Run the Jewels were among last year’s most visible artists to speak out about police brutality, whether in songs like “Early” on Run the Jewels 2, or in Killer Mike’s impassioned speech at the St. Louis show immediately following the Ferguson Grand Jury verdict, so it’s no surprise that the video for “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” (featuring Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine) is a total mic-drop moment. The video, directed by A.G. Rojas, depicts an unarmed young black man and a white cop fighting in the middle of an empty street. As Rojas says in a statement accompanying the video, “it feels like they have been fighting for days, they’re exhausted, not a single punch is thrown, their violence is communicated through clumsy, raw emotion.” As a track, “Close Your Eyes” is aggressive and playful, full of trademark bravado and performative catharsis (Killer Mike’s opening verse calls for a prison riot, deadpanning “We killin’ them for freedom cause they tortured us for boredom / And even if some good ones die, fuck it, the Lord’ll sort ’em”)—but where the song is emotionally straightforward, the video is extremely emotionally complex. Both the kid and the cop are portrayed as nuanced human beings, the struggle is desperate, and there is no glorified payoff, only weariness and futility. Killer Mike himself, though sharply critical of police militarization, has given interviews about the tension in being both a black man in America and the son of a policeman raised in a pro-cop environment, and that sort of conflict is brought to life in the video. It’s an apt depiction of both the very real violence we’ve been seeing in the streets and in grainy YouTube videos, and the complex emotional and social aftermath of trying to process that violence and it implications.
Read the full statement from the director and RTJ:
Rojas: When Run The Jewels sent me this track, I knew we had the opportunity to create a film that means something. I felt a sense of responsibility to do just that. We had to exploit the lyrics and aggression and emotion of the track, and translate that into a film that would ignite a valuable and productive conversation about racially motivated violence in this country. It’s provocative, and we all knew this, so we were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity. For me, it was important to write a story that didn’t paint a simplistic portrait of the characters of the Cop and Kid. They’re not stereotypes. They’re people – complex, real people and, as such, the power had to shift between them at certain points throughout the story. The film begins and it feels like they have been fighting for days, they’re exhausted, not a single punch is thrown, their violence is communicated through clumsy, raw emotion. They’ve already fought their way past their judgments and learned hatred toward one another. Our goal was to highlight the futility of the violence, not celebrate it.
El-P: This is a vision of a seemingly never-ending struggle whose participants are pitted against each other by forces originating outside of themselves.
Killer Mike: This video represents the futile and exhausting existence of a purgatory-like law enforcement system. There is no neat solution at the end because there is no neat solution in the real world. However, there is an opportunity to dialogue and change the way communities are policed in this country. Salutes to AG Rojas for his unique take on the subject matter and to Shea and Keith for giving us their all and bringing it to life.