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Noname's First-Ever Video Is A Clever Read Of Racist Fear-Mongering

On the heels of her impressive sophomore album Room 25, Chicago lyricist Noname drops her first-ever music video, for the song "Blaxploitation" — but rather than put her face front and center, she uses the visual debut to juxtapose the thumbed scales of innocence and criminality that black kids are forced to confront while growing up in the city.

On bustling city streets under a full moon, the Alex Lill-directed video depicts a little black boy who stands giant to the skyscrapers. To him, the city is his glowing playground — but to the cars on the street scurrying like ants under the pitter-patter of his footsteps, he's a threat. Cue the fear-mongering.

As he frolics, hysteria seeps into the confines of white living rooms: A family of three nearly spill their TV dinner trays as they watch the evening news vilify the not-so-tiny tot. From the glow of the screen, a chyron reads "Chicago Under Siege: Monster Baby Must Be Stopped." The metropolitan police try to stop said Monster Baby, throwing a net around him. After this moment of temporary detainment, baby boy would rather drown the city than be taken prisoner again.

Over bass-heavy '70s swag, a nod to the song's namesake, Noname, born Fatimah Warner, raps about stereotyping, pandering and serial swipes from American culture-vultures. "Who chicken-boned, watermelon-ed / Traded hoodie for hipster, infatuated the minstrel / When we cool, they cool, we die as coon," she rhymes in the second verse.

The last scene of the short video shows what's really happening — the same baby boy sits contently by a bunch of cardboard boxes in a yard. It's a clever and swift switch that shows how blown out of proportion perceptions can be. Back to reality.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.