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Every few months a music video comes along that goes beyond an expression of art and becomes a beacon for social change. The latest artist to use their platform to help progress the conversation on a horrifying reality for so many Canadian women is East coast rapper Classified with his song “Powerless.”
Dropping the music video on Wednesday, Classified used inspiration straight from recent headlines to craft both a song and video that deliver a gut punch of reality and help give a voice to the voiceless. Classified took inspiration from the 2016 case of Christopher Butt, a man from his native Newfoundland who was sentenced to five years in prison for raping an 11-year-old girl. Classified was vocal about the case on social media, calling for a harsher punishment for Butt and anyone else who abuses a child.
For the first half of “Powerless,” Classified draws from the case for the backstory, showing a father and a Priest using their positions of power to assault young girls. For the second half of the song and video, Classified looks at another group of women with a long history of violence against them, specifically Canada’s Indigenous women.
The video, which was shot in Millbrook First Nation, features women dancing in traditional clothing in a forest. The women are surrounded by red dresses as part of The REDress Project, an art installation by Jamie Black, who has been displaying 600 red dresses across the country to represent the 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
Classified does not appear in the new video, which features only Indigenous actors. In some scenes, posters of actual missing Indigenous women are displayed as yet another way to drive home the epidemic of abused, missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
Posting about the song on his Facebook account, Classified writes:
This song is a combination of a lot of different people’s stories that were shared with me either face to face, or through messages on social media… thanks to everyone who helped with the song; from the young girl in Newfoundland who wrote me “thank you to my hero , i hope to meet you someday” when I posted about her rape case last year… to the woman who let me use a recorded conversation of her mother confronting the minister who abused her… to my father for playing guitar… to all the vocalists on it.. Christine Campbell, Laura Roy, and Elijah Will… to the young choir from Ontario who sang on it… to my daughter’s friend for singing the young girls part… and most importantly, to everyone who will help share this song and it’s message. We need to speak up for these kids… don’t let them feel powerless.
As for the impactful video, Classified worked with Canadian director Andy Hines, who was nominated for a Grammy for his work on Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid’s suicide prevention music video for “1-800-273-8255.”