Two local rappers have recently released videos that not only speak bold truth to the experience of being black in Asheville, but take the viewer into spaces many white Asheville residents rarely visit. These art works ask us to think about the hardships our neighbors face and the disparities that Asheville’s white residents can easily ignore. At the same time, both videos approach the topic of black lives in Asheville with raw authenticity. Words are not minced, comfort levels are challenged and feelings are not spared. Both videos contain language that will be disturbing to some viewers, and the first depicts gun violence.
Teyg Davidson, aka TEYG, recently released “My Life.” Filmed by Andrew Anderson, the video opens with a gun held to TEYG’s head, his expression one of resignation. Some of the song’s lines are delivered by the vocalist as he appears to lie in a pool of his own blood.
But there’s also a sense of celebration and perseverance as TEYG dances with his community at Pisgah View Apartments. Bikers do stunts. The energy is palpable and immediate.
“It’s either get rich or die broke, it’s either live fast or die slow. Outside and looking in, that’s how I know all that I know,” TEYG sings, his vocal both powerful and soulful. “You gotta know I live this sh*t, it’s running through my veins. You gotta know I am this sh*t, so I can never change.”
On the May-released video for his song “My City has Lights,” Davaion Bristol, aka Spaceman Jones, delivers these lines: “Seems to me they’re trying to bring back that old thing / Jimmy Crow, human trafficking / the plantation transforming to the damn pen / free labor is the plan to make this land great again. / It goes deeper than the hate of brown skin.”
The video, shot by Asheville Media Productions, shows scenery from downtown Asheville as well as Hillcrest Apartments, juxtaposing spaces of privilege with those that receive fewer resources and are tucked out of sight of tourists’ eyes.
Bristol offers his insights unflinchly, neither sugar-coating his experiences nor giving over to anger or despair. His is a steely wisdom that lets no party off the hook, but asks us all to do better — for ourselves, for each other and for our shared city.