'As We Speak' and the exploration of racial bias in rap music
Bronx rap artist Kemba explores the growing weaponization of rap lyrics in the United States criminal justice system and abroad — revealing how law enforcement has quietly used artistic creation as evidence in criminal cases for decades.
J.M. Harper’s self-assured directorial debut unfolds like an original odyssey, shedding light on the intersection between the weaponization of rap lyrics and threats to freedom of speech. Traveling with Kemba grounds the international exploration in the perspective of an artist. He guides us through the origins of gangster rap to drill, studies on racial bias in music, discussions with legal experts, and candid conversations with influential artists like Killer Mike to reveal a profound history of targeting Black music and artists. Harper’s seamless transitioning between restructured interviews, animated sequences, and imaginative reenactments reveals an audacious vision that also reflects the depth and interconnectedness of the issues at hand. Harper’s sophisticated and immersive journey merges style and substance, boldly weaving through a web of issues, and ultimately shining a light on the First Amendment, provoking crucial questions about whom it protects.