Upon approaching the set of Ice Cube’s music video for “Why Me?,”Â it looks as though we’re in the middle of a war zone, but it soon becomes clear that these are actors starring in Cube’s latest video off his eighth album Raw Footage.
All in costume: Sudanese soldiers, Muslims, and Palestinians fill the holding area for actors and extras—snacking, chatting, and some even sleeping until they are up for filming. Located in the middle of the desert—Lancaster, California, to be exact—the effect of somewhere far, far away, perhaps the Sudan or Middle East, is achieved.
The Benny Boom project takes on the controversial issue of random violence and serves to give the victims a voice. “I just wanted to do a song that spoke on it from the victims’ point of view to the killer and what would they say if they had a chance to come back and ask, ‘Why’d you kill me?’,”Â Cube states.
As Cube descends a sandy mountain, decked from head-to-toe in black Dickies, black Chuck Taylors, and a pair of tinted Versace frames, photos of actual victims of the violence he raps about fly past him. “We went to a lot of them to get their photos, permission from families to show real people who’ve been killed during random violence.”Â
It is no surprise that Cube is so passionate about conscious and meaningful lyrics. “I believe the downfall of hip-hop is corporate hip-hop. They tilt the scale the way they want it, so they got MCs rapping the way they want them to rap. They want you to be all pop and they want you to be all watered down, not talking about nothing, not saying nothing that’s gon’ change the world.”Â
Though he may not be single-handedly changing the world overnight, Cube is definitely grabbing our attention and bringing light to the tragic acts of random violence committed in more than just a four-block radius.
“Not just keeping it ‘hood, but getting people from Africa, people from Israel, Iraq—you know it’s going down.”Â
Words and photos by Jessica Washington.