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Music Video Round-Up: A Milli, Killer Mike, Nappy Roots

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Lil Wayne: ‘A Mill’ (directed by Gil Green)

Like the song, the video for ‘A Milli’ feels half-complete and tossed-off. Also like the song, the video also grows more fascinating the more you come back to it. Director Gil Green has long been a fan of the single-take that’s not really a single-take but feels like one–see ‘Stay Fly’ or ‘Hell Yeah’—but those other videos gained energy or chaos through the immediacy of shaky cameras and long, loosely orchestrated action, ‘A Milli’ just casually walks through and never picks up or goes anywhere. It’s moment-to-moment, just like Wayne’s free-associative raps.

While no rapper’s gotten more hype in the past couple of years than Wayne, ‘A Milli’ as a song and video is the first thing he’s done that doesn’t feel at all compromised. Ultimately, ‘Tha Carter 3’ itself is a compromise, but everything about ‘A Milli’ highlights Wayne’s insularity. Like the best rap songs, it’s just a dive into the rapper’s head and the video matches it by giving us a kind of “Wayne uncut”. It’s a mini-documentary like those old Hollywood so-and-so “On the Set” things that sometimes run between films on Turner Classic. In the space between his trailer and the actual video shoot—for the next single that is—we get this really raw and complicated portrait of Lil Wayne. He only occasionally decides to rap along with the song, he takes a shit, he changes his clothes, he does a Leprechaun kick, he puts on a Presidential smile for fans who want a picture, he drinks two styrofoams cups of purple, and he munches on some food. Nothing cool, nothing bad-ass, just Wayne. Tom Breihan’s spoken about the way Wayne “challeng[es] ideas of rap stardom” and this video’s a perfect example. ‘A Milli’ is this weirdo freestyle that’s inexplicably turned into the song everybody loves but that doesn’t make it less of a weirdo freestyle. I would be perverse to try to turn this hit song into anything resembling a conventional video, so Green and Wayne don’t.

Killer Mike featuring Ice Cube: ‘Pressure’ (directed by Giovanni Hidalgo)

The ‘Pressure’ video exudes the anger of the song and gets its mix of fuck everybody for this bullshit anger and tough-minded, this is what we can about it fervor perfectly. It never even tries to be conventionally coherent and constantly works with point and counter-point. It operates on like conventional, classic film grammar something movie directors rarely do and music video directors even less so. When you cut between our Jesus-loving President, any number of black church leaders, and Jim Jones, there’s an overt but not obvious connection between all three of these schlockmeisters, topped off with Godardian text across the screen: “Churchs Make 20,000 Annually”. The constant thread is only hypocrisy and corruption, not relegated to certain races or political persuasions.

The text, either hard facts or hard-ass sloganeering really is Godardian—it has the sloppy chaos of his 70s work and 90s video work only Mike actually believes what he’s saying—and is also closely connected to the anarchic strands of graffiti writing. All that “medium is the message” type junk…when an image of Barack Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres comes across the screen, what are we do to with it? OJ trying on the infamous black glove? It’s reducing these moments to the image themselves and also all their hundreds of contexts and none of them at the same time.

Images bounce off one another and rhyme and conflict and complement and sometimes even just stand on their own. Killer Mike rapping to a wide-angled, dirty security camera, the mélange of famous political footage, celebrity gossip trash, and the kind of footage people post on message boards and SpaceGhetto because it’s sick and violent, all placed into an almost end-of-days context. This is the same mix of sincere political activism, asshole hubris, and the understanding that you gotta entertain, that made Christopher Hitchens get his ass water-boarded. If ‘Pressure’ came out a month later, you could expect to see chubby, drowning Hitch drop those iron bars somewhere in there…

Nappy Roots featuring Greg Street: ‘Good Day’ (directed by Lenny Bass)

Rather than placing Nappy Roots and friends on a street corner or even in like a public park or something, this video places them in front of a low-lit black background that’s then filled-in with the appropriate props (a bed, basketball hoop, cars, street signs). It anchors the video, moves it away from every other “hanging-out” Southern rap video, and makes the all-kids chorus part even more joyful. The hand-held work moving through the classrooms as the kids clap and sing is even more exciting because it looks and feels full of life compared to the minimalism of the performance parts.

Not that those parts don’t have their own sense of energy and fun. There’s plenty of fun and naturalism on the set as well, kids clapping with adults, the guy goofily leaping onto the bed, kids and adults making funny faces towards the end, but there’s a sense that the performance part is the Nappy Roots talking about it and the chorus/classroom part is their dream of a day where “nobody gonna die” come true.

Unabashedly fun and communal, with absolutely no interest in conventional rap signifiers of cool—as I said, even the sexy girl in the bed just gets playfully jumped-on—‘Good Day’ celebrates the minor victories of a new fresh shirt, a barbeque, or a basketball game and makes them palpable. When member Fish Scales grabs a plate and happily chomps down on a burger at the end of his verse and right before the chorus, it’s perfect.

Written by Brandon

July 11th, 2008 at 11:45 pm

How Big Is Your World? New Rap Songs.


-Nappy Roots ‘Good Day’
Click here to download ‘Good Day’
Driving around North Carolina two weekends ago, this song was on the radio constantly but it hasn’t made its way to Baltimore/DC stations or maybe they just aren’t interested in it, which makes sense because back when they were popular, Nappy Roots seemed pretty second-rate. A few years later, given the insane amount of Southern rap that gets on the radio, these dudes seem a little more interesting. ‘Good Day’ makes absolutely no 2008 rap concessions…it sounds the same as the songs that got Nappy Roots big in the early 2000s or maybe like something of Scarface’s ‘The Fix’ when he’s rapping manic utopianism instead of depressive fuck-it-all threats.

-88-Keys featuring Kid Cudi ‘Wasting My Minutes’
Click here to download ‘Wasting My Minutes’
The thing about this track is that it doesn’t hide its obvious production tricks at all. The sample slowly mutates into chipmunk voice along with some really simple Daryl Nathan-esque keyboard squelches, a subtle drum and then, this really heavy drum drops along with some perfect la-la-las and the song finally begins. The concept’s funny and like knowingly offensive and boiling it all down to the dumb girl’s wasting his cell-phone minutes is extra hilarious. It’s not a surprise that Kanye’s releasing dude’s album; this is the kind of shit Kanye’d still be doing if he wasn’t a megastar.

-E Major ‘Don’t Worry’
Click here to download ‘Don’t Worry’
The thing about this dude E Major is that his music won’t click right away. Of course, it sounds like really solid, 90s-influenced “hip-hop” and that’ll do, but his beat selection and the shit he raps about sort of slowly gels together over a bunch of listens- except for ‘Don’t Worry’, which should grab anybody with ears. A beat by DJ Excel that rides some whirling soul-strings and really weird-sounding drums–it sounds like a drum and a clap hitting at the exact same time– as E essentially raps about his minor victories as a rapper and then changes it up in the final verse that shouts-out a dead friend, drops the bragging for self-reflection, and humble thank-yous, then fades-out…

-Cody Chesnutt ‘Afrobama’
Click here to download ‘Afrobama’
Really topical songs of political hope are always better than hyper-topical songs decrying the government or the president or whoever else. Curtis’ “Nixon sayin’ don’t worry” works and Willie D’s final verse on ‘Point of No Return’ from ‘The Resurrection’ grabs political outrage in a way that’s clear enough whether you know who J Edgar Hoover is or not, but too many songs of the sort just feel knowing and obnoxious. Whether Obama’s the second coming to you, the better of two evils, or the dude you’re plain not voting for, ‘Afrobama’s just unabashedly celebratory and you should relate to that sense of actually caring enough about something to make a song about it. Also, just a really smart song in terms of referencing or trying to ape the political urgency of someone like Fela; also, the song feels like a sly reference to Vampire Weekend’s Afro-pop aping. Will there ever be a follow-up to probably the fourth best album of the 2000s ‘The Headphone Masterpiece’?!

-Mt. Eerie ‘Appetite’
Click here to download ‘Appetite’
The Microphones–now Mt. Eerie– have always been masters of the quiet/loud indie-rock dynamic. They–or really he, it’s just Phil Elverum– took the dynamic to the next level, eschewing the predictable quiet guitar to loud jangle explosion for Phil Spector-sized drums and belted-out vocals and ‘Appetite’s essentially more of the same, but stretched even further. As indie pop essentially becomes the new pop, it’s interesting that Mr. Best Album of 2001 According to Pitchforkmedia keeps moving further away from iPod commericial indie and instead, mines the quiet/loud dynamics of metal, especially black metal here. The drums and guitar pummel even more and pound even faster and there’s some like Sabbath-ish guitar harmonics going on and that Burzum buzz, but there’s still Elverum’s pleasant voice and sincere lyrics, so it’s never genre-hopping as much as it is internalizing the parts of the genre that he can squeeze into his own music.

As usual, here’s a zipfile of all five songs…

Written by Brandon

June 24th, 2008 at 7:47 am