Mani Draper Highlights the Challenges of Being Black in “Hearts of Men”

"Everyone else has a place or country of origin except us," the rapper says.

Credit: Adam Montgomery

On Saturday, May 13, Richmond rapper Mani Draper played an intimate show at a West Oakland art gallery, where he performed the entirety of his debut album The Last Marauder with live instrumentation. One of the songs he played was the mellow crooner “Hearts of Men,” which features syncopated melodies and a keyboard-laced backbone.

In the track, the husky-voiced emcee spits verses about the trials and tribulations he’s faced as a Black man in America, while at the same time affirming his strength, cooing lines like, “I got nowhere to go, still you can’t break me.”

“Everyone else has a place or country of origin they can identify with or call home,” Draper says about the Black population in the U.S. “Except us. We die over blocks and city coordinates that want nothing to do with us.”

In the accompanying music video for “Hearts of Men,” which was directed by Damien Donte and released early this week, Draper walks along a rural dirt road in Brentwood, with a backpack slung over his shoulder. He wanders around and frequently references an old-school paper map to figure out where to go — a metaphor, Draper says, for how lost the Black population in America is. Draper says he and Donte wanted to make the video “as minimal as possible” to truly convey the experience of “having no place to call home.”

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