Saturday, December 27, 2008

Queens Get The Money

The first and best song from Nas's 9th album receives the video treatment, courtesy of Vimeo user Encyclopedia. Everything about the video is striking and beautifully composed. The montage of images corresponds to Nas's lyrics closely, providing fascinating juxtapositions; as Nas raps "Let us make man in our image, spit it", the viewer sees MC Serch with the 3rd Bass logo shaved into the back of his head. Questions of cultural appropriation were raised when 3rd Bass came onto the scene, but MC Serch also discovered Nas and executive produced Illmatic. You catch fleeting glimpses of African-American icons as Nas raps: James Brown, Huey Newton, Al Sharpton, Ice T, Slick Rick.

More than anything else, this fan-made video demonstrates the narrative capacity of montage film that's been enabled by the rise of video sharing websites like YouTube. If this video had been made around the time of Illmatic, for example, Encyclopedia would have had to commit these images to videotape and splice them together, or take them from DVDs or CD-roms. Not only that, the audience for the music video would be restricted to the art gallery crowd. Now the most popular hip hop blog posts it on the front page and I can share it with as many people as I want within seconds. More than simply a montage of Nas photos on YouTube, Encyclopedia's video provides a perfect visual accompaniment to the song, complementing its Jay Electronica association in turn (Jay produced the song); check the Muhammad Ali interview at the very end, then listen to the Ali samples on a number of at. Brandon Soderberg points to Jay's mix of "high" and "low" culture as his hook; In the video, you see both James Baldwin and Arsenio Hall. Encyclopedia is channeling the composite aesthetic used in Jay Electronica's own homemade music videos posted on his YouTube channel.

Ivan posted the entirety of the James Baldwin interview used for the beginning of the music video a few days ago. I urge you to watch it.