I can’t be the only one that’s had this experience: You're set to watch a newly released video from one of your favorite artists for one of your favorite songs, and you’re justifiably excited. A properly executed music video can add a completely new dimension to a song, after all.
However, when you press play on the video expecting to see an artistic representation of a song that speaks to you, you’re met with four minutes of concert footage.
No storyline, no dope locales, just slow motion shots of the artist jumping up and down on stage. If you’re lucky, you get to see them acting a fool in the green room of a venue.
The feeling of disappointment and boredom that overwhelms me when I experience these videos reached a boiling point today when I watched Mick Jenkins' new video for “Spread Love.”
The track is my favorite cut off Jenkins' newly-released The Healing Component, and considering the artistic mastery of many of Jenkins’ previous videos, I had high hopes for a visual of the song that’s essentially the mission statement for Mick’s album, and on some level, his career.
To be fair, “Spread Love” isn’t just a concert footage montage. There's also footage of Mick and his crew goofing around in various conference and green rooms, and some B-roll of locations traversed during Mick’s recent European tour, but the resulting boredom is all the same.
It’s not just Mick either—scroll through any given artist’s YouTube channel and you’re bound to find one of these hastily assembled bore-fests.
Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with releasing tour footage. It's a great to see an artist's visceral connection with the audience, giving their all during a performance and letting people see the literal blood, sweat, and tears that go into their favorite artist's rise to greatness.
It's 2016, though, and there are these things called tour vlogs that artists do. If you’ve never seen one, just know that it’s basically everything I just described, just usually longer than four minutes, and not billed as a music video.
In an era where an artist’s fan base is privy to damn near every move they make thanks to the wonders of social media, I see no reason to release live footage in any fashion other than a vlog or documentary.
This cop-out has existed long before Mick and the like. The live footage video is a relic from the same rock n’ roll era that left us thinking the only way to hold a viewer's attention for an entire song is to have ass shaking in front of them constantly. It’s not a sin—they're still sadly effective—but it’s stunting the artistry of the hip-hop music video, and it’s time to evolve.
Granted, there’s the occasional example of the live footage video that is executed in a dope and inventive way. Watch The Throne’s “Niggas In Paris” is one such occurrence, but these are too few and far between to excuse the fact that unless some novel aspect is introduced, this concept is all the way played out, and in my opinion, a complete waste of an artist’s voice and representation.
I’ve been behind the scenes of video productions, and I know the grueling work that goes into them. I also understand we live in an age where you need to constantly drop content or risk being forgotten, so I can see why the live footage video is such an appealing go-to.
But the same technology that’s made relevance a constant competition has also made it incredibly easy to create and release compelling content. Hell, Mac Lethal is out here shooting and editing videos with an iPhone 6, and while they’re not exactly visual spectacles, they’re far more entertaining than watching shaky clips of concert footage that doesn’t even match up with the audio.
I’m not saying every video has to be a grandiose production with a treatment written by J.J. Abrams, but hip-hop has long been the victim of played out visual aesthetics, and with just a little imagination and a $75 drone from Radioshack, it’s absolutely possible to still get content out in a timely fashion and have it be entertaining.
As hip-hop continues to grow and evolve sonically, it’s important that its visual representation undergoes the same evolution and growth. We’re better than this.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram