Photo by Tony Nelson.
The best song off Twin Cities rapper Toki Wright’s 2009 album, “A Different Mirror,” finally has its own video — and it was worth the wait. In the album’s title track, Wright paints a haunting first-person narrative of the black experience in this country, from surviving the slave trade to modern-day police brutality. Using green screen special effects, director Andrew Melby’s video shows Wright gazing into a mirror, which gives him (and the viewer) a visual tour of this fractured history.
The video premiered last Wednesday on the various MTV channels: MTVU, MTV2 and MTV Jams. It was the No. 1 most popular post on www.mtvu.com for the past few days, slipping to No. 2 today (watch here).
Wright gave me some background on how videos find their way onto the MTV networks nowadays. He said there is a review process in which MTV sometimes sends videos back for re-edits. He thought MTV brass might be uneasy with some of the imagery (namely guns and burning crosses). Surpringly, it ran as is. "There are some people over at MTV that really believe in good music and want to delve into important topics," Wright said.
The mirror concept and the song itself was inspired by Ronald Takaki's book called "A Different Mirror," which documents the history of multiculturalism in the United States. "It really influenced me," Wright said. "Unless we look into a different mirror we will only see our own reflection. American history for example might be all apple pies and American flags for many, but the history of people of color in America is filled with poverty [and] hatred. All of these issues have become a part of a vicious cycle."
Watch the video here: