A Guide to One-Take Rap Videos
As this site has well established, rap music is awesome. What’s also awesome, is the art of the music video. Once thought to be merely a three minute promotional tool aired for 1-3 months and then never seen again, thanks to the YouTube era they’ve now entered immortality and help determine who is going to direct our Terminator sequels. Being primarily a commercial for a song, record labels and musicians alike have tried cutting costs as many ways possible. Since rock group The Replacements introduced the one-take video in 1986 with “Bastards of Young,” videos that have been one-take or made to seem like they were one-take have been successful as both an eye-catching and cost-cutting tactic.
Since I think we’ve all seen enough OKGO, I’ve decided to compile the definitive list of one-take rap videos.
Xzibit – “What U See is What U Get” (1998, Director: Gregory Dark)
The video that made me a regular BET watcher, a tribute to Hitchcock’s Rope, “What U See is What U Get” follows Xzibit to the store to get some milk, only to have any and everything get in his way. While it’s much more impressive to see on television as there’s A LOT more going on than can fit in a YouTube screen, its sheer ingenuity and replay value has allowed it to stand the test of time much more than its more expensive counterparts*.
MF Doom – “Dead Bent” (1999, Director: Piston Honda)
Once upon a time before he was a no-showing cartoon of himself, MF Doom was an indie oddity whose mask existed as a metaphor for one hiding their scars within rap music. A tragic figure, he was never more visually realized than the 1999 video for “Dead Bent.” A reinterpretation of Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water,” Doom exists hauntingly as an everyday supervillain. Consider it – domestic Doom.
Scarface – “On My Block” (2002, Director: Mark Klasfeld)
My favorite rapper and my favorite video director team up to make my favorite from this list. One continuous trip around the block shows everything Scarface’s neighborhood has gone through over the course of his life. Beautifully bookended by a life/death dichotomy, this is one of only two videos I ever remember BET heavily promoting the debut of**. Keep your eyes peeled for Scarface’s only appearance in the video selling Uncut Dope out of the trunk.
Lil Jon f/ Mystikal & Krayzie Bone “I Don’t Give A” (2003, Director: Gil Green)
This one is the most obviously not one take, but the choppyness serves a purpose. A rap reinterpretation of Prodigy’s infamous “Smack My Bitch Up” video***, this video follows a night on the town with Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz as all H*ck breaks loose. With a cameo list only rivaled by UGK’s “International Players Anthem”, the rapid fire jump-cutting to concert footage come-to-life is meant to mimic the experience of live music while on syrup. Consider it visual chopping and screwing.
louis logic & JJ Brown – “The Great Divide” (2006, Director: Jed I. Rosenberg)
What’s cool about former Demigodz member louis logic’s “The Great Divide” video is how it is a direct interpretation of the song without being a literal one. The frozen frame of the camera showing logic walking in place while the entire rest of the world walks past him mirrors the song’s protagonist who can’t get out of his own way and live his life until the very end when he just releases himself and walks along with the world.
Hangar 18 – “Feet to Feet” (2008, Director: Paul Iannacchino)
After not appearing in their 2007 album Sweep the Leg’s first video “Baking Soda,” Definitive Jux MCs Alaska and Windnbreez made a video that rested on the strength of their charisma. Capturing the energy of their live performances, the one-take serves as both a channel of unfiltered Hangar as well as some pretty cool visuals.
Nyle – “Let the Beat Build” (2009, Director: Chadd Harbold)
Finally, the video that was number #1 on YouTube, Okayplayer, Gawker, Google, NASA and everywhere in-between, Nyle’s “Let the Beat Build.” His senior project, capturing the vibrant energy of the NYUterus, the sheer insanity here is that the entire clip is a live performance. A labor of love****, it wound up getting so popular that it bucked the entire corporate music industry label system and landed on MTV*****. Since you’ve probably read everything there is to read about this video, please enjoy this song that Nyle and I made last year as a free download.
So until next time…let’s agree to agree!
*I just rewatched the Busta Rhymes-Janet Jackson “What’s It Gonna Be” video for the first time in a decade, and it’s aged so bad it hurt my feelings.
**The other being Juvenile’s “Follow Me Now,” which has nothing to do with this list.
***Extra props for keeping the original twist ending.
****Love, of course, meaning hours upon hours of rehearsal.
*****That’s MTV ONE! Insert the same “MTV-never-plays-videos” joke you’ve made since 1996 here.
Tags: chadd harbold, cibo matto, dead bent, definitive jux, fondle 'em, hangar 18, hip-hop, hiphop, jj brown, juvenile, krayzie bone, lil jon, louis logic, mark kladfeld, mf doom, mystikal, nyle, one take, piston honda, rap, Scarface, spike jonze, three 6 mafia, xzibitYou can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.