Real Rap Videos Vs. SNL Narnia Skit

dogs.jpgIn mansion and Benzes, giving ends to my friends and it feels stupendous

Since I've spent way too much time over the last couple of days watching the SNL "Lazy Sunday" clip over and over, it seemed to be as good a time as any to have a look at some actual rap videos. And since I'm relaxing in Virginia rather than freezing my ass off walking to work in NYC, that meant watching Rap City, a show that I used to watch religiously every day but haven't seen since former host Big Tigger moved on to 106 & Park earlier in the year. Rap City under Tigger was great: ample representation of weird one-off hits from obscure regional artists, fun and informed interviews, occasional monster in-the-booth freestyles. But Tigger has been replaced with J-Nicks, a dreadlocked, platinum-grilled imp whose repetoire doesn't extend much beyond "it's your boy J-Nicks" and "J-Nicks in the building" and "holler at your boy J-Nicks." Rather than bringing his guests into the relaxing and controlled Bassment environment, he interviews them at "fun" locations like diners and beach houses and shit like that: great if you've ever wanted to watch Lil Flip eat a burger, not so much if you want to watch a real interview. When J-Nicks interviewed T.I. on today's edition, he asked lame questions ("What can we, um, expect, um, coming to the show?") while playing video games with T.I., who was clearly more interested in the games than answering the questions. The one time he tried to ask a real question (about T.I.'s feelings when the P$C album bricked), he just let it go when T.I. brushed him off. And then he went go-kart racing with P$C and took them to Fuddruckers. None of this has anything to do with the actual videos, but it won't encourage anyone to cut BET any slack when it shows another bullshit Busta Rhymes video.

A couple of months ago, I interviewed Mark Romanek. When I asked him about his "99 Problems" video, he said it was a reaction to the stale culture of rap videos, how they replay the same images over and over again. I didn't agree; I thought that rap videos, on the whole, do exactly what they're supposed to do: introduce an artist, put him in a cultural and geographic context, let him build an iconography for himself. I'm not so sure now. I should say, in light of all the quasi-racist comments on Stereogum's Pitchfork-list post, I'm not doing this to take a cheap swipe at a bankrupt genre. Anyone who reads this column with any regularity knows how much I love rap. But rap videos, as represented by today's edition of Rap City, aren't doing it for me. Here they go, with Pitchfork-eque numerical grades.

Tony Yayo ft. 50 Cent, Young Buck & Lloyd Banks: "I Know You Don't Love Me." This clip really overdoes its split-screen gimmick, following around the various G-Unit guys in four and sometimes five mini-screens as they all hook up with this one girl in real-time. It's done clumsily and confusingly, and there's too much to keep track of. At the end of the video, she gets into an elevator with all four dudes, and they laugh at her. Awesome. Still, Young Buck is in it, so it's not the worst. 4.2.

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Snoop Dogg: "Get 2 Know You." An unbelievably lame Snoop love-rap with production set on twittering-whistle Neptunes-swish, this song gets exactly the video it deserves: Snoop dancing in a tux, Bishop Don Magic Juan doing everything he can to become the new Farsworth Bentley. 1.6.

Remy Ma: "Conceited." I get why Remy has shirtless dudes fanning her with palms, but what's the deal with the chicks in underwear sitting at her feet? Are they supposed to be her friends? It's like the video couldn't quite pull the trigger on its reverse-objectification concept. The song is pretty good, though. 5.2.

Busta Rhymes: "Touch It." Clearly, any video for a song based on a Daft Punk sample should have robots. Where are the robots? Busta plays golf and soccer and poker. Wacky. His hair is short now and nobody cares. Also, he gets all oiled-up and shirtless like LL or some shit, and it's a pretty clear sign that any rapper who does that essentially has no career left. (This rule has a built-in G-Unit exception, so maybe Busta needs to sit down and have a long talk with 50.) 3.6.

Notorious BIG & Bob Marley: "Hold Ya Head." This necro-fest obviously can't depend on any footage of its artists actually performing the song, so we get shots of murals and general ghetto scenes and tight close-ups on random people's faces, as well as the grainy non-matching footage of the stars that comes with just about any video for a dead artist. Other than Biggie's "Sky's the Limit," any video for a dead rapper seems doomed to failure, and this isn't an exception. They should've used kids again; a baby Marley would be adorable. The song kind of works, though. 5.0.

P$C: "Do Your Thang." This is a pretty standard rap video: the P$C dudes and some video chicks posing in front of cars; only the blindingly white letterbox sets it aside. But it turns out pretty well because T.I. is always fun to watch and because all the people in the video coordinate their outfits to match the cars. 6.3.

Ludacris & Field Mob: "Georgia." Finally, a good video: hard grainy cinematography, local landmarks all over the place, a Bone Crusher cameo, Luda rapping in front a mansion with the gull-wing doors up on his cars, a flaming A on the ground. I still don't see any reason why I should care about Field Mob, but the video has given them context, so it's done its job. 7.4.


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