I know that I'm certainly not alone when I say that I've been missing the terrific Holy Hunter Of Music Videos showcase series something fierce. So, since I've been in the writing groove recently, I figured I'd take it upon myself to make a post expounding on a couple of Hip-Hop-centric videos that have come out recently. I hope you enjoy my little one-off venture, but more than that, I hope it leads to some new discoveries for us all in the comments.
Right up front, the big reason why I really wanted to write this was because of Creed, the fantastic Rocky sequel/spin-off starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Creed continues the traditions of the great (and not so great) Rocky films masterfully in tone, narrative, and performance, but what stood out to me in particular was the updated take on the music. Bill Conti's original Rocky score melded soaring orchestral fanfare with modern (for its time) Disco and Jazz sensibilities. For Creed, Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson pushes things further forward by incorporating pulsing hip-hop beats and trippy electronica into the classical overtones.
Creed's training montage and the re-imagining of the Rocky's "Gonna Fly Now" as the title character runs through Philly with dirt bikes and four wheelers is a perfect encapsulation of this update to the legacy in theme, imagery, and music; Philly Hip-Hop artist Meek Mill's lyrics for his hit song "Lord Knows" are seamlessly woven into the score track "If I Fight, You Fight (Training Montage)". Meek Mill has garnered great success on his own, with his latest album debuting at #1 on the Billboad 200 chart this past summer. As such, "Lord Knows" isn't a new song per se, but this updated video made to coincide with the release of the film is just as immediately hard hitting:
Our next video is the song "Dynamite" by the equally explosive dynamic duo Killer Mike and El-P, known to all as the mighty hip-hop callabo Run The Jewels. This track serves as the "theme song" to the documentary feature Rubble Kings that was released earlier this year. The film recounts the tales of Bronx street gang members during the 1970's, as New York City was crippled by a catastrophic economic crisis and violent crime, that for all intents and purposes appeared to signal the fall of western civilization. And yet, when things seemed most dire, the gangs finally broke the spell of their madness, kindling a new peace and a reaffirmed positive sense of community. Music became an integral component of this unity, and in that melding of Latin Funk and '70s Soul of the Latino and African-American cultures, Hip-Hop was born. Although Straight Outta Compton served as an affirmation of Hip-Hop as a vital element of American Culture, I think Rubble Kings is equally important and vital viewing in order to truly understand Hip-Hop's significance. The video for the track pays homage to the works of the renowned animator Ralph Bakshi as well as the cult classic 1979 film The Warriors. While that imagery might appear too on the nose, the documentary indicates that the art of the fictional movie imitated life far more accurately than people believe.
In the past few weeks, the music world was fixated on two big events: everybody and they momma and extended family made their way to the CD aisle for the first time in years for their mandatory purchase of Adele's new album, while people were also drowning in an infinite repeat playlist of that corny-ass Hamilton Broadway play album. In that time however, one of the illest rappers in the game right now and one of my personal favorite artists dropped another fantastic release. Freddie Gibbs hails from Gary, Indiana and is putting his hometown on the map as a reckoning force in hip-hop virtually single-handedly. His rhymes focus on tales of murder, mayhem and heartbreak in the drug trade, and while rappers rappin bout trappin are a nickel a dozen nowadays, the simple fact of the matter is that nary a one of them has a flow as cold as Freddie. In his latest effort Freddie seems to be able to flow effortlessly between hard edged dexterous east coast style, upbeat gangsta rap west coast style, southern crunk, and everything in between, while all making it into something undeniably his own. In this video for "Fuckin' Up the Count" Freddie brings us right to his neighborhood, with audio clips referencing the modern crime epic The Wire, ultimately showing how the struggle is common in hoods all over. Though his lyrical content might seem to suggest the typical glorification of self-destructive behavior that lots of rap gets called out on, this video and other songs in his collection show that he at least has a sense of self awareness to it all. In any event, I highly recommend everyone check out the rest of his material. Don't Sleep On Gangsta Gibbs.
In doing research for this article, I happen upon a confounding hip-hop phenomenon from out of Miami known as Stitches. I almost don't even know where to begin, but I guess the short version is that he's some kinda weird mix between a Juggalo and a wannabe Gucci Mane. An off-white rapper covered in insanely awful tattoos rapping about wielding AK-47s and selling bricks seems like the kinda thing that should be easy enough to debunk/dismiss as a Funny or Die joke, yet while his background is questionable, the investigation into it isn't as cut and dry as it seems. The reason I even thought to bring this up was because this yahoo reminded me of the press release and related reactions to Jared Leto's Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. I surmised that they were going for a more “deadbeat delusional thug” or “midwest suburban white trash gangster" approach to the character, while some even went so far as to refer to him as “Trap God Joker”. They say that reality is stranger than fiction, and I suppose one corollary to that is to say that one's reality can be whatever strange fiction they chose to make it. So in the end, perhaps one's origin, super-villain or otherwise, isn't nearly as important as the impact they make. Or, as Freddie Gibbs says in Still Livin', “And I heard it ain't where you from it's where you at boy; Make sure every place that I'm at next to the strap boy.” In any event, here is Stitches with his latest hit, “I Love My Niggas” (…..Jesus Harold Christ...). Be sure to catch him next year in his feature film debut, Spring Breakers Too: Trap N Tha Habit.
My last entry isn't actually a music video, but it is something else that struck a chord with me during my YouTube rabbit-hole research and something that I think directly relates to the BirthMoviesDeath mission statement. It occurred to me that for a movie website with a strong video game news and review contingent, I don't recall BMD ever writing about an actual work of Machinima, an unwieldy portmanteau given to any motion graphic work which uses real-time computer graphics engines (like those in video game consoles and gaming PCs) to create a cinematic production. This hilarious piece called “The Average Rapper” using Grand Theft Auto V graphics addresses that lapse, while still staying with this article's Hip-Hop theme. Straight up, I fucking hated GTA 5, but looking at YouTube play-troughs and the extraordinary creations by members of the mod community exhibit fantastic imagination and inventiveness, more-so than the nihilistic half-assed South Park “caring about stuff sucks” not-quite satire of the actual base game. Average Rapper is reminiscent of Friday in it's day in the life of the hood” tone and hilarious over the top affectation., with also a sly bit of actual satire to boot. The YouTube user ITSREAL85 has a bunch more great comedy videos like this (the Officer Harris Mint collection is gold), so be sure to take a look after you see this; if you're a fan of the MyWay Entertainment crew (and their legendary “I'm The Juggernaut Bitch” voice-over parody) you'll definitely get a kick out of this.
Although I may have become the unofficial “Urban correspondent” for BMD, the truth of the matter is that I am still an old man. As such, I am woefully behind on a lot of current/up and coming Hip-Hop artists on the scene today. In the same way that you guys contributed to my articles about Hip-Hop soundtracks and foreign films, I would love for some of you youngbloods and musical literati to reply in the comments and fill us in on who's hot right now in the rap game and who your current favorites are. As always, thank you to all the loyal BMD readers for coming along with me on this special music video venture. I think I should stress that this is a one-time occurrence, and it is absolutely not my intent nor my place to ever try and take over/substitute for April Swartz and her terrific work. That all said, if I ever am so inclined to write about music videos again when the inspiration strikes, I hope to see you all there in the comments. Peace.