Mass Appeal Records and DJ Shadow released the video for Nobody Speak this week, two months after the release of the album The Mountain Will Fall. The video is clearly a poignant satire of the state of political discourse as America continues an increasingly heated presidential election helmed by two polarizing candidates.
Run the Jewels is no stranger to conscious hip-hop. Tracks like Early and DDFH are full of socially relevant lyrics. Additionally Killer Mike is a noted activist for social change and a dedicated and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders.
At first glance the lyrics in Nobody Speak don’t match the politically-charged visuals. The song is mostly about what happens to those who choose to run off at the mouth. Despite the seemingly irreverent language, however, the video works. The two older White men dressed in conservative, business suits vitriolically jawing at each other like verbal dueling banjoists evoke the tenor of political debates and conversations that have been had on TV, at fundraisers, at rallies and at conventions this summer.
Which is why, on second glance, the lyrics don’t seem so far away from what political figures and their supporters have been continually spouting. When El-P says “I’ma send you to the yard, get a stick/Make a switch/I can end a conversation real quick” is that much different than the call to armsfrom the Trump campaign? And doesn’t the constant braggadocio (“We the best/We will cut a frowny face in your chest, little wench/I’m unmentionably fresh, I’m a mensch, get correct”) resemble Trump’s boasting? Let’s not forget El-P’s direct “critique” of Trump (Flame your crew quicker than Trump f**ks his youngest) which sounds as insightful as some of the attacks that Cher lobbed towards Trump at a Clinton Fundraiser last weekend.
Eventually the dueling banjos aspect of the video devolves into an all out brawl inside the circular meeting room. In the end nobody does speak, nothing constructive is said; points are driven home with fists, broken pencils and (nearly) the pole of the American flag. Before that pole can be driven into the solar plexus of his opponent, the politician (who had been lip-syncing Killer Mike’s lines) notices a cleaning lady looking at him in bewilderment. Clearly she is shocked by the violence but it can be assumed she’s shocked by her limited options as well: you mean I have to choose one of these two?