Michael Kiwanuka wasn’t reaching for subtlety when he named his track “Black Man in a White World.” And good, he shouldn’t. Music is all about self-expression, but on the single, which is the first from Kiwanuka’s just announced album Love & Hate, he sings “I’ve got nothing left to say”—a declaration tinged with irony as the chorus comes on and Kiwanuka repeats over and over “I’m a black man in a white world.”
It’s not that Kiwanuka believes he nothing left to say (nobody names their album Love & Hate without having something to say), but that he believes what he has to say is not what white people want to hear. White people never get as angry as confronting the idea that they have privilege.
“Black Man in a White World” is an uptempo hymn set to handclaps, featuring funky guitar licks and a Motown string section. Lyrically, Kiwanuka’s mixture of frustration and hope can be seen in similarly themed songs on masterpieces like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On or more recently Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.
The song’s video is directed by Hiro Murai, who has helped shape surreal videos for everyone from St. Vincent to Childish Gambino. “Black Man in a White World” shares a similar mood to Lamar’s video for “Alright:” both are shot in black and white, feature cop cars as metaphors and have their protagonist floating above the city’s skyline. Yet, despite these similarities, Kiwanuka’s video still feels like a fresh statement.
Love & Hate comes out May 27. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and London, produced by Grammy Award winner Brian Joseph Burton AKA Dangermouse and young up-and-coming producer Inflo.