by G. Brown
What does Jussie Smollett’s “F.U.W.” stand for? It’s his commentary on the way of the world and is an abbreviation for “F**ked Up World”. Smollett took time from his role on FOX’s hit show “Empire” to direct a musical letter of sorts to the president. The black-and-white video focuses on racial and gender injustices plaguing society.
Smollett says, “This is not a single. It’s not a song to promote the series. It’s an artistic expression. My view of this sick cycle, an era in which we must fight our way out of before it’s too late.”
The singer and actor sums up the video as a type of call to unity and adds it is meant to guide young people in the fight against all that’s wrong with world, “That is why it is up to us. Train your daughters and sons to be soldiers of love, despite and in spite of this F**ked Up World.”
The powerful video takes on the Muslim ban, alternative facts, the wall, LGBTQ issues, racism and all the bigotry, hatred and division that has surfaced in America in recent years. While Trump’s administration is a primary focus of the video, the message reaches beyond just one man and targets core prejudices, hatred and beliefs that are hidden behind rhetoric and pretense–what Smollett represents as “masks”. Smollett says, “It’s so much bigger than him. It’s what he represents, and it’s because of that representation, that’s why he’s the president of the United States currently. It’s our opportunity to take those masks off and shatter them, so that’s what I did.”
Smollett’s video echoes the protests of the past set to music. Songs like John White’s “When A I Going to Be Called a Man” in protest of grown Black men being called boy by racists;, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to address lynchings; Nina Simone’s ” Mississippi Goddamn” captured the rage and heartbreak that spread in the Black community following the murders of Medger Evers and four children killed in a church bombing. By the 60’s a chorus of voices continued to sing of America’s shame and the persistence of those who dared fight. Voices like Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and James Brown’s “Say It Loud-I’m Black and I’m Proud” all played a part in laying the foundation upon which generations would get a footing to stand on a new consciousness of empowerment.
Smollett’s video follows in that path…just like Snoop’s recent video that has caused so much controversy. The rapper’s “Lavender/BADBADNOTGOOD” video remains true to the gansta rap genre with a raw edge that is too hardcore for critics like Steve Harvey, but it delivers the same message as Smollett’s smoother, R&B sound. Both Smollett and Snoop are simply describing the angst and despair that current day politics has unleashed. But at the same time, the subliminal message is people are fed up.
Whether it’s delivered in rap, R&B, Pop or spoken word, the message is the same refrain that’s been hummed for decades like when singing group The Impressions crooned it half a century ago in “People Get Ready”…