T.I.’s New Video Re-Creates Police Killings, Making The Officers Black & The Victims White

As an MC, T.I. has had one of the most successful mainstream career trajectories. His sophomore album, 2001’s Trap Musik, set the tone for the rest of the decade, and by 2010 he had the double-platinum Paper Trail under his belt. The Grammy winner’s most successful singles have been largely the party anthems and romantic cuts, but the Atlanta, Georgia rapper has never shied away from making street records reflecting his environment.

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Though “political” may not be one of the foremost adjectives used when describing his style, one would be remiss to ignore his recent song and its video, “We Will Not.” Visually, it’s a collection of photographs depicting images of protest (including one of Sean Price’s late wife, Bernadette, and Duck Down artists at a recent rally) and historic civil rights figures emanating from the television while T.I. languishes on the couch under the weight of today’s political climate. Lyrically, it’s one of his heaviest offerings to date featuring lines like “we sick of the garbage you kickin’ and teachin’/And lynchin’ us, lockin’ us up for no reason/And killin’ us, no consequences, convictions, you serious?”

But that isn’t the only recent song from T.I. that serves as an indictment of current domestic affairs. In fact, it’s not even the only one to arrive this summer. “Warzone” arrived on Tidal earlier this month and it, too, takes a no-holds-barred look at life in America as a person of color. However, this time around, T.I. has brought a more cinematic approach to its video, providing viewers with a vision of what the world would look like if White citizens became the target of police violence with the same frequency and inconsequential repercussions as do people of color in real life. Although entirely fictional (whereas “We Will Not” pulls directly from historical imagery), “Warzone” is no less visceral and in facts begins with a warning reading “due to the graphic nature of this video, viewer discretion is advised.”

Both songs will reportedly appear on an upcoming mixtape from T.I. titled Us or Else, which he first discussed with Hot 97’s Ebro in July. At the time, he also shared details about his work in support of Black-owned businesses with Killer Mike, and his outspoken views on the radical change that needs to take place in this country in order for wounds to heal and for justice to become an equal opportunity luxury.

Details of his recent exploration of such overtly political content in his own music was more recently discussed in his September 12 interview with “The Daily Show,” where he beautifully addressed his heartfelt inspiration. But also shares some incredibly powerful observations about Hip-Hop’s role as a reflection of life’s hardships, and by the time the interview was over, everyone in the studio was clearly taken aback and in full support.

“You’ve always said your piece, but you’re not a political person,” Trevor Noah says (to which T.I. agrees) at the 2:20 mark. When asked why he made the “Warzone” video, Tip responds by saying he was inspired by how recent travesties in this country have been happening at a rate that is “incoherent,” compelling in him a desire to speak his mind. “It became a project out of nowhere,” he says. “I just really want to create dialogue that will promote change.” After showing viewers a clip of the video, Noah discusses its featuring “Black policemen and a White kid being mistaken and being shot,” calling it “a powerful statement to make.” When asked if such arresting imagery and the dialogue it’s inspiring is in line with what his vision was, T.I. says “Absolutely. I wanted them to take notice and as disturbing as these images may be to watch on your television, these things actually happen to us…imagine how uncomfortable it is for us to live through it in reality.”

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Noah then brings up the notion of what some critics would describe as hypocrisy in Hip-hop whereby artists argue for change in their music while simultaneously glorifying violence in other songs. When asked for his opinion on such criticism, T.I. fires back with an argument about seeking the root cause of systemic racism at the 4:39 mark. “Hip-Hop has always traditionally been a reflection of the environment the artist had to endure before he made it to where he is. So, if you want to change the content of the music, change the environment of the artist and he won’t have such negative things to say.”

An official release date for Us or Else is pending, but according to a recent post on Tip’s Instagram account, it’s “coming soon.” Tip is also expected to release a studio album, The Dime Trap, in the coming months.

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