I could spend all day watching music videos. Sometimes I do — NSFW and all. (What? It's research.) This week, in particular, has been insane in terms of the amount and range of rap videos released — from Big Boi's semi-explicit visual for "She Said OK" to Brother Ali's poli-sci diatribe "Mourning in America." So here's a look at a few — not all — of the videos that kept me glued and imbued over the past week:
Big Boi feat. Theophilus London, "She Said OK"
After Thursday's salacious overdose (see: 2 Chainz and Kanye's "Birthday Song"), I was fully prepared to fast from any and all freak-nasty visuals. Then I found out Big Boi dropped his video "She Said OK" feat. Theophilus London. So I had to make an exception, right? Big gives new meaning to the word "laptop" in this one. The man behind the hook (shown singing it in the video) is a local up-and-comer who's right in sync with the Dungeon Family bloodline. His name is Tre Luce, and he got his own freak on earlier this year with the release of his video for "You Can Bust," after giving us an Atlanta history lesson with the Artemis Jenkins-directed docu-vid "The Return." Side note: I like how Big Boi has been pairing himself lately with artists who are sort of the yang to his yin — like Theophilus, and Little Dragon. It's almost as if he's finding polar opposites he can vibe with a la Andre 3000. Should make for an interesting mix when Big's second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, drops later this year.
Nas, "Bye Baby"
This Nas video is rather tepid, kind of like his new album. I know, I know. Everybody's calling it a classic. One of his best! They're wrong. Nas' best albums are: Illmatic, Stillmatic, Hip Hop is Dead, The Lost Tapes, and God's Son. And in that order! (What up, Momma Dee.) The new LP Life is Good is good. But not great. Not even one of his top five. Still, the video for "Bye Baby," the break-up song inspired by ex-wife Kelis, is cool for other noticeable reasons. It reproduces the Life is Good album cover visual to a T, and even features the legendary green wedding dress Kelis left behind when she moved out, according to Nas. But the best featured appearance in the video is that of Aaron Hall, former lead singer of Guy, who sings the hook to the group's classic song, "Goodbye Love," which serves as the sample.
Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, "Position of Passion"
Still kicking myself for missing Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire when he opened up for Killer Mike and El-P a couple of months ago at Masquerade in Atlanta. A Brooklynite aptly described by Stereogum as the "dirtbag-rap prince," he tends to remind me of Queens rapper Akinyele from back in the day — both in vocal tone and gritty subject matter. This latest video is almost tame compared to last year's "Huzzah." But I guess it's cool that he hasn't changed his style any since signing a major label deal earlier this year — as if major labels have ever had a problem with strippers sprawled out on pool tables. Sorry kids, this one's NSFW. Next —
Rapsody, "Kind of Love" feat. Nomsa Mazwai
Really digging Rapsody's new album The Idea of Beautiful (streaming on DJBooth.net) right now. I'm not going to say it's that "real hip-hop" cause that's damn near cliché at this point, but Rapsody is real. It's impossible not to think of Lauryn Hill when she rhymes, mostly because of her delivery and self-reflection. But whenever I find myself reaching for a Lauryn Hill comparison, it serves as a commentary on the state of the industry and the kind of female emcees it isn't promoting nowadays. The 9th Wonder protegée and North Carolinian filmed the latest video for her new project over in South Africa, where she and 9th just happened to bump into actor Idris Elba, who was there filming a new Mandela biopic. Rapsody tells the Urban Daily how Elba wound up helping her shoot new footage and even made a cameo appearance in it. She also talks about the inspiration behind the album cover and how it captures her definition of beauty:
“The main stream only shows you about 15 % of what hip-hop is. And there is a whole other beautiful side in the lyrics and story telling that the average person doesn’t get to see,” says Rapsody. “They think it’s just cars, sex and drugs. So my idea of beautiful is just being yourself. Whether it’s how you look, the music you make, whatever in life, just be yourself. That’s the idea of beautiful to me.”
Ra Ra, "Focused"
I'm not familiar with Atlanta street rapper Ra Ra, but after peeping his video posted on Maurice Garland's blog I had to check it out. Those who know Garland know he has an ear like an A&R, so when he gives his approval it makes sense to listen. According to Garland, the former So So Def affiliate who went by the name Young Capone is out to reinvent himself and has a supertight album due to drop real soon. It's a no-budget video but still gives Ra Ra a good look and allows the listener to focus on his lyrics and persona. I'll be interested to hear what the album sounds like.
Brother Ali, "Mourning in America"
It's no secret. Brother Ali is a legally blind Muslim albino — who can rap his ass off. His new album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, drops Sept. 18. This week, HuffPo debuted his new video for the political diatribe "Mourning in America." After last week's contentious Spin-inspired debate over Lupe's video for "Bitch Bad" and the need to hold conscious rappers to a certain aesthetic and critical standard, I found myself carefully dissecting Brother Ali's video — much more than I did Big Boi's, MFN eXquire's, or any other new video that debuted this week, which is part of the problem. In a conversation I had with Atlanta-based visual artist Fahamu Pecou last week (coming soon), we talked about how funny, or sad, it is that certain images/messages in rap videos/music have become such the norm that we don't even question them anymore. And trust, I'm all for holding conscious music to a higher standard — like Killer Mike tweeted last week, a lot of conscious music is wack; any song that doesn't pass what Janelle Monáe's Wondaland crew likes to call "the law of the jam," shouldn't get a pass — but if critics are going to start calling out so-called conscious artists for being cliché, why discriminate? There are enough tired rap clichés on both sides of the fence. Which brings me to the last joint on this week's list —
Gucci Mane feat. Jeremih, "Too Damn Sexy"
I actually didn't intend to post the new Gucci Mane video. Not because it's "Too Damn Sexy," per the title, but because it's too damn boring. Guess it's come to the point that cats feel like they can release soft porn vids with no concept or creativity and still get their views up. Maybe the arguments against these kind of videos are as played out as the videos themselves. And really, I'm not even mad at Gucci or any artists who goes this route — especially when he's bankrolling his own video out-of-pocket to promote a self-released mixtape. It's low-budget. The models probably cost more than the location rental. And bottom line: Sometimes it's not about art or politics, it's strictly business. Yeah, like it or not, that's "real hip-hop" now, too. Ya heard.
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