Given his affinity for videos, it’s no surprise that the first appearance by Joyner Lucas at Union Stage on Tuesday night was on a screen.

A video showed the Massachusetts-born rapper sweating through an awkward, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”-esque meal with the family of his fictional white girlfriend. After Lucas explains that he’s an artist, the father, all tight-lipped skepticism, orders Lucas to take the stage and prove himself. For Lucas, this brand of performance art is par for the course: he’s made a name for himself in recent years through music and videos addressing issues such as depression and racism. Many of Lucas’s videos emphasize his music’s occasionally heavy-handed nature — it’s an approach that’s earnest, but not always effective. However, his first D.C. performance showed an understanding of visual cues that helped bring a sense of clarity to the evening.

Lucas is notorious for his hard-line stance against a certain subsection of hip-hop’s fascination with drugs and materialism. When he finally took the stage, it was to his remix of “Gucci Gang,” the massive hit by rainbow-dreadlocked teenager Lil Pump, on which Lucas assails a generation of rappers whose subject matter he believes consists almost exclusively of their assorted vices. “Sippin’ lean, takin’ E, Percocets, Purple drank, Xanax, everything sound the same,” he rapped against the backdrop of an animated rapper with ­slot-machine eyes flashing a variety of drugs and jewels.

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Although Lucas didn’t treat the stage as his soapbox for the entire evening, that visual flair was a recurring theme. He let the videos for “I Don’t Die” and “Stranger Things,” from this year’s “Angels & Demons” collaboration with Chris Brown, play while he performed both songs. “I’m Sorry,” from his 2017 major label debut “(508) 507-2209,” deals with suicide and Lucas noted that he hoped the song reached everyone in need or crisis.

Less effective was his performance of “I’m Not Racist.” The song and its now-infamous video pits an ardent Trump supporter against a young black man in an attempt to get a “both sides” perspective on racial animus.

He explained that any dialogue the song started is how he aimed to change the world. But however well-intentioned it was, it’s simply not the springboard for a conversation that would ever be productive.

Instead, Lucas proved to be better suited for moments like pairing his rendition of Future’s “Mask Off” with the proper visual treatment. In this case, he used his signature rapid-fire flow while taking shots at the druggy rappers he loathes, juxtaposed against the bank heist scene from “The Dark Knight.”

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