So Juvenile’s new video for Get Ya Hustle On (also here) has made the rounds the past couple days, and it’s pretty good.
Filmed on location in New Orlean’s 9th ward the video’s eerie post-apocalyptic backdrop is significant, although in many ways the formula is nothing new. This is what so much of rap music says daily, track to track – we’re here and we’re discounted and no one is going to help us, so do the shit yourself, get ya hustle on, sell crack if neccessary. The video’s political statement seems almost softened to me by the masks/indictments of ‘leadership,’ a comfortable message to liberals of all stripes who want an easy charicature to demonize, to see a few people alone responsible. Fuck that – the responsibility is this country’s, all of us, and to me the most significant footage isn’t the ’empty promises’ symbolism but the ruins themselves, a stark montage of the extreme devestation caused by the American abandonment/containment pattern that reproduced itself in urban and rural areas across America, shunting poor and minorities via systematic racism and classism, self-perpetuated divisions that were dramatically unveiled by Katrina. Today the hurricane represents a moment when people acknowledged the injustice. This is what it represents. The projects, we can ignore, safely isolated, popping up on TV in dramatized cop shows and the occasional rap video only to be disdained, ‘ghetto’ music for ghetto people and those who fetishize blackness. Katrina though was black folks starving and abandoned on national TV and no one dared look away.
Juvenile’s look is stripped down, no obvious signs of wealth (“lost it all in Katrina”), bitterness seeping through the lyrics, dark shades covering his eyes rapping through New Orleans’ hurricane hangover. No grins to show off his grill, no playful goofy Juvenile smile. More people will be listening to him now and he knows this, and even though Dick Cheney masks will get more of the attention it’s really about how he aims at Mayor Nagin for faking the funk in the lyrics and his solution, pyrex pots and crack sales-as-relief, not so subtly hidden beneath the crisp atmosphere of political righteousness.