It was hailed as a creative, artistic moment that grappled with the complexities of race in the US, filled with provocative imagery that evoked slavery, police brutality, and the gun control debate as functions of racism in America. However, part of its popularity was in its ambiguity; the plethora of ill-advised and downright corny knockoffs that hit Youtube within a week of its release proved how easy it was to miss the point.
Dallas, Texas rapper Bobby Sessions’ video for “Like Me” came out a month before and tackled many of the same subjects. Honestly, the furor Glover received could’ve just as easily gone to Sessions video. Where Glover couched his commentary in catchy, easily relatable trap pop, Sessions’ song buzzes with the electric fury of the outrage that James Baldwin once said every reasonable human being must feel at America’s many injustices. While “This Is America” is leavened by the contemporary dances of South Africa and America’s inner cities, “Like Me” is candid and brutal in a way that says “these subjects are not light and fluffy.”
Sessions is not here to make you dance or feel good; he’s rightfully distressed by the conditions he addressed and wants you to be too. If “Like Me” comes across more grimly, less overtly acceptable to the status quo, so be it. Never mind becoming a media darling, Bobby Sessions is here to tell the uncomfortable truth, raw and unfiltered. You can either get with it or get out of the way.
That’s the sentiment behind “Pick A Side,” the second single from Sessions’ punk-rap debut album on Def Jam, RVLTN (Chapter 1): The Divided States Of AmeriKKKa. In that video, Bobby takes to task anyone who’s been ambivalent about the current state of affairs of American politics. Barely blurred photos of Kanye West and Donald Trump hang on a wall behind Bobby as he serves up a heated diatribe about the desperate need to take a stance — neutrality is not an option. He says as much during a phone interview in which he reiterates his positions without equivocation.
“‘Pick A Side’ establishes that to have an actual revolution you cannot just be pointing the finger at everybody else,” he explains. “You have to look at the damage being done by members of your community. There are people of color that get in positions of power and get in positions of influence where they can educate their viewers or audience about what is going on in their community, but they decide for their personal financial gain to dismiss all of those issues in their own community and act like they do not exist so that they can appease their white superiors.”