We all have that one friend who shares everything they uncover on the internet. Every song they swear is bound to blow up, every stupid YouTube video he swears is the most hilarious ever of all-time. Sometimes he’s right, and other times you start to ponder ending the friendship. We all have different standards, preferences, not everything will resonate, and so I tend to fear recommendations. That excitement is contagious, your head gets filled with hopes of brilliance, you prepare to have your mind blown, and by the end you only want to blow your brains out.
Luckily, I don’t have this problem with Nathan. You can tell when Nathan is excited, truly excited, you can hear the enthusiasm, the kind of elation that compels you to uncover whatever has him so amped. The way he describes Ghostface Killah’s music will encourage you to buy all his albums. He could convince you to binge watch the entire Breaking Bad series in one night if you get him started on Walter White. He rarely lets me down. So when he started to talk about Vince Staple’s video for “Senorita,” with more than a hint of thrill in his tone, I knew it was special. He tried to speak without spoiling, careful not to overhype, but I knew by the subtle hints at the ending something spectacular awaited.
Stop what you're doing and watch this video. Stop reading this, stop eating that burrito, don’t text her back, watch this video.
It’s easily the most enthralling video I’ve watched all year. The quality is sharp and stunning, the black and white colorway gives it a touch of seriousness. No vivid colors to distract you from what he’s trying to convey. From the very beginning, when the homeless piano player crashes to the ground like an Acme anvil, you are captivated. There’s no explanation, no reason given, the wonderment adds to the allure. The Latino man carrying the “VS” book, moving with a horde that consists of various ethnicities while chanting Future’s rowdy hook, feels more important than when Vince finally comes into the picture. While Vince moves through the hood, (a setting that doesn’t feel cliché, the hood rats juxtaposed with the eager barbequing bumpkins shows that there’s more than just blacks in poor neighborhoods) the unnamed man is at the core of madness that simultaneously reflects the chaos of the production.
The bodies continue to drop, one after another, it isn’t until the second verse that we understand why. The camera zooms to the skies and there’s giant cannons on-top of tall towers. Despite what appears to be a neighborhood, these people are actually prisoners. You don’t see any bars but once you get to the very end, when you see the Latino man and various others press up against the glass, you realize that they are indeed trapped. The final scene is done tremendously, zooming away, you see what’s beyond the glass. The money shot is of a picture perfect white family, smiling as they observe, resembling what you’ll see at a zoo. It punched me in the soul, my jaw dropped a few inches. Bravo.
Powerful is the first word that comes to mind. Not only did Vince deliver a message, the execution is perfect. In under four minutes he captures the perception of the hood, cultural appropriation, police brutality, and the separation between observers and the observed. Thousands of words have been jotted on these subjects, a thousand more are being written, but this is by far the most raw and accurate perspective. Just take the final scene, how the glass represents the fascination with areas that birth rappers like Chief Keef and Bobby Shmurda. How the wildness of their lives can be monetized, made into a spectacle for the outside to enjoy but only if there’s some form of separation.
This is how Noisey documentaries are looked upon, going into these inner cities, filming the inhabitants for their audience to view. Entertained by a life they will never live. In various interviews Vince has compared rap and black music to a zoo, saying:
“You get these people sitting outside the glass and it’s cool to point at the lion and shit, but nobody is gonna hop they ass in that motherfuckin box. But it’s cool to look at it happen. But once it’s real and once you’re in the line of fire, and once it’s dangerous, then it’s not okay no more. Then you’re a wild animal, but before that it’s a novelty type thing”. - HipHopDX interview.
You will have to watch “Senorita” multiple times before you comprehended everything packed inside. Notice that the people marching in peace are the ones being murdered. They aren’t rioting, they aren’t looting, the leader’s only weapon is a book that I assume is a reference to the bible, but the “VS” that stands for Vince Staples could represent how highly we regard rappers today. We look at them to be public leaders, when trouble plagues our communities, they are amongst the ones we look to speak. And yet he's not marching with them, Vince is of them but also apart. Also, notice that the only ones being shot are the ones marching toward the glass. The barbecuing bumpkins aren’t being sniped, they are safe within their acceptance. Goethe once said, “The best slave is the one who thinks he is free”.
Paris Nation, a commenter on YouTube, made two great points,“The women dressed like sex slaves is a metaphor for the modern perception of women: many are treated as toys for sexual pleasure and nothing more. Noticed one girl smiles at Vince and the other screams at him, she is mad because he moved on to the next, while the other girl thinks she has him on lock, which probably won't last long. The dude with the black hole in his coat is also a metaphor. He is a drug dealer, sucking society’s young kids into drugs for his own benefit. This is why u see a slight smirk on his face.”
I have to point out the police officer that pays Vince to rap, as if his performance is a part of their agenda. A ploy to keep the people in the cage distracted. The police officer also looks very frightened; how dare he look fearful, when the very people he’s frightened by are being murdered in the streets. I hate that Pitchfork described the video as “Suburban War Zone” when it should be “Modern Day America.” I feel like this is what we've been witnessing since the death of Trayvon Marin. I give Vince endless props for making a statement, this is an incredible, well-timed visual, kudos to the director Ian Pons Jewell.
I don’t like the word underrated, I prefer underappreciated, and Vince Staples is underappreciated. For years he’s been rapping like a robot programed with lyrical missiles that’s been killing it, just listen to how he destroyed Earl’s “Hive.” His catalog of EPs and mixtapes are worth exploring for an authentic, honest, modern, west coast gangster rap sound. Correction, this isn't gangster rap, it's a gangster rapping. You can hear it in his music. He doesn’t sugarcoat, he’s very straightforward about his views, especially when it comes to his upbringing. It’s a raw outlook, he doesn’t glorify his past or attempt to sprinkle glitter on the mad city that raised him. He’s not afraid to speak the truth. When he's rapping lines like, “I'm just tryin' to get what Diddy got, doing what got Biggie shot,” it’s hard not to believe he’s about that life.
“Senorita” is his vision of the world around him. His other videos, also underrated, have always reflected his surroundings. “Nate” one of his best, zooms in on his rocky home life, how he perceived his father, the video is impeccable. “Blue Suede” is shot in black and white, only giving color to red or blue, showing that nothing mattered but what color you wore and repped. I perceive the “Screen Door” visual as a representation of how there was very little separating him from the craziness that was happening outside. At any moment, that door can open, bringing in friends, enemies, or worse, the police.
”Senorita” is the first single off Vince’s debut album, Summertime '06. It will be the sequel to the Hell Can Wait EP that was released last year. I have high hopes that he will deliver one of the best projects this year. He’s been incredibly consistent, the world is slowly starting to pay attention, now he just needs to break the glass ceiling. Trust me when I recommend it.
[By Yoh, aka Senyohrita, aka @Yoh31]