Music

For The Love: The Art Of The Hip-Hop Video

By

This book will launch on Oct 10, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

In For The Love, author Kevin McDormand interviews the creators of hip-hop's classic videos, compiling the stories into a seamless narrative. In this first volume, he covers the following ten videos in depth:

Madvillain: All Caps
Pharoahe Monch: Broken Again
Your Old Droog: We Don't Know You
Deca: Waiting
Phife Dawg: Dear Dilla
Stitches: Brick In Yo Face
Danny Brown: Grown Up
Aesop Rock: Zero Dark Thirty
Oddisee: Brea
Das Racist: Girl

The oral histories of the directors, actors, artists, and other key personnel that created these videos are both entertaining and revelatory. This book will connect to fans of hip-hop or storytelling, and serve as a template for prospective musicians and filmmakers.

Deca: Waiting



The following comes from an interview between Deca and me on November 15, 2017 about his video “Waiting, ” in which Deca beautifully illustrates his impressive artistic versatility. Deca raps over a beat he produced. The beautiful video, featuring flower petals animated into living forms and geometric patterns, was animated and directed by Deca himself.


Deca, Artist/Director: It was kind of an interplay back and forth. I actually started the animation before the song. But then I did more of the animation once I had the song finished. It was a back and forth.  


Even with writing and producing, I will do little bits back and forth and go between making the music and writing. So this was kind of a similar thing where I had a bouquet of old flowers that I gave my girlfriend and they were starting to wilt. One day, I started to pull the petals off, and messing around with animation. I had done little tests with animation but this was the first time that I actually tried a whole sequence. I did a sequence in twenty minutes building a mandala out of the petals. And that was the initial idea. Then, I animated a few of the sequences that I ended up using for the video. The song came after those first initial sequences. I saw that they fit well with the "Waiting" and then I started animating to the actual song. 


Despite the experimental nature of “Waiting,” Deca utilized most of what he shot. 


Deca, Artist/Director: I’d say that 90% of what I made, I ended up using. I just did it on my phone actually. I got this cheap little stop motion app and did it all on the iPhone.


I think I did ten frames per second. And so however long the video is, I don’t know, I am not good at math. (Author’s note: The video is 3:18, or 198 seconds. He shot roughly 1980 frames.)


Deca, Artist/Director: Yeah, I did it over the course of two months I think. Maybe a little longer than that even. I would just decide, ‘I’m going to animate tonight.’ I would do it at night so I could control the light in my apartment. And then, I would just throw on music, animate for hours, and experiment. I would have loose ideas when I started animating of what I was gonna go for, but then a lot of times it would take a different direction as I was doing it. I'd say each segment was done in one night. So like the different parts that have a different look, whether it was black background or white background. I don’t remember offhand how many there are, but maybe six or seven pieces. They were all done on different nights throughout the course of two or three months. 

 

I actually haven’t watched it in awhile but I know.the part that starts at 0:42. That’s probably my favorite animated sequence. I obviously chopped it up and used different parts but it was initially one sequence. I loved the morphing faces in this one. 


Deca, Artist/Director: The first animation test that I was telling you about, I did shortly after an ayahuasca ceremony. I think that experience definitely influenced the video. Part of my experience was very... something I don’t want to go into too deeply, but it was an experience of the most beautiful, pure love. A vision of pure love and I saw this mandala with the softest pinks. Words can’t even touch the experience. It was probably a week after. I was sitting at home and just for fun, started messing around with these flower petals. I made a shape with them and then thought, “Let me try to animate this.” Petal by petal, trying to recreate something like what I saw in the Ayahuasca vision. So I was using all of these softer pink colors. What I made didn't actually end up in the video but that was kind of the start. The initial idea I think came from that experience. I’m a huge Bob Dylan fan. I listened to his whole catalogue from front to back probably twice while doing different segments. So listening to different music while I was animating definitely influenced what I was creating. 


Deca, Artist/Director: There’s a lot of old animation that I really like. I know that there’s a million videos that I’ve seen that probably inspired me that I can’t think of off the top right now. I love old Eastern European animation. Around the time I was doing this, and just in general, I'm inspired by a lot of that old animation. There’s so much strange shit that came out in the 70’s. There’s this guy named Rein Raamat. His stuff is incredible. What is this other dude’s name? Marcell Jankovics. You should check out a movie called Fehérlófia he directed. The most incredible animation and visionary stuff you’ve ever seen. These guys are just masters. The art I do, the art for the videos I collaborated with Steven [Mertens] on, and the Waiting video were definitely all inspired by watching a lot of old obscure animation. 


COUSINS

Deca: Skyward 

Homeboy Sandman: Life Support

Marcell Jankovics: Fehérlófia 



Best Rap Videos That Do Not Feature the Artist (or an animated version of them)

Deca: Waiting (dir.: Deca)

Beastie Boys: Make Some Noise (dir.: Adam Yauch)

Gangrene: All Bad (dir.: Jason Goldwatch)

L’Orange f/ Blu: Alone (dir.: Ashton Blessing)

Makaveli: Hail Mary (dir.: Frank Sacramento)

Oddisee: Brea (dir.: Ryan Calavano)

The Brooklyn Doctors: The Couch Song (dir.: Mark Breese)

Watch The Throne: No Church In The Wild (dir.: Romain Gavras)



Deca is incredibly versatile, a rapper, producer, and visual artist. Also a great word prefix, deca-, meaning ten. A decathlon has ten events, a decagon ten sides, and a decade ten years. Beware of words beginning with deca- that are derived from other prefixes, decaf, decant, decay, decalcify, decapitate. The number ten dominates our society. In sports, ten seconds is a knockout. There are ten bowling pins, and ten yards earns a first down. Most importantly, our society employs a base 10 system, where there are ten possible values for each place value. For example, you can have a 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 in each place value, (i.e. units, tens, hundreds, thousands, etc.) Each place value can be represented by 10 raised to some number.


10^0=1 (units place value)

10^1=10 (tens place value)

10^2=100 (hundreds place value)

10^3=1000 (thousands place value)

10^4=10000 (ten-thousands place value)

And so on.


Rap music has greatly embraced the concept of 10x.The best songs for each value of x. 


10^0: Ghostface Killah: One

10^1: Notorious B.I.G.: 10 Crack Commandments

10^2: The Game featuring Drake: 100

10^3: DJ Rude One featuring Shirt: 1K Dutches

10^4: Evidence: 10,000 Hours

10^5: Mac Miller: 100Grandkids (100grand kids = 100,000 kids)

10^6 : Jay-Z: A Million and One Questions

10^7: Mack-10: Ten Million Ways

10^8: Birdman, Lil Wayne, Jeezy, Rick Ross: 100 Million

10^9: Rick Ross: Billionaire

10^12: Bun B featuring T-Pain: Trillionaire


10^0: Ghostface Killah: One: I have a theory called the Non-Crazy Argument Theory. It relies on the fact that many matters of taste are subjective. There is no right answer but some are altogether crazy. It is important that your subjective choice is above crazy. I developed this concept when discussing who was the best player in the NBA. Some players were obviously not crazy- Giannis, Lebron, Steph, Harden, Durant. We had one name that we all decided was surprisingly not crazy. I threw out the name of Klay Thompson. While Klay is most likely not the best, we found his excellent defense and unselfish offensive role as evidence that you couldn’t rule him out until seeing him in a lead scoring role. I went on this tangent to express the fact that “One” being the best song in rap is above crazy.


It’s hard to pinpoint the apex of modern society but it may be contained within this song. Is it the beat, gifted by legendary Beatnut producer and sneaky-good rapper Juju? Is it the chorus: “Fifty cent sodas in the hood, they going crazy?” Is it the glorious ad libbed introduction, pieced together and culminating in “scream on it, Ghost?” All are candidates. One moment that is definitely not the apex is during the song’s outro, when featured guest T.M.F. forgets how to talk shit. As the beat loops, ending each loop with a vocal “one,” Ghost and guest cleverly riff, “We all connect as (One!)” Dope. “How many girls you got fucked? (One!)” Funny. “How many nuts you might bust? (One!)” Cool. “How many L’s we smoke? (One!)” There the guest realizes he minimizes how much cool mairjuana smoking they do. “At a time!” Nice save, but that shit always cracks me up.


10^1: Notorious B.I.G.: 10 Crack Commandments: If I ever sell the movie rights to this book, I am paying DJ Premier a half million dollars to produce my album. DJ Premier is so dope that he almost made Fred Durst sound good.


10^2: The Game featuring Drake: 100: I’ve always been a bit neutral on Drake. I love some of his music but definitely less than the world does on average. But good lord is this song dope. Additionally, in spite of the fact that I suspect The Game and I would make the opposite decision in just about every life scenario, I have thoroughly enjoyed his catalog and feel he is criminally underappreciated. Additionally, my friends and I used to have a lot of fun freestyling while constantly mentioning iconic sneakers and rap personnel as an homage.

 

10^3: DJ Rude One featuring  Shirt: 1K Dutches: In my younger days, Rude One and I rolled in the same circles. Now, he makes incredibly dope compilation albums. This is my favorite of his tracks. The best testament to Rude One’s tastes is that his favorite baseball player is Eric Davis.  Check his statline in 1987.


10^4: Evidence: 10,000 Hours: Evidence, in the discussion for best emcee of the 10s, describes his growth in an homage to Gladwellian theory.


10^5: Mac Miller: 100Grandkids (100grand kids = 100,000 kids): No lie, I had never heard this song before searching for it while writing this. It’s not bad at all though! Mac does well with numbers, as his “2009” is an all-timer.


10^6 : Jay-Z: A Million and One Questions: Full disclosure: I went to boarding school. Why am I telling you this? I lived in a different room every year from 13 years old to 20 years old. If a song or album was dope enough, I can actually remember what room I was in when I rocked that song. Shout out to Evans Cottage, room 202, where I unapologetically played this song a million and one times.


10^7: Mack-10: Ten Million Ways: Not only does this song feature a title connected to 10, but it is performed by Mack-10, member of legendary triumvirate Westside Connection. That has to mean something.


10^8: Birdman, Lil Wayne, Jeezy, Rick Ross: 100 Million: While most mistakenly think this song’s title is money-related, it is actually a reference to how many dabs white kids have performed to it. 


Also, let’s put a little shine on producers Cool & Dre. “Boblo Boat,” “From Adam,” and “Hate It or Love It” are personal faves.


10^9: Rick Ross: Billionaire: He also made “Hood Billionaire” so you have to admire his consistency. Plus, it reveals that the exchange rate of regular to hood is 1 to 1 as a hood billionaire is a billionaire. 


10^12: Bun B featuring T-Pain: Trillionaire: Did anyone think that T-Pain’s music was going to age this well? I just read that T-Pain struggled with his Grammy nomination for “I’m on A Boat” as it rewarded a parody of his music over his actual music. I can’t lie. I never considered that a parody. It was straight up hilarious but that can’t minimize Pain’s vocal skills. We all need to appreciate T-Pain.


Real question though. What white people are Bun B rolling with? “Go ask the whiteboys/they say he’s totally tubular.” You sure they aren’t ninja turtles in white people disguises?

About the author

Prior to his career as a mathematics teacher, basketball coach, and mentor, Kevin McDormand co-hosted the successful radio show Hip Hop Romper Room at WHPK. He left Chicago to serve as General Manager of Raptivism Records, releasing seminal projects from Zion I, The Last Emperor, and dead prez. view profile

Published on August 31, 2020

40000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Music

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