The Brazilian hip-hop artist Baco Exu do Blues is using his music to challenge Brazilian racial inequality and oppression. His second album Bluesman appropriates the blues genre, and draws upon its profound history to further this message.
Within the Bluesman lyrics, Baco says: "I am the first rhythm to make black people rich. I am the first rhythm to set black people free. Ring on the finger, on each of the five. Wind on my face, I feel alive. From now on I consider everything blues. Samba is blues, Rock is blues, Jazz is blues. Funk is blues, Soul is blues. I am Exu do Blues. Everything that when black was considered devilish. And then became white and was accepted, I will call it blues. Jesus is blues.”
To coincide with the album’s launch, AKQA was tasked to amplify the album’s message, as a manifesto to confront institutionalised racism, and to empower the black community.
Three songs from the album are scored into a cinematic short film that challenges the viewer’s preconceptions of race and human value, to expose and confront society’s unconscious racism. The eight-minute dream sequence transcends the traditional music-video format, and applies universal themes of growing up, growing old, faith, family and friendship, to unify all audiences in the quest for racial equality. The cast mainly comprises African-Brazilians, and every narrative detail is chosen for its racial and cultural significance.
The story follows a young black man who runs through a surreal landscape which merges reality with imagination, with an unexpected final twist. The striking visual imagery re-interprets historical symbolism of black resistance and white dominance, with a silver monolith that represents human evolution and social change. The video and music together carry an underlying tension that ultimately gives way to feelings of joy and hope.
The album artwork uses photography and graphic design to empower black Brazilian people by reinforcing their true human value. The artwork applies a ‘black and silver’ concept as a metaphor for how black skin and silver are less valued simply because they are found more easily than white skin or gold. The design draws upon the chemical symbol for silver to form a compositional frame to present things that are pure and precious. The photography applies various settings and treatments to make black skin stand out visually and conceptually, and the photographic scenes are an ode to black culture, placing black men and women not as the usual underdog but as Bluesmen i.e. protagonists of a life that’s happy and free. All of the artist touch-points are conceived to ignite self-esteem and a sense of belonging for the Brazilian black community.