With budgets shrinking and creativity, finish and execution apparently following the same route, 2008 was a year that saw its fill of half baked concepts, re-treds, bland visuals that hid behind the headings of “gritty” or “avant garde” (when in fact they were just lacking in polish and/or art direction) and some just plain awful videos.
The uprise and pervasive usage of the “street video” has seemingly lowered the creative bar, where making a adequate clip (insert booty shaking, studio in booth performance shot, and crew shot here) has become an acceptable visual in a crumbling industry that is paired with a disposable mindset of its audience. Doing so has left the culture in a state on flux with some Directors undercutting production houses and well known Directors and in turn are accused of offering low budget, cut rate clips that lack any real punch. This in turn has left some vets scrambling, trying to suitably maintain their visual voice and standards. With that grim of a summation there were some highlights, in a year filled with low-lights.
10. Common feat. Pharell â€“ â€œAnnouncementâ€ â€“ Directed by Lil X
I caught a leak of this video a while back and expected to see this burning up TV shortly there after. Weird thing is…I have never seen it anywhere but on YouTube? Directed by Toronto’s very own Lil X, he goes back to his origins as a illustrator and designs authentic street graphics that provide a unique backdrop to Common and Pharell’s classic lifted flows and rhyme patterns. A fresh usage of graphics and animation the video feels a lil referential to Simon In The Land of Chalk Drawings in a very, very good way and X’s continues his string Alfred Hitchcock cameo appearances. Always a favorite of mine, Lil X steps out of his usual mode of approach yet maintains his magnetic graphic visual display in this sharp, clean, crisp clip.
09. KanYe West â€“ â€œLove Lockdownâ€ â€“ Directed by Somin Henwood
Ok, we all know KanYe has set the bar pretty high for his videos and with this video he looks to out cool himself. Abstract, free form yet very literal in its visual translation this piece has been up for debate with myself and my people. Some have waived it off as trite and self indulgent, saying that KanYe has taken it too far with his quest for barrier breaking. With that in mind, any way you look at it he has provided us in this clip with unique and fresh visuals that challenge the viewer and push the expectations of what possible for a hip-hop artist and broadened the mindset of what is “urban”.
08. Colin Monroe â€“ â€œI Want Those Flashing Lightsâ€ â€“ Directed by Philip Sportel
I’m about to gush a little bit here. Ok first off, the balls to even try to rework this song is incredible, and then on top of it, to shoot a guerilla video? Props! My hat is off to both Colin Monroe (been a fan of his since I heard of him through my people at BMG back in 2000ish) and Director Philip Sportel. Following Monroe for one continuous shot (in the vein of the famous steady cam shot from Goodfellas) in an uncontrolled environment like downtown Toronto is ambitious and brave. The use of some unique effects that set mood and tone and perfectly synthesize with the track paired with the sheer courage, and brashness to shoot in this manner make this clip memorable and quite possibly a classic.
07. Thunderheist â€“ â€œJerk Itâ€ – Directed by That-Go
I love the jiggle-lol- and to be honest I couldn’t sum it up better than shortee4204real did on Vimeo “Well the rooster is an astrological year in which the woman in the film is born. A few qualities of the Rooster are pedantry, chic, cockiness, and humor. So she is jiggling like a rooster’s throat and boasting like a cock. The bird is a rooster or a male hen. It has some fashion references which are provocative such as her waifiness and the jiggle of her fat along with what she is wearing. It really is meant to border the line of decency and reality so it’s just shock art with an intense outlook. It’s freaking genius.” Tell ‘em shortee4204real!!!
06. Shad – â€œThe Old Prince Still Lives At Homeâ€ â€“ Directed by Hot Dog Garbage
This is almost a frame for frame ode to the iconoclastic show opening of Will Smith’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, mixed with a touch of “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. Hot Dog Garbage (Great name huh?) provides a nostalgic look back while showcasing Shad’s unique flavor and sense of humor (Everything Shad does reminds me of the feelings I felt from ATCQ’s Low End Theory-btw, thats a good thing). The added touch of the track running out before the end of the vocals and Shad explaining he couldn’t afford the entire beat gives the audience insight to the struggles of a Canadian MC. Utilizing the known brand of a superstar in Smith and pairing it Shad elevates the awareness and provides an shorthand to the persona of Shad. It might wind up boxing him in to this notion but Shad seems to be an artist that can break barriers.
05. Santogold â€“ â€œL.E.S. Artistesâ€ â€“ Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
I am always attracted to stylish art direction and wardrobe styling and this one nails it for me. I suspect there’s a nod to Missy Elliot’s Adidas campaign with the usage of grey and the equestrian theme. I admire the approach in that it appears Nima made the most of a small budget by using this sharp set-up as the spine of the video. Throw in some 2008 female Public Enemy/Professor Griff dancers to add some 80’s flair and then let it all explode in some perversely comical Gallagher’esque end of days set-ups (Water melon for brains, orange jello for guts and transmission fluid for blood). Santogold and Nima show that economic restraint should not restrict ingenuity and show you can make something out of nothing.
04. Ne-Yo – â€œMiss Independentâ€ â€“ Directed by Chris Robinson
It’s a beautiful day when Management plans perfectly by offering an incredible first single with a conservative budget (Ne-Yo “Closer”) allowing you to follow it up with a solid budget offering. Chris Robinson brings his silver screen sensibilities to this piece and helms the only video this year that has the guise of a big budget video. With overtures of the 80’s classic, Melanie Griffith/Dolly Parton “Working Girl”, undertones of Mel Gibson’s “What Women Want”, and framed in the style of “MadMen” “Miss Independent” is a slick piece filled with well appointed wardrobe, sharp art direction (peep the George Nelson clock) and a few key celebrity cameo’s (Lauren London, Gabrielle Union and Trey Songz). Robinson is in control of his craft and provides a world that highlights Ne-Yo’s suited up “Rat Pack” vibe.
03. Justice â€“ â€œStressâ€ â€“ Directed by Romain Gravas
I first heard about this clip online because some considered this to be actual documentary footage of hooliganism. Raw and rabid and spilling over with angst the visual provides a captivatingly riveting depiction of European gang life. Kudos to Romain-Gavars- It takes time, lengthly consideration and the ability to direct “non-actors” to pull something off seamlessly for the viewer to full heartedly be swept away and believe the narrative. It convincingly appears as everything is of the moment and not directed or manipulated. This is when “Keeping It Real” goes right.
02. Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne â€“ â€œGirls Around The Worldâ€ â€“ Directed by DJ Hype Wills 2088
Comments: It still has me puzzled how this track was not a huge smash. With that said all parts of the filmmaking process are considered, controlled and manipulated by this video master (I describe in 3’s if you haven’t noticed-lol). I’m sure this is color by numbers by now for Hype Williams but to me it’s like watching the Bull’s Michael Jordan with the 23 on his back – it never got boring. Geezus, did he retouch Lloyd’s skin!?! Hype is meticulous in each and every frame and stylishly added a sensational of-the-moment nod to the Mac OS X Leopard/Time Machine aesthetic with his the stellar art direction, his benchmark wardrobe styling and make-up/hair. Throw in some tried and true framing and lensmanship DJ Hype Wills 2088 added a nice touch by manipulating the video as la DJ Dopey. A true craftsman and the benchmark of polished minimalism. Hype once again lives up to his name.
01. Gnarls Barkley â€“ â€œWho’s Gonna Save My Soul?â€ â€“ Directed by Chris Milk
I’m typically not a fan of CGI because it usually distracts and provides nothing but a few “oohs and aahh’s” for the kids, but this clip is absolutely the exception. Incredible concept, beautifully fleshed out dialogue that bled with authenticity (pun intended) and shot in a manner that deftly balanced music, visual and concept. Gnarls Barkley maintain their perch atop the creative heap and Chris Milk adds another classic to his reel. I’m in awe.
Cool, calm and cultured, STIRLINGâ„¢ directs the pack, who lead the masses. Heâ€™s so far ahead of the eight ball heâ€™s changed the game itâ€™s used for. STIRLINGâ„¢ does not subscribe to culture, he defines it. He has risen to cultural prominence by setting benchmarks so often they become standards. – Jonathon Brown