Don’t be fooled by the applause that starts off “Cointail.” Twenty-five seconds into the music video — directed by Dani Aphrodite — and it becomes unnervingly clear what the video is all about, as scenes zoom in and out on security cameras hanging above alongside countless buildings. At the center of this mass surveillance is Pink Siifu, who, despite delivering his verses in a coolly aloof manner, is anything but in the video. He looks behind his shoulder as he walks down a street, and peaks through his window blinds with wide, frantic eyes. Siifu thinks someone is watching him, his paranoia capturing the unease of living in a country that is becoming more and more of a surveillance state each day.
Jokingly referencing Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” (specifically Michael Jackson’s guest chorus vocals) before speaking on the seriousness of the video, Siifu said the visuals stemmed from us “being watched at all times.”
“So, this is just me tryna show that as best as I could at that time,” he said. “Either outside or inside it’s a camera everywhere, so niggas just gotta keep that in mind or just know it exist.”
With the LastnameDavid-produced “Cointail” being a reference to COINTELPRO — a series of covert and illegal projects conducted by the FBI — I asked Siifu about his thoughts on the recently-released Judas and the Black Messiah film, which tells the story of the late Fred Hampton, and puts into perspective how his death is so intertwined with COINTELPRO.
“Shaka King is family. I’ve known about this movie for a long time now and I’m happy it’s out and being nominated and all that shit ’cause he put in all the work,” Siifu said. “Talking with Shaka early on on the concept actually got me looking more into COINTELPRO, and instances between friends and other organizations. The thing about it is it’s an example for a lot of shit that gets fucked up from the inside.”
“Cointail” was released as an additional track on the deluxe edition of Siifu’s 2020 album NEGRO, which found the artist channeling not just his love for jazz and rap, but punk music too, specifically pioneering groups like Death and Bad Brains.
“Those groups make the best punk period. Like, if you really wanna know the essence and the root of this shit, I feel you gotta go to them,” he said. “Punk, rap, and jazz is all connected to me in a way ’cause it’s loud expression and can also be aggressive at times. So for me, they reminded me and let me know that I can express myself by being angry and loud and not always calm.”
“I saw this album as my way to channel that, and I had hella fun but also was hella sad to clip everything together and dig more deeper in the oppression we face both globally and locally,” he added. “Was a journey fasho, but I’m grateful I went there at least once in my career.”
Another artist that influenced NEGRO — and has been overall influence for Pink Siifu for some time — is Sun Ra. Although it was initially a challenge at first to get him to choose his favorite album from the late cosmic jazz pioneer, he settled on his 1979 album Sleeping Beauty “because of the way it flows and the romance.”
“Sun Ra is the true inspiration for a lot of us. I found out the dude Pedro Bell, who used to do all thr Parliament-Funkadelic album covers, was a huge Sun Ra fan and that makes so much fuckin’ sense to me,” he said. “Like, he’s inspired everything that had inspired me without me even knowing.”
The deluxe version of NEGRO can be listened to on Siifu’s Bandcamp.
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