Every day on your social media feed, from Mike Brown to Ebola to Gaza, it seems like there’s always a tsunami of bad news on its way to come crashing overhead. And for many people in times like these, music should be a cure-all for despair: upbeat and playfully mindless, like an island getaway from the troubles in this world. But poets like 23-year-old MC Ryshon Jones of Philadelphia look squarely into the eye of everyday chaos.
Jones uses the abstract language that stumbles out of his sharp, impression-filled mind to jar us awake from our ritual numbness and, like a doctor who pops the patient’s knee for a reflex reaction, helps us to pull focus on the brokenness and beauty all around us.
“American Dreamless” is the second single off Ryshon’s critically well-received mixtape, Hope Is a Dangerous Thing. His self-directed video (co-directed by L.atasha A. Icindor) projects manic scenes of Philly street life. The letter-pixelated, grainy, color-filtered, upside-down, melting images of around-the-way randomness includes screenshots, trains, graveyards, and two young guys play-boxing.
Ryshon, headphoned and emceeing to himself in front of a yellow school bus, is cross-cut with creepy, obscure old cartoons, people dancing at a lavish party, and a body lighting itself on fire, reversed like a photo negative to surreal effect. These images push against each other as Ryshon’s piercing words go creeping by: “For your heart, I’ll give you a ticket to inner peace/Put the mic down to my soul, let that sh*t hum a melody.”
The song was produced by Highleef, and according to Ryshon, “was inspired by me being observant to what’s going on today… just with people as whole and everyone’s motives. It would just make me say, ‘What is the American Dream anymore?’ [The video] portrays a tree of thoughts of someone hearing me for the first time and everything they see when taking [my] music on as a experience.”
Sun Singleton is a Northern Virginia-born singer/journalist based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @sunsing.
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