Kehlani’s ‘Next 2 U’ Music Video Is Queer and Pro-Palestine From Start to Finish

Kehlani has long been an outspoken advocate for Palestinian liberation and has been protesting against the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Today, she used a music video drop to continue that work. The music video for her love song “Next 2 U” opens with words by Palestinian American poet Hala Alyan as well as words of resistance: “LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA.”

KEEP YOUR MOON LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA

As the music video continues, it’s full of images of Palestinian liberation and resistance. Kehlani and her backup dancers don suits made out of keffiyehs, and the Palestinian flag appears throughout the music video. This is art that isn’t subtle or indirect in where it stands. This is so much more than wearing a pin on a red carpet. Kehlani proves artists can and should be doing more to work meaningful politics into their art.

The imagery throughout the music video is also extremely queer, Kehlani and her backup dancers all up on each other. This doesn’t feel out of place or disconnected from all the Palestinian imagery in the video by any means but rather directly connected. Queer liberation and Palestinian liberation are linked. I’ll say it over and over and over for those in the back who still need to hear it. Kehlani being vocal about Palestine places her in a lineage of queer artist-activists who have done the same.

Kehlani with a dancer in the NEXT 2 U music video

Just watch the music video in full:

Here, Kehlani proves any kind of art can be made political if you want it to. The song itself isn’t an overt protest song or about Palestine, but by suffusing the song with images of Palestinian resistance, she gives the work a message, using her platform in an organic and non-performative way.

Kehlani reflected on the making of the music video on Instagram, opening the caption with a quote by Black author-activist Toni Cade Bambara: “The role of the artist is to make revolution irresistible.” According to Kehlani, her creative partner and the creative producer of the music video Sally Sujin Oh prioritized hiring Palestinians on set. The caption also makes reference to James Baldwin’s views on the role of an artist, and if you haven’t read Baldwin’s The Creative Process, I urge you to do so now.

Oh also posted about the making of the music video, writing on Instagram: “music videos are often painstaking and sometimes you’re left in an existential crisis about why you care so much. not this one. @kehlani has always been vocal but this is the first time working in this space that I was able to work with an artist that wanted to amplify palestinian writers, artists, and movement leaders.”

The music video ends with a block of text noting an attempt to end the video with a scroll honoring the names of the thousands of children killed by Israel’s genocidal attacks (and bolstered by bombs provided by the U.S.). The list was so long that even at its fastest scroll, it lasted a full three minutes and was illegible. The video’s description includes a link where people can scroll through the names. It would have been an empty gesture to merely provide an illegible list of names scrolling. This route is much more meaningful.

It’s also, it should be said, just a really great music video. There’s a misconception that all political art skews corny…rooted in the fact that a lot of political art is corny, but that corny art usually thinks it’s saying more than it actually is instead of saying something with its full chest. This music video avoids being corny by being good art with good politics from top to bottom.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 861 articles for us.

14 Comments

  1. Are you fucking serious?? “Long live the intifada”?!? Terror attacks and lynchings is something you celebrate? Oh wow, Autostraddle doesn’t even try to hide its antisemitism anymore. Your stance since 10/7 has been deeply disappointing. Shit like this is the reasons why so many Jewish people no longer feel safe in queer spaces.

    • I love this new song from Kehlani! Kehlani will be forever in my heart – proudly queer and proudly supporting Palestine <3

      Thank you Autostraddle for being on the right side of history in supporting the cause of Palestinians and speaking up against genocide.

      • So nice to see some smart people on here unlike this Kayla girl and the rest of the useful idiots.

        Right side of history according to who? Oh yeah the supreme leader of Iran, the leading sponsor of world terrorism.

        Autostraddle is complicit in Hamas’ plan to wipe Jews from the face of the earth aka actual genocide.

  2. I can’t believe what I’m reading. You guys are seriously glorifying the Intifada??!! Are you so ignorant that you don’t know that the two intifadas were periods of suicide bombings and lynchings?? Or does it not matter to you? I’ve been a faithful reader for years, Autostraddle was a huge part in my coming of age and coming out process. But how you chose to position yourself after the pogrom of 10/7 has been like a punch to the gut. Zero consideration for Israeli victims, zero interest in the wave of hatred that Jewish people have been experiencing all over the world since then. Apparently you’re only interested in the experience of Jewish people if they are Antizionists. Do you even know what Zionism is? It’s the political movement for the establishment and support of a safe state for Jews in their ancestral homeland. It’s not colonialist – in fact, it’s the opposite. You have lost a long time reader but I cannot take your blatant antisemitism anymore.

  3. It’s ok for people to fight for the rights of others. Although the facts, and words like genocide and apartheid are used somewhat undifferentiated. I have always been in favour of a Palestinian state. But the discussion and protests these days are often shockingly characterised by naivety. I also find it shocking how the biggest humanitarian crisis and most ruthless war currently taking place is completely ignored in all the political campaigning against wars. So if you are really interested in the welfare of people and peace, please educate yourself:
    https://www.unrefugees.org/news/sudan-crisis-explained/#:~:text=On%20April%2015th%2C%202023%2C%20violent,)%2C%20asylum%20seekers%20and%20refugees.

  4. Autostraddle – with all due respect. You are pop journalists trying to dabble in things that are a bit more complex than “Queer horoscopes for June 2024”. You’re punching above your weight but more than anything, you’re at this point even advocating for terrorist attacks if you’re implying that “long live the intifada” is a normal thing to write.

    Your nonsense is the opposite of what actual Israeli-Palestinian peace activists are working towards. I’ve heard more than once that the first people that reached out to Jewish friends just after the Hamas terror attack were Palestinian. Those on both sides who are sensible and lost family members in the past know that this conflict is not like a football game where you cheer on one side and vilify the other.

    Have y’all actually ever talked about how Hamas has made life in Gaza complete hell, how it literally stole from the Palestinian people to build mansions for its leadership, how a high number of Palestinians were fed up with aid disappearing into the Hamas tunnels, how LGBT-Palestinians have had no other chance than to flee to Israel to either live there or – most often – to be granted asylum in European countries while waiting in Israel?

    No you haven’t because that would force you to stop focusing on Israel for a second.

  5. I appreciate your unwavering support for the Palestinian people and I am glad you continue to stand against genocide and apartheid, the correct term for what is happening in Gaza. Definitely going to continue with my Autostraddle A+ membership and give you all as much support as I can. keep fighting the good fight and free Palestine!

  6. Adding my voice to the comments that AS has completely lost it. This video is grotesque – a weird, slick tribute to Tiktok brainwashing. It has never been clearer that the loudest voices have no idea of the complexity of this conflict, that you want to engage in simple narratives, and that you bleat about oppression but cannot recognize hate when it’s right in front of you. This is faux liberation. This is embarrassing. Shame on you.

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