LOS ANGELES – The unlikely stars of Ice Cube's new video are the grieving relatives of a 17-year-old high school football star who was shot to death outside his home.
The song "Why Me?" speaks out against senseless violence and gun crime devastating communities. Cube says Jamiel Shaw Jr.'s family is a powerful illustration of the pain that lingers after a murder.
"It just was a tragic, tragic story of why," Cube says. "Young people are dying for no reason all over the world that don't know why. It's ugly, everywhere."
Shaw had been on track for a college sports scholarship when he was gunned down in March a few yards from his house in a working-class neighborhood south of downtown Los Angeles. His mother was serving in the Army in Iraq at the time.
Pedro Espinoza, an illegal immigrant and suspected gang member who had been released from jail a day earlier on weapons charges, has pleaded not guilty to murder.
Prosecutors say Espinoza drove to Shaw's neighborhood and shot him after asking him about his gang affiliation. Police have said Shaw was never in a gang.
The rap video begins with the tightly framed, sorrow-filled faces of Shaw's parents and aunt. His father recounts a final conversation with his son.
"To drive this home, it was only right to use real family and not use a bunch of actors," Cube says.
His video features photographs of dozens of other crime victims blowing from a tree, then across the sand in the desert. It also depicts a young man in a football jersey being gunned down on a street. As he lays dying, he asks, "Why me homie, why me?"
Espinoza's early release from jail led the Shaws to call for the passage of "Jamiel's Law," which would push Los Angeles police to crack down on illegal immigrant gang members.
Cube says the video is not meant as an endorsement of the move.
"It ain't really a commentary on that," he says. "You've got a person being killed by a person he don't know for a reason he don't know ... Who cares if it was an immigrant or if it was a taxpaying citizen?"
For the Shaws, appearing in the video was a chance to further their petition drive to qualify the proposed law for the November ballot.
"Every time I start watching it, I start crying," Jamiel Shaw Sr. says. "At the same time, I feel good that we are getting the word out."