Residente’s ‘This is Not America’ Music Video Won Grand Prize at Cannes

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Residente’s very political music video or his song “This Is Not America,” which features Ibeyi, took home the coveted Grand Prix for Entertainment Lions for Music award on June 21. The award stands out because the Cannes Lion Awards bills itself as “the global benchmark for creative excellence,” and this win ​​makes Residente one of the first Latine artists to win the prestigious prize. 

The video mixes a startling contrast of images — beauty is on display amid brutality — a couple dressed in dazzling evening wear, tango on the streets set on fire as protestors clash with police. Indigenous children in traditional garb from various cultures are shown in conflicting settings of modern capitalism. 

Residente’s lyrics seem to come from a place of frustration in getting people to understand the depth, beauty, and struggle of what being “American” means. He provides listeners with a history lesson (that doesn’t appear to be aimed at one specific group) by reminding them that the Americas go beyond the U.S.A. — 2Pac is named after the Perúvian revolutionary Túpac Amaru and the footprints of indigenous communities were made long before colonizers arrived. Ibeyi, the French-Afro duo of Naomi Díaz and her twin sister Lisa-Kaindé, sing the deadly and haunting chorus: “Here we are/ We are always here/ We didn’t leave/ We’re not leaving/ Here we are to remind you that if it wants to/ My machete will bite you.” 

The song is the fruition of a three-year project Residente embarked on with professors from Yale and New York University. The Puerto Rican rapper was shown images of worms, mice, monkeys, and fruit flies. His brain patterns were studied and recorded in order to create a music frequency that was then converted into the electronic beat blended into the song. 

Earlier this month, the “This Is Not America” music video also won Best Director, Best Music Video, and Best Video Effects at the Berlin MVA, and Best Video at the AICP Awards. Add that to Residente’s four Grammy Awards and 27 Latin Grammys.