Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Sun Also Rises: Richie Spice "Youths Are So Cold"

Richie Spice's video hints that no single person is responsible for the circle of depravity in his homeland, but that everyone has a responsibility to make sure kids never grow up feeling cold and forgotten...

Richie Spice "Youths Are So Cold"

dir. by Ras Kassa The Guru

Beginning and ending with shots of children on the streets of Jamaica, Richie Spice's video for "Youths Are So Cold" is a revealing look at the depressingly cyclical situation of his homeland. Just as the song laments a suffocating system of poverty, violence and lack of education, director Ras Kassa The Guru shows us a visual world of underground alleyways and insurmountable walls. And while the environment is specific to one country, the message of the video is relevant for anyone, anywhere in the world.

The camera comes in through the roof above Richie Spice in an early shot, and from this moment forward we are within the confines of Spice's world. The narrative focuses on a couple of violent acts in the name of monetary gain, but it does not attempt to romanticize these depictions. Though the young boy who stabs an innocent girl in order to obtain her cellphone is clearly in the wrong, his situation is far more complicated than we can imagine. Not only has he likely grown up in poverty and hunger, as Spice sings "searching for food for the pot, they'll do anything to fill that gap," but he has little faith in society to provide any opportunity for him to transcend his upbringing. A bespectacled white man observes events from a bridge but doesn't move to help, and the subsequent police brutality simply reaffirms the kid's feeling of worthlessness.

Spice comments on the sun shining each day, but the video underlines his opinion that it's simply an "illusion" of happiness; turning the bright colors of a freshly painted wall into dull grays. Within the same scene, as a teenage boy paints those walls, there is an elderly man staring blankly at the camera next to Spice. Life can turn so quickly from the hopeful sunshine of youth to the bitter regret of old age, and this is perhaps the greatest pain that Spice feels. He stands somewhere between the two other characters, at the crossroads of his life. What he realizes is that too many lives are spent solely on survival, rather than pursuing and utilizing the optimism of childhood.

The youth are both literally and figuratively left out in the cold in this process. Spice believes it starts with access to education, but it is equally important to consider what children are actually being taught in classrooms. Even kids who go to school their entire lives end up "cold" and disillusioned as a result of being educated to consistently doubt themselves. Somewhere along the way the spirit of life is suppressed and the fire put out. The goal is to raise everyone out of the slums of hopelessness, but step one is expressing our emotions openly rather than walking blindly over bridges; so that we might inspire the younger generations. With this video Richie Spice has made a valiant first move.

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