We try to douse the fire, it continues to burn/Like the Boogie Down Bronx, it continues to burn/Like that cross in the yard, it continues to burn/Can’t you see the fire, it continues to burn
The subject of American racism and violence is a heavy one to tackle, but two hip-hop legends take history to task with a harrowing recounting of injustice in a new music video/short film, The Future Is Mine. Clocking in just over eight minutes, the video is an oral history through time, documenting the arrival of Columbus all the way to the police murder of George Floyd. The art piece discusses everything from slavery, civil rights, Jim Crow, to the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump.
The Future Is Mine is is a triumphant collaboration. Mr Biggs, who performed with Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force and one of the architects of hip-hop, enlisted the help of producer and longtime collaborator John Robie, who produced the track as well as directed the short film. Robie had worked on several records with Biggs in the past, including the legendary Planet Rock. Bun B lent his talent and performed the track with Biggs. The powerful vocals hammer the message with urgency, compassion and lamentation, all with the intent to get out the vote and make things right once and for all.
The video’s montage of archival photos by photographers Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss are peppered with animations by Celia Bullwinkel, illustrations by Mirella Moncheva, contemporary photographs by Alice Teeple, and choreographed sequences arranged by J Lyn Thomas). The project moved ZE Records founder Michael Zilkha to revive the label to help release the song and video.
The video has garnered much praise already from heavy hitters in activism, as well as the academic and entertainment worlds. Darryl Pinckney, author of Blackballed: The Black Votes and US Democracy, describes The Future Is Mine as “urgent and necessary, brave and consoling. The American history in the tough, inspiring lyrics, the dancing, the wit and poetry, the power in the images – especially in the black and white photos that capture the long road of struggle – the music video reaches out to us, and finds us, ready and in need of its healing beat.” Harry Belafonte describes the video as “a moving contribution to the struggle.”
The photographers of the archival stock footage used throughout the film have an entire page explaining the context of the images, which include photos of sharecroppers, Martin Luther King, and historical events. The photographers detail how the photos were captured, some in extremely dangerous circumstances involving the KKK.
“We have reached a pivotal point in history where artists not only have an incredible opportunity but a responsibility to use their talents to raise awareness and provoke change,” Robie told Rolling Stone, who premiered the video. “An aggressively old-school jam whose production was purposely meant to fit into a self-penned musical set in the Eighties became transformed by a covenant that Biggs and I have had for many years, to bring meaning and message back into music. To create something turbulent, timeless and timely. And when Bun B graciously joined forces with us to help spread the word, just like the movement to end racial inequality itself, there was no stopping us.”
Zilkha added: “The song itself offers a dark history lesson, but the film John directed transforms it into a work of anger, hope and even joy.”
This video is an intense experience, but a necessary history lesson set to a sick backbeat. The song is available for download through the site. The team behind The Future Is Mine is not only encouraging everyone to get out the vote, but also offering merch; net proceeds from sales will be donated to Fair Fight to support the cause.
May we continue to grow, learn, and do better.