A new Beats by Dre ad poses a powerful question about how we value Black culture

Laura Zornosa
·3 min read

"You love me," says the voice of Houston rapper Tobe Nwigwe.

NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace looks into the camera, straight-faced. The clip is filmed in black and white.

"You love me not," says Nwigwe's voice.

Cut to a split-second, in-color clip of two Black kids in bathing suits.

"You love Black culture," Nwigwe's narration continues. "But do you love me? You love how I sound, my voice, these beats, this flow. Not me though, right? You love how I look: my hair, this skin. But me? Nah."

Nwigwe and Wallace collaborated with tennis champ Naomi Osaka, rapper Lil Baby, activist Janaya "Future" Khan, “Queen and Slim” director Melina Matsoukas and "When I Get Home" singer Solange Knowles on a new ad campaign for Beats by Dre.

Released Thursday, the two-minute advertisement, which Beats by Dre is calling a "film," asks viewers the question: “You love [Black] culture, but do you love me?”

"We don't get to exist," Nwige narrates. On screen, three girls lounge in an inflatable pool in the front yard. A fourth, older girl in a cheerleading uniform fills the pool with a hose.

"We're forced to survive," Nwige continues. "We still fight. We still play while the world burns — on fields that ain't even level. All men are created equal?That's my favorite part."

Nwige is credited alongside 30 other creatives in two brief slides at the end of the ad. The names of models, actors, activists and athletes blur by in the blink of an eye, each listed simply as "Black Person."

Scenes flash by. A father helps his daughter practice boxing. In a yellow dress, Haitian Japanese athlete Osaka studies an Ulrick Jean-Pierre painting. Two cowboys and a cowgirl stand on top of their horses.

"You hate us so deeply, but you're still so impressed," Nwige narrates. "Why can't you see there's history in our skin? You built this country on our backs. I'm him. He's me. She, us, we — are all Black."

"Power," belts the Jason McGee Choir. "Power to live right. I got the power. Power to walk right. We got power."

Although the "film" is, of course, promotional, the video's cast includes figures in the contemporary civil rights movement.

Nwigwe went viral in July for a 44-second track he rapped about Breonna Taylor. "I need you to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor," he raps in the brief music video filmed in his living room.

Celebrities ranging from Diddy to Madonna to Amy Schumer shared the clip. LeBron James also tweeted the ad Thursday evening, writing: "We’re King’s and Queen’s no matter if you LOVE us or NOT!! We’re going to be US!!"

Wallace has been heralded as one of the most successful Black drivers in the history of NASCAR. After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in May, Wallace called for NASCAR to ban the Confederate battle flag at races — which the organization promptly did.

In June, the Cup Series’ only full-time Black driver found a rope tied like a noose in his garage stall, and again received support from James.

Osaka, who has now won two U.S. Open titles, withdrew from the Western & Southern Open in late August, protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisc.

“Hello, as many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match [on Thursday],” she said in a statement at the time. “However, before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.