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Controversial Rappers’ Music Video Shows Cop Fighting Unarmed Black Man

A new music video released Thursday by Run the Jewels (aka Killer Mike and El-P) is making waves online.

The video for the duo’s song, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F***), off of their new Run the Jewels 2 album, features a police officer engaged in an exhaustive, extended fight with an unarmed black man.

The cop, played by Boardwalk Empire‘s Shea Whigham, struggles to fight the man, played by Selma‘s Keith Stanfield, as the two grapple in the streets. Both men appear physically drained, at one point even seemingly propping each other up. In a statement accompanying the video, director A.G. Rojas said that the exhaustion of the men in the video served to prove a broader point:

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.

“[T]his video represents the futile and exhausting existence of a purgatory-like law enforcement system,” added Killer Mike. “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.”

SPIN magazine is already calling it “the most powerful music video of the year.”

Check out the full video above.

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