Usher and Nas Make Powerful Statement on Minority Lives Lost in Tidal Exclusive "Chains"

Usher and Nas Make Powerful Statement on Minority Lives Lost in Tidal Exclusive "Chains"
Source: Tidal
Source: Tidal

Usher's new single "Chains," featuring Nas and Bibi Bourelly, isn't the typical club anthem about heavy gold chains and partying all night that some fans may have been expecting from the title. Instead, the Tidal exclusive (which can be heard without a subscription to the streaming service) features a powerful audio and visual message about racial injustice and police violence in the United States. 

An innovative multimedia component accompanies the song. It accesses a listener's webcam to ensure they're watching their screens, as images of victims of police brutality appear, along with stories of how each person was killed. If a listener takes their eyes off the page, even for just a moment, the music abruptly cuts off and a message quickly flashes on the screen: "Don't look away."

Here's how it works: 

A simple message appears on the "Chains" landing page: "While racial injustice keeps killing, society keeps looking away."

Source: Mic/Tidal

The streaming service asks permission to access a user's built-in camera in order to ensure their eyes remain on the screen at all times. Once the technology identifies a listener's face and eyes, the song begins with an image of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012.

Trayvon Martin, 17

"Walking home from a store, Trayvon was profiled as a potential criminal by a neighbor armed with a gun. The man shot Trayvon dead. He was found not guilty."
Source: 
Mic/Tidal

As "Chains" continues, people of different ethnicities whose lives were taken by gun violence dissolve and appear one after another, underscoring very real and present racial inequalities in the U.S.

Caesar Cruz, 35

"Innocent of any crime, Caesar was cornered in his car by five police officers and fatally shot 15 times. He was still strapped in his seatbelt. No one has been charged."
Source: 
Mic/Tidal

Andrew Joseph, 14

For no reason, he was ejected from a state fair by police and left in an area surrounded by four busy roads. He was struck and killed while trying to cross one of the roads. No one has been charged."
Source: 
Mic/Tidal

Rekia Boyd, 22

"Rekia was with a group of friends when an off-duty Chicago police officer shot her in the head with an unregistered firearm. The officer was cleared of all charges."
Source: 
Mic/Tidal

Marlon Brown, 38

"Marlon was run down and killed by a police car. He was being pursued for an alleged seat belt violation. No one has been charged."
Source: 
Mic/Tidal

Kendrick Johnson, 17

"Kendrick was found dead in his high school gym. Hours of surveillance camera footage from the gym has since mysteriously disappeared. No one has ever been charged."
Source: 
Mic/Tidal

The victims, their stories and the accompanying lyrics, which focus on police brutality and recent school and church shootings, force listeners to confront the violence enveloping the nation, particularly affecting minority communities.

The song's heartbreaking narrative and method of visual storytelling leaves one final message: The countless shooting deaths around the nation can no longer be ignored. 

Source: Mic/Tidal

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta is a culture reporter at Mic, covering news, music and entertainment. He is based in New York and can be reached at criotta@mic.com

MORE FROM

Why Halle Berry believes her Oscar win "meant nothing" to diversity in Hollywood

Here is how the actress is getting involved to bring more diversity to Hollywood.

The 'Pretty Little Liars' series finale tackled fertility and it was the realest the show ever got

British evil twin aside, the 'Pretty Little Liars' finale dealt with a serious issue in a sober way.

'Baby Driver' reviews: Critics are in love with Edgar Wright's latest high-octane film

'Baby Driver' is being called one of the summer's best films.

'America's Got Talent' contestant Johnny Manuel dominates Whitney Houston ballad

The Flint, Michigan, native missed a shot at a music career in his teens. Now he wants a second chance.

How much money does the winner of 'Big Brother' season 19 get?

After battling it out all summer, the winner of 'Big Brother' gets a big payout.

'Game of Thrones' star Emilia Clarke filmed more in Belfast. What does that mean for Daenerys?

Many of the series' interior shots are filmed at Titanic Studios in Belfast.

Why Halle Berry believes her Oscar win "meant nothing" to diversity in Hollywood

Here is how the actress is getting involved to bring more diversity to Hollywood.

The 'Pretty Little Liars' series finale tackled fertility and it was the realest the show ever got

British evil twin aside, the 'Pretty Little Liars' finale dealt with a serious issue in a sober way.

'Baby Driver' reviews: Critics are in love with Edgar Wright's latest high-octane film

'Baby Driver' is being called one of the summer's best films.

'America's Got Talent' contestant Johnny Manuel dominates Whitney Houston ballad

The Flint, Michigan, native missed a shot at a music career in his teens. Now he wants a second chance.

How much money does the winner of 'Big Brother' season 19 get?

After battling it out all summer, the winner of 'Big Brother' gets a big payout.

'Game of Thrones' star Emilia Clarke filmed more in Belfast. What does that mean for Daenerys?

Many of the series' interior shots are filmed at Titanic Studios in Belfast.