"St. Louis: The decisions we make today impact the future we inhabit tomorrow."
Those are the words that appear onscreen to close St. Louis rapper J'Demul's latest music video, premiering today on RFT Music.
J'Demul, born Trevon McCray, was nominated for an RFT Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Artist (Solo) in 2016. ("Riverfront Times showing love but I don't trip off awards shows," he raps on this track. Hey, neat!) Laid-back rhymes and skillful storytelling are hallmarks of his work, which has also attracted the attention of national outlets including Mass Appeal, Passion of the Weiss and Team Backpack.
The new video was shot and directed by video artist Mike Roth, whom RFT profiled in a recent print feature. It tells a story of its own, with separate side-by-side shots running parallel in the frame. On the left we see J'Demul rapping in and around his childhood home in north St. Louis; on the right we get a history lesson about the infamously failed Pruitt-Igoe housing project, built in the 1950s and destroyed just twenty years later, whose lot lies just down the street.
Roth intersperses archival footage of the building's demolition alongside video of the lot's present state, overgrown by oak and hickory trees. It uses captions to discuss the new plans for the National Geospatial Agency to be partially constructed on the site, as well as the community of more than 200 residents that had to leave their homes in the NGA's footprint, displaced as the plans march forward.
It is at this time in the video that the warning for the future of our city appears onscreen — in all, a powerful commentary on the consequences of refusing to learn from the mistakes of the past.