“Power concedes nothing without a demand”: If a quote could sum up the Throne’s “No Church in the Wild” music video, Frederick Douglass’ famed call for revolution might do it best.
Neither Kanye West nor Jay-Z actually appear in their Romain Gavras-directed clip, which was released online Tuesday (May 29) — and, frankly, an appearance by the megastar duo could’ve very well hindered the powerful message they were trying to send.
Moments before the beat builds, we see a young masked revolutionary ignite a Molotov cocktail and walk in slow motion toward a wall of police officers who stand unified, draped in riot gear. The clash begins with a fiery explosion in the middle of a Prague street. Gavras depicts a power struggle familiar to people all across the globe, whether in Los Angeles in 1992 or London in 2011.
Set to the buzzing drums of the 88-Keys and Yeezy-produced track, ill-equipped freedom fighters with nothing to lose wage war against an oppressive regime. Of course, there is nothing in the video that directly details a specific storyline or plot: Instead, viewers are expected to rely on their own interpretations of the scenes that look taken straight from CNN.
Fearless protestors hurl stones and fight armed officers using only their bare fists. In one scene, a cop who rides atop a horse chases a revolutionary down an alleyway and beats him with a club. Young men are beaten, choked, sprayed with mace and dragged across the concrete as Frank Ocean soulfully croons, “Will he make it out alive?” in time with the staged anarchy.
The gritty violence and social commentary are reminiscent of Gavras’ video for M.I.A.’s “Born Free.” Though “No Church” isn’t as graphic (there’s no nudity or massive death scenes), it is moving all the same.
By the end of the five-minute video, the freedom fighters seem to have notched a victory of some sort, standing in triumph in the face of their oppressors. But even if a single battle is won, there is no conclusive ending, meaning that the war still rages on.
One of the catchiest lines in the song is a party-weary Kanye spitting, “Sunglasses and Advil/ Last night was mad real.” After the track’s war-torn visual, the lyric can (and should) take on new meaning.
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