Yes, we’re discussing Danny Brown’s “Black Brad Pitt” music video

So Detroit rapper, Danny Brown (remember his breakout mixtape “XXX,” his video for “Grown Up” and a darling of music blogs) has new video for his song, “Black Brad Pitt.”  The first things that strike any viewer of the video is the clear disconnect between the video and Brown’s lyrics for “Black Brad Pitt.” Brown’s rap–over a beat by British DJs, Evil Nine–is basically a familiar mix of profane bragging about his sexual prowess and drug use with some misogyny thrown in; essentially NSFW (don’t play it loudly in the office). Meanwhile, series of disconnected images–common to music videos nowadays–play out on screen. These include a black male in army fatigues (a soldier?) crumping through lush vegetation (a jungle?), a black (African?) “dictator” at a lectern mouthing off (though we can’t hear what he says,Tom suspects he is speaking French) and a half-clad woman. In-between we see images of a smoking, crocodile head, a gold pineapple (!) and diamonds flashing on the screen. Then it ends.  Here’s the video:

Unfortunately, with these things, the internets usual aren’t very helpful and full of vague praise. Here’s a representative sample: “an interesting set of visuals” (Stupiddope), “The visual is pretty out there as the main concept is a soldier break-dancing in the jungle” (Complex), and “some weird dancing-in-the-jungle fantasy involving dictators and diamonds” (Do Androids Dance). From Youtube, here’s some sample comments: “so i guess they found kony crumpin in the jungle;” “i get it… kony is the black brad pitt… cause he “adopted” a lot of children;” and “Dammit Danny rap about something different.”

As is the custom around Africa is a Country, I asked around “the office” to hear what we made of this:

Boima Tucker:

“Black Brad Pitt” means that Danny Brown’s a really good actor…”

Dylan Valley:

If he was really the Black Brad Pitt the video would be about him adopting African and Asian kids … BTW, from a technical perspective the video is really well shot.

Greg Mann:

Doesnt really bear thinking about, but maybe he is trying to win that bounty down in Florida. And if he does, he should buy something nice for his mother, who must be ashamed of his mouth.

But call me old-fashioned.

Zachary Rosen:

This video superbly captures an Africa of make-believe. Danny gives us a jungle of soldiers, dictators, women, diamonds and fetishes. With its mystical visuals and unapologetically depraved lyrics, the video’s African representations are completely devoid of context or relevance, aligning them quite comfortably with many other pop culture allusions to Africa. The Africa of Danny Brown is wholly manufactured. It has been constructed on a set, with an exotic landscape and elaborate costumes. These images have been force-fed into our subconscious before, thousands of times. They are designed to bewilder us, scare us and entrance us, but never to challenge us. And yet because SPIN magazine decided Danny’s XXX mixtape was rap album of the year in 2011, hipsters everywhere will continue to eat it up regardless, salivating over how Danny’s music “breaks new ground“.

Neelika Jayawardane:

I think that I’d be less annoyed if it wasn’t just another heavy dose of bitches, bitches, bitches: sucking N****s off, being busy on my dick, etc. Oh, yeah, and lines of coke stretching out to the horizon. What’s new? It’s like we stepped back to 1999, “rappin’ ’bout money, hoes, and rims again” again. If these morons are clever enough to be “meta-rap” (ie. rap with lyrics that critique the tired game while playing it – as did Kanye West, in his better days), I’d think it interesting. But Kanye did that already in “Breathe in Breathe Out” back in two-thousand-oh-what? Long ago enough that I can’t remember.

So if there any new ground being broken here, it’s that two annoying has-been genres are mixed together: the ho/my cock rap genre and the Afro-dystopia genre. Is he saying that uniforms are nice? and make men look powerful? Wow. So innovative. but I thought Leni already did that with Nazi porn.

Justin Scott:

Danny Brown is someone I enjoy (especially his mixtape XXX). That said I agree the schtick is getting tiresome. But Danny has been toiling away trying to “make it” for years. He finally broke thru with his cocaine-laced high-excitement flow, mostly because it’s what the white hipster blogosphere wants to see. Basically, there are market forces at work here putting a premium on the kind of rhyming we’re calling out so easily in this forum. There’s been some interesting writing on the fetishization of the ghetto by white rap listeners; see for example this New Republic piece.

‘kola:

I am amazed at uncanny resemblance between the dictator in the video and Charles Taylor, who btw was a democratically elected “autocrat.”  That said, I really feel like I have been transported back to the 1990s with all this talk about rap, selling out, rap white market forces, hoes, bitches and niggas … Wasn’t all of this over-analyzed then?

So what do you think, dear readers?

Comments

comments

Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

10 Comments
  1. neelika jayawardane- hahaha what an old mans comment. Meta-rap? Kanye West?? Kanye West has never been cool. Anyways come on its Danny Brown!

    1. “Kanye has never been cool” *JAW ON FLOOR. Oh wait, this is the internet where everything is dealt in superlatives. Also, don’t feel bad Blaise. I missed the sarcasm too in Neelika’s comment. Neelika, can you please explain?

  2. : Charles Taylor, Naomi Campbell, and Sam ‘Mosquito’ Bockarie (the former 2nd in command of the Sierra Leonean RUF, who was recruited in Liberia while working as a hairdressing disco-dancer, and was first mentored -then disposed of- by Taylor).
    …that and the thick haze of jungle tropes made all the more tedious by the hypersexualized lyrics blaring about ‘a million b*tches screaming..semen..demons’ and oral rape, deaf to the rape crisis in DR Congo so crudely alluded to in the JungleMineralWarlord flick.

  3. Got through half of it…one man’s trash. Listen, if I was high at a club trying to hook-up and the woman was turned on by this, then I would be excited. But I wouldn’t listen to this by myself or introduce any of my friends to it, and if it came on I would turn it off.

    As for the imagery…it is no worse than the lyrics.

  4. You guys are overthinking it. Hiphop was about message, it is no longer. It is now about style, about posturing, about erecting an image of oneself ,and more importantly, about self-expression.
    Blogs have democratized writing, twitter, opinion, Facebook,self-importance, Pro-Tools, music …Sketchup, architecture… Artistry, in whatever form it shows itself, is accessible to everyone and “stay in your lane” means nothing anymore because the borders are porous and everyone has the ability to cross from lane to lane, with widely divergent results. Like Snow White’s stepmother, everyone is creating a new reality with the help of a magic tool.
    It does take courage, and talent, and inspiration to make something relevant today, because one,there isn’t a demand for it, and two, it does not put you in Rolling Stone. How many artists do you know who have that? What’s the difference between Danny Brown and Ke$ha and her ilk…? Between he and Tyler the creator…and the thousands other “artists” who have a voice but nothing to say?
    Where artistry used to be a mirror to society, one voice to all, it is now no more than a mirror to oneself, one’s voice to oneself, (perhaps because there is no value, or wish to speak to society, or there is more rewards in talking to oneself?) Everyone is just singing to themselves, it just happens that we all can hear it. To put it another way: If everyone is an artist because everyone has the tools for expression/artistry, who’s the artist?
    Now am overthinking it!

  5. I consider the video an homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds which stars Brad Pitt as leader of a team of Jewish-American soldiers hunting down Nazis behind enemy lines during world war II. He’s dressed in much the same way as Pitt in the movie and It’s a similar alternate history – essentially a fantasy of revenge against autocratic evildoers.

    Inglorious Basterds of course ends with with Hitler (the stand-in being Charles Taylor) and the entire Nazi leadership being blown up at the end of the screening of a film in a Parisian cinema. The jungle being the the equivalent of Tarantino’s notion of Cinema – a place where History can be remade as pulp.

    There’s a touch of the story of Adam and Eve too with the serpentine dancing. The woman in red (Eve always wears red) reminds me of Shosanna in the movie, seductive at once and about to take fearsome revenge.

    But that’s just me, perhaps I’m giving too much credit to the thing. Your mileage may vary.

    1. Perhaps you are, but am certainly giving Danny Brown, thanks to you Koranteng, the benefit of the doubt and accept your reading of the video, which makes him a thoughtful, inspired artist.
      By the way, I love Nigerian(?) ethnic names. The unique combination of alliteration, tonal contrasts and the relation between the consonants and the vowels (the former seeming to herd, as big brothers, or parents, the latter), is alluring to me as an architect. They appear to me, graphically and tonally, as well designed, well built buildings. Your full name actually looks like a village with all the nuclear and extended relationships, the o, the an and the en are safely tucked between the K, the R and the G, a unit in it’s own which is open to the next unit,Ofosu thanks to the reaching of the o, opening that is renewed when the U reaches out to the A of Amaah. Alright, alright, I stop now!
      What is the language and what is the history of it?

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