A hand slowly emerges from a cool, calm expanse of water. “New Kung Fu Kenny, ain’t nobody prayin’ for me, y’all know, what happens on Earth stays on Earth,” American rapper Kendrick Lamar raps in the background.

The video abruptly cuts to a succession of violent images: people fighting, a man covered in blood, a house up in flames. Lamar’s striking music video Element, from his latest album Damn, has evoked strong reactions.

The powerful video is a homage to the famous photojournalist and filmmaker Gordon Parks, who was known for capturing the struggle of African-Americans, particularly during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Directed by Jonas Lindstroem and “the little homies” – Lamar and Dave Free, president of Top Dawg Entertainment – the video takes viewers through life in the ghettos and works as a symbolic essay on the black community in the country.

It juxtaposes captivating, violent images – like an African-American child holding a gun, a father teaching his son to fight, and glimpses of prisons and police violence – with gentle, calm ones, like a boy with a ladybird on his head, and another one standing in the rain.