Tip “T.I.” Harris and Teyana “Spike Tee” Taylor gave life to a critical visual message that has struck several chords that play beyond the Hip Hop industry.
The duo’s self-written and directed short film music video for their riveting collaboration “You (Be There)” is set in Atlanta and based on the widespread presence of minor sex trafficking in Georgia. The short film focuses on some very serious but delicate issues – in not just the United States but around the world – whose devastating effects have been exponentially increasing. The storyline covered controversial subjects like abuse of power by the heads of society and authority figures, child sexual abuse, other non-consensual sex and suicide.
Though the graphic video is highly sensitive, it does shed some much-needed light on some of the city’s darkest truths. T.I. and Teyana Taylor plays the role of two life-long friends turn mates with a hit list and an unprecedented goal to eradicate the perpetrators. The duo witnessed the suicide of their childhood friend following him falling victim to a depraved Pastor’s perverted actions. When the justice system failed them, and the Pastor was relieved of all charges, what followed was their mission to retaliate not only against him but to also repay the iniquities of other lawmakers and enforcers. In one scene, a breaking news report on the TV cited “Rapist On The Run: 12-year-old corpse found in park,” and the thought of it being a common occurrence that is commonly overlooked is deeply unsettling.
The creative picture understandably sparked some controversy with some people disagreeing that murderous rampage is the answer to the inhumane criminality against young children and minors. However, the biggest take away has been the main idea – that these indiscretions cannot continue to be swept under the rug and that we as a society cannot shy away from the conversation indefinitely.
This powerful short film which is a Grand Hustle production could not have come at a better time with celebrity examples like R. Kelly playing an important role in the idea that these vile acts are acceptable. How many people continue to support him and justify his sordid actions? How many church-goers remain silent as their ministry’s leader perpetuate perversion? We cannot continue to romanticize or downplay child sexual abuse or turn a blind eye to the growing issue just because it does not affect us directly, and then disapprove the response of suicide victims. Far be it from me to agree that a fatal retaliation or violent riot is the key, but it is clear that it takes a village nonetheless.
T.I. and Spike Tee gave us a refreshing change to the generic modern hip-hop videos we’ve been seeing lately but also a harsh reality check. In the earlier days, this is what hip-hop was about – discussing sensitive subjects and evoking awareness in the masses. Hip-hop was about promoting social consciousness and making light of crucial current affairs. Rappers like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. are immortalized for the powerful messages in their music that still plays on rotation today. It’s time to make real issues a matter of public interest again; not just memes and updates on celebrities’ personal life. T.I. and Teyana’s words and depiction deserve attention and other hip-hop artistes who are equipped with the tools and audience to incite a revolution should follow suit as their industry is one of the most influential today.
If you haven’t yet seen the official music video for T.I. “You (Be There)” featuring Teyana Taylor, it is currently still trending on YouTube and being discussed online. Watch the iconic feature and lend your ears to the powerful lyrics.