Toward the end of 2013, we discovered Los Angeles singer King avriel through her Kendrick Lamar-inspired song “Prelude” and were reminded once again of the wealth of talented, young R&B singers painting the music landscape right now. Today, avriel’s back with the first part of her visuals for her latest single “Freedom.” The video clocks in at just 1:30 yet, as we’ve come to learn about avriel, she’s a visceral songwriter and so there’s plenty of deep, introspective meaning packed in the short timeframe. Luckily, avriel has explained the concept for both the visuals and song with a lengthy Tumblr post:
The song explores my first time experiencing true empathy. Calloused by the way I had been treated by men in my adolescence, I had to fall in love with a man who was deeply affected by the pressures of living in a patriarchal society to realize that the struggles that men face are just as important, valid, and harmful as the ones that women face. We simply struggle in different ways, and with different amounts of power. I then understood how valuable and necessary empathy was in fighting oppression, because as Paulo Freire (1970) asserts, inequity dehumanizes both the oppressed and the oppressors. Some may contend that our energy be better spent “redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future (Lorde, 1984).” However, I assert that through enlightening our oppressors about the benefits of inclusion and equality to his own group, thereby subversively appealing to his self-interests without diluting our own, we can begin to gain access to the opportunity to “construct the future” in our favor. Moreover, when one’s own oppressor is also a part of a marginalized group (e.g. black men and black women), it is important to practice empathy in order to build solidarity and bridge differences for the strength of the larger group of oppressed people (including people of color, Third World people, working-class and poor people, LGBTQ people, disabled people, elderly people, and women.)
The video took the idea of empathy and reimagined it visually. I wanted to juxtapose the song’s main theme with a metaphor that represents my recent name change. In this short vignette, my love interest, a transgender model named Nick, has taken a sip of the proverbial Kool Aid. He has, like the vast majority of us, subscribed to the idea that gender identities (i.e. woman vs man/ masculine vs feminine) must match that of our physical anatomy or sex(i.e. male vs female). Not only does this dominant ideology further marginalize the trans community, which is arguably the most affected by rigid gender binaries, it has also caused Nick enough pain throughout his life to make him want to numb himself. He and I are products of a distorted society that says gender is static and definite. Just as Nick is affected by mythical, yet strict, gender norms, so to was my first love stifled by the rules and expectations of black hyper-masculinity; similarly, I too have been suppressed and confined by the rules of “womanhood” all of my life. I contemplate drinking the Kool Aid too. Not only will following the dominant ideology make life simpler, but it will also allow me to be closer to Nick — satiating my newfound appetite for connection and empathy. However, I can’t bring myself to do it.
Essentially, the video is about confronting my recent decision to challenge gender norms publicly, which resulted in the changing of my name to King avriel (purposefully with a capital “K” and lowercase “a”). There are several other coded messages beyond the two characters, such as the Decepticons shirt, the font, my hair style, my laptop, the styrofoam cups, the ski mask, the sound effects at the end, etc, etc, that I look forward to expounding on in future interviews.
As King avriel continues to build a case for why she’s one of the more intriguing artists in her field, we’re given another reason to keep a close eye on what she has in store for 2014. Watch her video for “Freedom” above.