Music Video Monday
This week on Music Video Monday: two videos that have fun with the good ol’ long tracking shot, and two more that try to balance a rapper’s inner-demons with their outer-swag. Are they all successful? Watch along after the jump:
Track: “Let the Beat Build”
Director: Chadd Harbold
How fun is this video? New York underground rapper Nyle, via Philly, created some buzz for himself when he vowed to record an album for every year he spent at NYU. This video for “Let the Beat Build” has an awesome art school vibe to it — something I’d usually say with derision, but here it’s nothing but dopeness. Not only was the clip shot in one take, but according to Nyle’s page, so was the audio, simultaneously.
But it’s far from being just gimmicky, it’s lively and joyous. Check the violinist at 2:13 whylin. Everyone here is having a blast and it’s more fun for the tiny mistakes, such as when Nyle bumps into dude’s trombone slide and motions his apologies. You hear the trombone stop mid-note. Also, gotta love the guys at the end in the graduation gear.
Artist: Zion I
Track: “Geek to the Beat”
Although not actually shot in one take, M.A.Y.O. also uses a long tracking shot effect for this Zion I video. It riffs off of Donnie Darko with the giant bunny, of course references Alice in Wonderland, and takes pleasure in general mind-fuckery. What’s with the inflated rubber gloves dangling from the ceiling? The back-lit dancers in tutus? Nothing here is particularly original, but I like how it’s a genuinely trippy video that doesn’t go overboard. It’s not trying to be visionary, it’s having fun with what music videos can do. The dancers aren’t even in sync.
It ends with a rewind effect that doesn’t really resolve anything, but is there anything really to resolve anyway? Good times.
Artist: Kanye West
Director: Hype Williams
This video has some great visuals and scenery but it doesn’t really work, does it? I’m not buying Ye’s performance here. He grimaces and gesticulates but I’m not buying his swagger. I wonder what the idea was behind the clip. Were the outdoors expanses supposed to mirror the greatness of Ye? Or set up a juxtaposition? Kanye seems dwarfed by everything around him, and being pretty much the only person in the video makes him and his lyrics seem lonely, small and petty.
In the jungle scene Kanye is placed off-centre and staring off the frame, his back vulnerable, and he even looks over his shoulder frequently, almost paranoid. I’m not sure if it was supposed to come off that way, as we’ve all seen his over-the-shoulders dance he started doing circa “Gold Digger”. On the boat he’s drapped in shadow. He rarely ever looks at the camera/us and it makes me feel like I’m spying on a kid with self-esteem issues practicing in the mirror. It’s awkward, as is the editing at times.
That was probably the point, as 808s & Hearbreak is an album about Kanye’s insecurities, but Hype Williams is not exactly the go-to guy when it comes to vulnerable videos, or videos with any type of meaning at all, really. This becomes evident wheen Jeezy takes the mic; he stares right into the camera and it’s typical rap video for a couple of bars replete with sexy slow motion dancer. Jeezy and Kanye are in two different videos and I don’t think he and director Williams completely understood each other on this one. Kanye is performing his insecurities, but despite the weird framing in spots and toning down of Williams’s trademark slo-mo/fast-mo, Williams shoots Kanye nonetheless like an icon.
Had potential, but it’s a miss.
Artist: Joe Budden
Track: “In My Sleep”
Director: Rik Cordero
In contrast to the last video, Joe Budden is great at portraying a persona both confident and insecure at the same time. Also, director Rik Cordero knows how to shoot videos that feel personal and slick at the same time. Shoutouts to Budden’s real life girlfriend Tahiry who gamely appears as herself even though Budden raps some personal ish.
The clip combines several different locations and ideas — Budden’s bed, the asylum room, Budden running through the streets in his staight jacket, Budden’s visions. It’s all amazing. I love the girl dropping the rings, the girl flipping the deck of cards at the screen. I love Budden’s vision of the girl living with AIDS in the wheel chair and how it morphs to her dancing in club gear. I love that we see Budden running, losing his breath, gaining composure and running again. And I love Budden’s performance, the grins, the way he sells his lines and gamely works with the straight jacket.
Cordero works the colours with subtlety, the reddish orange of Budden’s jumpsuit against the greyness of the street, the blues in the bedroom, and the muted shades in the fantasy sequences. In fact, I can’t get over how simply the fantasy sequences work overall. The smallest of gestures — the turning of a head, a hip sashay, a face that refuses to look up — are memorable and unsettling.