On the Culture Front: Music Videos from the Underground, Part Five

GV raps with a fiery urgency on “Tunnelz.” The video plays out on Brooklyn street corners, on the subway and in the cramped halls of the protagonist’s apartment building. From the opening moments when he utters, “the galaxy’s been fucking with me,” we sense that danger is afoot. This intensity builds throughout the three minute running time, causing it to feel more like a short film made by the Safdie brothers. His exhilarating flow will stay with you long after the song ends.

On the surface, the video for King Keon’s “Picture Me,” appears to be a paint-by-numbers gangsta rap setup. Men with big chains, fancy cars and even a helicopter fill the screen, and there’s quite a bit of bragging, but the title hints that Keon has other goals. Each line is structured around a dreamlike “picture me…” phrase that acts both as a wish list of sorts and a portal to put us inside his experience. One telling line, “picture my dreams, my goals, my fears,” hints he’s calling out more for empathy than envy.

Somewhere between a boy band, Coldplay and Mumford and Sons, Broke Royals deliver an energetic wallop of melody with “As Long As I Can See.” The video alternates between enthusiastic women and young girls signing as they dance and sweeping images of forests and the band thrashing about as they play in an expansive field at sunset. A shot sweeping over a tropical waterscape leaves us guessing the location, imbuing the video with a bit of magical mystery.

Atlanta-based rapper Aaron Robinson feels like the hip-hop response to Christian rock. His video, “365 (Confess His Name),” feels like a straight up sermon though it’s delivered in a slick package of a tight beat layered with a floating keyboard riff. The lyrics are hard to swallow if you’re not drinking the Kool-Aid, but he delivers them with conviction and has a naturally passionate phrasing.

San Diego-bred rapper Knitwit has an easy flow that lets him fire off streams of words that glide through rapid-fire beats. The video for “LookOut” begins with him taking swigs from what appears to be a bottle of Paul Masson brandy. A fuzzy bass line punctuates that action and is soon joined by a rolling drumbeat that provides the structure for the song. We get transported into his booze-coated mind, viewing heads blown up on small bodies like bobble heads, which makes for a trippy experience.

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