Coinciding with the US Presidential Election debates this week, Killer Mike released a scathing indictment of the nation’s society and politics in the form of his video for “Reagan,” the centrepiece of his fantastic R.A.P. Music LP.
To many commentators’ surprise, the video isn’t merely a compilation of historical clips. Rather than doing what may be seen as the predictable thing – using real life visuals of Ronald Reagan, his dishonest broadcasts et al (they can be found easily enough on YouTube) – the rapper opts to bring the legacies of the former president’s Republican administration to life through stylized, emotive animation.
In this more memorable critique, visually similar, although not the same as films like Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir, aspects of Ronald Reagan’s presidency are sketched in pitch black, neon red and sharp, national blue. The Iran-Contra affair is represented in the form of a handshake between shady officials (something we could never catch on video), whilst the former president himself becomes a caricature in shiny stars and stripes. The urban neglect of the 1980s, cheap cocaine and police brutality become a mixture of dark backgrounds and violent dashes of colour.
The most spectacular sequence, although the whole video could be called one, accompanies Mike’s deeply critical take on “Reaganomics”. In just a few seconds, you see two young, brutalised black men join a number of their peers in a cube-like prison, then their prison become just one cube in a pyramid made up of tiny prisons. “Reaganomics” as penal capitalism, as slavery, is etched on the retina. Finally,the individual is brought back into view, falling through space. The focus switches back to Reagan himself, no more than a puppet on stage.
There are a dozen things I could say about the video, but I think it’s better than you just watch it for yourself.