Kelela continues to expand her creativity with music videos, and her latest one for "Frontline" is nostalgic in an unexpected way. Remember the early '00s obsession with The Sims, where we would run home after school to play with our characters. If you were really advanced (and naughty), you figured out the jailbreak codes to make couples fight, argue and have sex.
Well Kelela has taken that piece of teen nostalgia to create her own fantasy where she breaks free from her ex-boyfriend. A simulated version of the singer drives up to her man's home (in a slick droptop Mercedes-Benz convertible) to deliver the bad news and sheds a single, glittery tear. She then sparks up a blunt to calm her nerves while reminiscing on both good and bad times with her ex. Kelela then picks up her two best girlfriends and they go on a joyride.
Kelela worked on the video's concept with Mischa Notcutt, while Claudia Matè developed the animation and visual effects. "With this Sims-like video, I was able to tell my story in a light-hearted but dramatic way," she told Rolling Stone. "It's about leaving your ex with the wind in your hair while acknowledging a curiously complex feeling of pain that he has left you for a white woman." The end result is quite mesmerizing, fusing virtual reality with abstract visuals and real-life heartbreak. It is another example of Afrofuturism, which has been a rising trend within the Black media and arts community. To break it down, the concept is a reimagining of a world where Black people are closely living with futuristic science and technology.
Mark Dery explored it in his essay “Black to the Future" almost 25 years ago. "Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures? he questioned. "Furthermore, isn’t the unreal estate of the future already owned by the technocrats, futurologists, streamliners, and set designers ― white to a man ― who have engineered our collective fantasies?"
John Jennings, a professor in the media and cultural studies department at the University of California Riverside and co-founder of the Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem, recently discussed the concept with Vox. "Afrofuturism, to me, is looking to the past, trying to examine it, and try to deal with an unresolved task around race and identity in this country, in the diaspora. It’s also looking to the future," he explained. "Both of these sides are wrestling. Black Panther is dealing with the now. You can say Afrofuturism is science fiction, but the setting of Black Panther is current day. It’s a parallel universe of: What if slavery didn’t happen?
Along with tackling ideas of new technology, Afrofuturism also attempts to create a safe space for Black people that is based on joy a freedom. It sheds and challenges the stereotypes placed on our culture. It has been seen in Black Panther with the balance of advanced metals like Vibranium with classic African folklore. Jordan Peele's Get Out also tackles it, as white people use modern technology to transport their minds into the physical bodies of vegetative Black people. Artists like Erykah Badu, Outkast, Missy Elliott, Frank Ocean, Jhene Aiko, Janelle Monaé and Willow Smith also incorporate the aesthetic into their music and accompanying videos. It was recently seen in Monaé's "Make Me Feel" and "Django Jane" videos.
And now, Kelela is the latest singer to incorporate it into her music. "Frontline" comes after her "LMK" and "Blue Light" singles, both of which are found on her debut album Take Me Apart. Next, watch rising artist Ravyn Lenae discuss how stepped outside her comfort zone on new Crush EP: