The-Dream has removed his ubiquitous shades, lost the lover-man R&B angle, and gone socially conscious for his latest single, “Black,” which hit YouTube late Tuesday. It’s run up more than 16,000 views in under 24 hours.

The clip is key lyrics from the would-be “heal mankind” anthem juxtaposed next to images of societal turmoil: Ukraine, the Los Angeles Clippers, Venezuela. There are candle vigils and nods to Marvin Gaye, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, President Obama. At the clip’s end, the hand-feeding becomes most apparent when the song and video’s M.O. is spelled out on screen: “Black isn’t just a race anymore … It’s a feeling and a place from which one feels isolated by the world of the governing elite.”

The clip’s comments sparked instant dialogue, and the video’s comments section ranges from thoughtful to flippant, exuberant, perplexing, and, of course, self-promoting:

I like the video but find it hard to put the rancher losing the land he grazes on in the same place as Kim Jun Il and Idi Amin. Even the clippers guy doesn't belong there. However it's his person views and I respect that though I don't agree.

I like the video but find it hard to put the rancher losing the land he grazes on in the same place as Kim Jun Il and Idi Amin. Even the clippers guy doesn't belong there. However it's his person views and I respect that though I don't agree.

Classism is not the new racism, cause racism aint never went nowhere, white supremacy aint never went nowhere so therefore classism an racism exist at the same time an one will not replace the other

I love it!!!! Tears to my eyes

Really getting tired of people saying gay and black is the same smh

The dream lost so much respect jumping on that gay rights bandwagon 

Quality rap music Creative next level music videos Coming from a 17yo Check me out, you will not be disappointed. Appreciate it. 

Dream, wisely, is just himself here. That’s why this project works. 

“Black” doesn’t fall into the No. 1 classic pitfall of conscious hip-hop, failing to differentiate between listing things and qualifying them. There’s no art in rhyming “Nina Simone” with “microphone” when you’re trying to be deep.
So The-Dream sticks to a feeling. The hook is “I’m feeling real black right now” (bonus points for the breaking news ticker in the clip that just reads “You’ve got me feeling real black right now”).

He’s basically going, “Man, what a depressing and intense time we are living in, #amiright?” 

It’s most effective and resonant when Dream goes personal: “My mama left incense burning on the dresser/She said never be impressed with a man with no message,” and “My father spoke to you through that liquor/Let us pray your idea outlives you.”  

But his best line is about the nature of racist headlines as they relate to the marginalized minorities that they attack. And how they linger and make you think twice going forward. “Tommy Hilfiger made me feel like a n****r/Kinda thing that sticks with you.”

Photo via Jason Persse/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)