges that affect people of colour. The water must be purified.