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