It took me a full day, but I’ve finally seen the music video for SZA and Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther song, “All the Stars.” As someone who saw Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” music video when it premiered during primetime television back in the ’90s, I thought I’d never see a music video rival it as the most unapologetically black music video ever. While Beyonce might have won 2016 and 2017 with her Lemonade visuals and Southern Gothic aesthetic, I think “All the Stars” tops it and even “Remember the Time” as the most awe-inspiring music video I’ve seen in years. Marvel, you’ve completely undone yourself with this entire Black Panther franchise; I hope y’all at Marvel understand exactly why the outpouring of creativity and love is overflowing for this movie.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I implore you to drop everything you’re doing and watch it right now. Real talk: this music video just might make you cry.
If there’s a way to frame an entire music video and put it on my wall, I would. This music video is not only gorgeous, but it’s a love letter to Africa–a homage to the continent’s rich past, vibrant present, and a future filled with possibilities. It, like Wakanda, shows a glimpse into an Africa the West hasn’t seen; an Africa that is seen without the lens of colonialism and imperialism.
I might have had my DNA test done to reveal exactly what parts of Africa I come from, but at the end of the day, I’m still an African-American who is divorced from many of my ancestors’ cultures, so unfortunately a lot of the references in this video have gone over my head. Thankfully, my DNA test has allowed me to start researching my various peoples and their cultures and, particularly for this video, there are posts outlining many of the video’s cultural elements. But even with my limited knowledge, there were three moments out of the many that stood out the most to me.
1. The ocean of hands
There was something so eerie, haunting, and strangely calming about this opening scene featuring Lamar on a raft in the middle of a sea of black arms and hands. What I immediately thought of was the Atlantic Slave Trade, which trafficked at least 10 to 12 million Africans from their homelands to the New World. That stretch of sea is filled with the ghosts of my ancestors, and to see Lamar riding the waves of their hands reminded me how even in death, they made it possible for me to survive.
I also saw the haunting sea in reverse; it was as if those same souls that were lost centuries ago were able to find their way back home in the afterlife. Despite their tribulations on earth, they were able to find peace. From that point of view, it’s as if those same souls are guiding Lamar back to the lands of his ancestors. There was so much said in that scene without Lamar ever saying a word.
2. The Dandies
I’d written about the political importance of Africa’s dandies before in my Black Panther fashion post, but to keep it brief, the dandy movement is one that reclaims African pride by turning Western/colonial fashion inside out and repurposing it as both a form of wearable protest and a sign to the world of Africans’ humanity. To see the dandies put on display like this warmed my heart–the sartorial excellence of course is fun, but showcasing movement’s political relevance in this way has only made the dandy movement stronger, and as far as I’m concerned, that can only be a great thing.
3. The goddesses
The final shots of the music video have Lamar in what looks like an temple comprised of imagery and symbols of several African cultures standing in awe of giant women clad in gold. Clearly, these women are the goddesses of old, and Lamar is paying his respects to them. For me, these women represent the lost goddesses of African religions. When I say “lost,” I don’t mean they’re lost to the world; there are many who still worship the gods and goddesses of the Yoruba and Igbo people, for instance. What I mean is that they’re lost to me. The slave trade made us African-Americans lose everything, including our religions, and seeing these women act in place of those goddesses made me realize that the music video was, once again, bringing us black viewers–and Lamar–back in touch with our roots. These goddesses act as messengers to the rest of the world that Africa is the motherland; Africa is meant to nurture, to uplift, and be respected and honored. Lamar seemed like he got the message. But if it still wasn’t clear to some viewing, the music video cuts to SZA’s hairstyle, which is in the shape of the entire continent. It was a stylistic and elegant version of a mic drop.
Overall, the entire music video left me feeling hopeful and, honestly, a little misty-eyed. This is the Africa I’ve always wanted to see portrayed. This is affirming on a gutteral level, more than I thought a music video could ever be. I’ve come away from it feeling like I’ve retained a chunk of my cultural identity that had been lost. As much as it is a cliche to type, I can honestly say I feel seen. This music video is definitely 2018’s version of “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
How did you feel after watching the music video? Give your opinions in the comments section below!
While the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl and made their city proud, I think it’s safe to say the real winner of the Super Bowl, as far as celebrity exposure goes, was Thandie Newton.
The veteran actor was seen in the splashy (and scary) trailer for the second season of HBO’s Westworld. While the first season wasn’t my most favorite thing in the world, Newton was one of the handful of women actors who buoyed the entire production and made it a lot more interesting that would have been without them. If I were to strap myself in for another season of body horror and acts of physical and sexual abuse, the only reason I’d watch were to see what would become of Newton’s sympathetic and righteous character Maeve.
The day after the Super Bowl, we finally got the full trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Like with the image of Lando in the Super Bowl teaser trailer, we only see Newton on screen one time as mysterious mercenary Val. And, like with the uprising of Twitter over the lack of a Lando movie, I wish there was an entire movie about Val and how she fits into this wild galaxy. Basically, I just want a film with Lando and Val doing awesome bounty hunter stuff. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
In any event, Westworld and Solo: A Star Wars Story places Newton as one of the reigning queens of Black Women in Sci-Fi, and I’m extremely excited to see what she does in both Westworld and Solo. But, while the Solo does look incredibly beautiful, I’m still not sure if I’m sold on the plot or on Alden Ehrenreich as Han. We’ll see I guess.
I’ve seen the Solo: A Star Wars Story teaser trailer, and let’s just be honest: the film should be Lando’s. Just look at the one still that has got the interwebs talking:
If one image–ONE IMAGE–can get people excited, and that image isn’t featuring Han Solo, then either you have a big problem–your lead character doesn’t really have a fantastic backstory or it isn’t being approached in an innovative, exciting way–or your lead character is someone else in the story instead of the character who is actually cast as “the lead.” For instance, Harry Potter is the lead in his story, but the true lead is actually Hermione Granger, since she’s the actual brains behind the group.
Just from the one look at Donald Glover in that huge fur pimp coat, and you immediately get Lando’s story. Right away, you want to know everything about this guy, the story behind that coat, and what makes him tick. Meanwhile, I’m already bored with Alden Ehrenreich as Han, and Han is actually a very fun character who should have a very thrilling backstory. Why does his story look so boring? So standard?
One quick thing to say is “It’s because he’s a white guy and movies are moving away from white guys.” That’s a trite way of describing today’s shift from all white all the time to diversity and inclusion. But I actually don’t think diversity is all that’s making Han Solo’s story boring. It just looks like it’s going to be portrayed in the most pedantic way–he’s a rogue who’s stuck in jail who will probably bust out by pretending to want to be a part of the resistance. That’s my guess at what the story is, and I’ll be surprised if the film doesn’t start with Han in jail. In other words, we can already figure out what Han is about. What mystery is there left with Han?
Lando, on the other hand–we know next to nothing about him except that he lives in Cloud City, is the coolest MF in the galaxy, and has a plethora of fabulous capes and coats. Let’s hope we get a lot of Lando in this film, because otherwise, I might be bored silly.
As you’ve probably read before on this website, Solo: A Star Wars Story is not high on my list of must-see films, mostly because it seems like a film plagued with behind-the-scenes creative problems. But another reason it’s not high on my list is because it seems like a Star Wars retread in a lot of ways. Not only are we regressing to figure out what makes Han compelling (a fact that could be smeared by this film), but the film’s continues the annoying trend of white brunettes as leading women. It sounds like I’m singling out white women; I’m not. But you can’t deny that the only women of power in these films are brunettes. Like, enough already. Another Star Wars (and general film) trend that’s in Solo: A Star Wars Story is the use of women of color as exotic objects. Case in point: this golden woman.
Who is she and will we ever meet her again in a capacity that’s not in a fetishized context? Probably not.
What did you think of the teaser trailer? Give your opinions in the comments section below!