With the beginning of Black History Month, Leon Bridges comes forward with the strongest message he has presented to date: He is a black musician living in the present. Obvious, sure. But amid the hype and excitement surrounding his authentic, throw-back sound and carefully curated nostalgic imagery, it’s still a message worth noting. With the release of the music video for “River” we find Leon in a dream partnership with brilliant director Miles Jay as he takes off his vintage suit jacket and joins the dialogue of 2016. He reflects, takes his time, tells a powerful story, and shares a redemptive moment with the golden-voiced Brittni Jessie, who takes the song to an entirely new dimension.
In a statement made this morning Leon says, “When thinking about how to best represent this universal battle, I reflected on the depiction of black communities in our media and particular experiences in my own life. This video showcases the unique struggle many black men and women face across this country. However, unlike the captured images which tend to represent only part of the story, I wanted to showcase that through all the injustice, there’s real hope in the world.”
Old soul revivalist hype aside, Leon has never been one to shy away from his history with R&B or love of hip-hop. He’s open to talking about the present and where he comes from with honesty and humility. Still, it’s important to see him participating in present day conversation on this level. It shows a depth and relevance which far exceeds that of a novelty sound or Instagram filter. It shows maturity and fresh direction for what lies ahead. And it reminds us all that we live in a world of both injustice and hope, reality and redemption, past and present.