Legendary filmmaker, cinematographer and contemporary artist Arthur Jafa has directed the video for Kanye West's new song Wash Us In The Blood featuring Travis Scott, mixed by Dr. Dre. Wash Us In The Blood follows in the footsteps of Jaffa's acclaimed 2016 video work Love is the Message, the Message is Death, which responded in part to the election of US President Donald Trump, and featured West's gospel-style song Ultralight Beam. Jafa described the 2016 work, which entwines footage of violence inflicted on Black Americans together with scenes of religious ecstasy, athletic prowess, poetic and musical performance, as ‘a Black display of Black excellence'. It is a eulogy to Black America which couldn't be more relevant today.
Wash Us In The Blood makes an even more searing statement on Black suffering in America, following weeks of protests ignited by the murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020. It includes a montage of found and archival video footage, opening with scenes of a white American policeman aggressively confronting a black protestor. We later see footage from inside a prison of an innmate dancing, inside a hospital where black female patients struggle to breathe despite the assistance of ventilators and of kids playing outside, together with footage from West's Saint Pablo tour. There is also a short video of Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by police in Louisville on March 13 2020. Here, she dances happily and carefree.
We're transported into a video game as we follow characters around the streets at night- making the parallel between a heartless game of Grand Theft Auto and the racist violence we see not only in America but worldwide. CGI waves made up of chains ebb and flow, later cutting away to West's avatar-like face, revealed under graphic plating which peels backwards and forwards. Lyrics emphasise this exclamation of Black American oppression and pain: 'Genocide what it does, Slavery what is does'.
As a burning sun threatens to explode and fireworks bounce off the streets, a car spins faster and faster- eventually hitting the crowd. The song begins to close on footage of West's daughter North West at a Sunday Service rehearsal. 'Holy Spirit up now, Holy Spirit come down, we need you now' says West. It's clear that nothing has changed since Jafa's 2016 work.
The song, taken from West's new album God's Country, marks his return to rap after 2019's gospel album Jesus Is King. It's likely that the rest of the new record will continue to make a statement about America and Black culture. Following the announcement of West's Yeezy Gap partnership, and the reveal of the new YZY SPLY website on Friday, we can rest assured- Kanye West is back.
Learn more about the musician and artist in SHOWstudio's unique In Your Face and In Camera interviews.