BLK & WHT: A closer look at Zebra Katz's new release.
"In zero gravity, I'm falling for you rapidly/ get a drip drift back through the galaxy/ then we dip, spaceship, hyper drivin speed/ gama ray, ultra violet it was you and me/ I think that we could save humanity/ just think, yeah we could form a colony/ On a planet where we f**k, drink and love and peace."
New York born, new-wave hip-hop legend Ojay Morgan, aka Zebra Katz, has recently dropped his new track, 'BLK & WHT'. And guess what? He has dedicated it to the refugee community, with a special mention to Pass the Crayon! We are huge fans of Zebra Katz and to have his endorsement is a massive deal for us. Let's take a closer look...
'BLK & WHT', described by the New York Time as,
'sublimely sinister... one of the years most striking songs',
and cinematically likened to The Blair Witch Project by Now.com, certainly makes for an unnerving watch...
The music video, directed by Ada Bligaard Søby, was filmed over a two-day period in the forests surrounding Copenhagen, and features refugees from Denmark re-living the horrors of their journey from war-torn homelands to the safety of Europe. Safer, yes-- but still pretty bleak.. !
“The idea for this video was born from the most haunting track that ever landing in my inbox. It inspired this film featuring the anxiety of immigrants fueled by fear in search of sanctuary, and being searched for while they are in this place between places..."
–Ada Bligaard Søby
The most frequently used word in the whole track,"Why?" (or possibly 'white', but it is hard to tell), is used 10 times; 5 times at the beginning and again at the end. This question encircles the whole song, and gives it meaning. The whispered 'why' echoing through the track, getting louder as it repeats, accompanied by strange electronic sounds and an irregular "beep", before Zebra Katz enters, "3,2,1, are you ready for me?'"
To explore Soby's idea of a 'place between places' are bit more deeply, let us imagine what it might be like to journey through the forests of Romania, or the barren expanses of Russia (an increasingly popular route taken by refugees hoping to enter the Schengen zone through Norway), or indeed the Mediterranean ocean, where to date more than 1000 refugees have lost their lives. Some refugees spend months travelling in the hopes of finding sanctuary, with nothing but a few belongings, and possibly a coat to share amongst each other, if they are lucky. Not to mention, exploitation from human traffickers, death and starvation-- and that's just the journey. When you start to consider what every refugee faces (or has already faced), Zebra Katz's video begins to look less dystopic, and more.. just.. real.
(photo via Business Insider)
Another interesting feature of the video is the War of the Worlds-esque drone hovering overhead, searching for the escapees; a symbol for the socio-political hostility directed at refugees by host countries? The bright white light of the drone a possible commentary on the clinical and non-compassionate attitude shown towards refugees on their arrival? Perhaps.
An alternative interpretation could be that the video is set in an alternate realm altogether- an alien land, if you will. This ties in nicely with the spacey-themed lyrics (gama ray, spaceship, planet, ultra violet), and again serves to highlight the extreme alienation the refugees must feel when making their journey through these foreign landscapes.
Definitely the most striking element of the video is the refugees themselves; running through the forests, taking shelter in an old hut, sharing a tin of food, their hands shaking with the cold, huddled together for warmth; their faces a powerful reminder of the horrors they have survived, and the continuing uncertainty of their situations.
Although rhythmically much slower, and aesthetically very different from Zebra Katz's normally vibrant vids, musically the track still has the distinctive ZB stamp-- the trademark husky rap/speak, gnarly bass and synthetic sounds.
Currently touring with Gorillaz, Zebra Katz’s in-your-face lyrics (if you don't already know 'Imma Read', then get to know!), tribal war-paint realness, funky minimal house beats and all over sick fashion has given him worldwide success, not just as a rapper, but as a music and fashion icon.
With fame comes responsibility, and unlike so many stars who get lost in the world of glitter, Instagram filters and cultural misappropriation (you know who you are), Zebra Katz shows his altruistic side by producing 'BLK & WHT', and in so doing, lends his voice to the refugee welcome culture movement.
Thank you Zebra Katz, for creating such a an amazing piece of art, and for the shout-out to Pass the Crayon. Your recognition means a lot to us, and we are deeply grateful, not just for our names being mentioned, but for the video as whole-- BLK & WHT provides a powerful form of story-telling and opens up the discourse surrounding refugees to a much wider audience.
We love you!!