It happens to the best of us. When temperatures rise above 15 degrees before May, you may also fall victim to feeling things like “excited” or “suddenly optimistic.” Somehow, when the annual news articles about these early heatwaves pile up, you read them with a fervour that belies the fact you did the exact same thing last year, and the year before, and the one before that. Look, it’s not the 70s anymore: warm days ambush us so often during spring that we should probably start considering that the norm.
Sure, a warming planet: not ideal. But on a micro scale, our wobbling weather patterns do set up an ideal home for tracks like this new one from rapper and all-round creative thinker Lava La Rue. Last year, the west Londoner debuted her LETRA EP, and set herself out as a key voice in her NiNE8 Collective of producers, filmmakers, singers, rappers and more. Now, her first new material of 2019, “Burn”, arrives with a video centred on friendship, community and showing out with the people you love. The song itself is propelled along by a UK funky two-step from which you could directly wring out scalding hot sun rays. And, as we hear from Lava, that sense of positivity came from a slightly unexpected place: the dancefloor.
“It came from an epiphany,” Lava tells us, “when I was at an event dancing with friends from my queer POC community. And we found ourselves singing along to these mad ignorant and pretty degrading lyrics, kinda looking at each other like, ‘we fully don’t agree with those lyrics but it’s bare catchy’” – so they kept dancing and trying to enjoy themselves. Essentially, they got on with things to “make the best of what you’re working with; I’m sure many can relate. It clocked afterwards that I wanted to – needed to – fill up this space for songs that are a vibe, that you wanna dance to, that you sing along to, but where the words that you are singing are ones of unity and empowerment.” Anyone who’s found themselves singing along to a lyric that directly demeans people like them – unfortunately, when said lyric features in a banger! – knows the feeling.
So instead, “Burn” concerns itself with finding your community. The song wraps itself like a hug around you and your closest friends, cradling you in the safety of their company. And the video – which we’re premiering here – follows in a similar vein. You flick between scenes of Lava play-duelling and dancing with her friend Abdourahman Njie, of Yagamoto Studios. They meet on the block, before moving to the street outside a Pak’s black hair shop and Costcutter. When night falls, you follow her and other NiNE8 members and friends into a dimly lit party, where at first people roll their eyes or seem to bristle at Lava’s arrival. Soon, though, everyone takes turns stunting for the camera and otherwise just doing their thing in the background.
As Lava tells it, she knew she needed model, dancer and photographer Abdourahman – who you see early on in the video – for the project. “At the time, he’d just finished a collab featured in GQ France, on his free movement dance style. We were about to go to a club night together celebrating our achievements (my single ‘Widdit’ had just hit 1 million views) and I told him, ‘I don’t just want you to direct the movement of this visual – I want you to star in it with me as my best friend.’” And so they wrote the storyline together, “loosely based around real life experiences of him and I walking around our local areas communicating by movement, entering a party space that feels hostile to us and reclaiming it as ours”. The song's hook "we will fight it" functions as a sort of rallying cry, to kick back against bullshit and people who choose to undermine or actively misunderstand you.
I've written before about Lava's dedication to self-love. It's a brave approach, when so much pop and rap still slumps towards the darkness of wanting to hide yourself, behind toxic relationships, behind surreal fantasies, behind the warming numb of Xannys. Instead, Lava steps out into the daylight and arms herself with the love of those who in turn support her. Pulling that off, and making it sound like sunshine? I'm with it.
Video shoot and edit by 33 BOUND
Directed by Curtis of 33 BOUND
Video concept/direction by Abdourahman Njie and Lava La Rue
Set design by Kyara Simone
Track produced by Nige/Sukha and L!BAAN of NiNE8 collective
Additional vocals by Nayana IZ
Additional production and mixed by Dilip Harris
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