In this essay I will be analyzing the following Hip Hop music videos: Fight the Power by Public Enemy; Pimp Juice by Nelly; and I’ll Still Kill by 50 Cent featuring Akon. During my essay, I will analyze how Hip Hop culture is represented within each music video and the messages they convey and using this analysis I will compare the three Hip Hop music videos.
Hip Hop culture came about in the 1970s when the government decided to develop expressway’s over the South Bronx ghetto which was packed with African Americans and Latinos, this caused a lot of controversy and conflicts. However these conflicts led to music, dance, record scratching and rapping, this became a way to act in response to the violence in the neighbourhood and also to reflect what was happening within the neighbourhood, for example, drug dealing.
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In the 1980s and 90’s the situation deteriorated resulting in things like gangster rap which focused entirely on the fixed theme of guns, gangs and prison life. This endured a darker side of Hip Hop and increased the number of stereotypes. ‘Public Enemy’ is a prominent Hip Hop group from Long Island, New York. They are known for their politically charged lyrics, criticism of the media, and active interest in the concerns of the African American community.
‘Public enemy’ contains Chuck D, Flavor Flav and the S1W’s which stands for Security of the First World, they are sometimes considered a part of Public Enemy as well. The Video “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy is about gaining equality in the first world. The video is set out using a massive crowd of African-Americans, with positive enthusiasm, marching towards the camera whilst chanting “Fight the Power.” This song was part of a soundtrack for the film “Do the Right Thing” directed by Spike Lee.
“Fight the Power” is about resolving equality for the African-Americans in the first world. In the video “Fight the Power,” there are a lot of elements that are depicted. For example, the use of the S1W’s depicts a severe message of equality and justice along with fun and happiness. In addition, in the video “Fight the Power,” there are many messages conveyed to the audience about Black African -American culture and equality. For example, the director places an establishing shot of the Black African-American community, emphasizing unity and cheerfulness and making the audience feel sympathetic for the mistreated Black African Americans.
Likewise, other messages are being conveyed, like happiness and, at the same time, grave injustice. For example, when the camera pans to the crowd and shows their jubilant emotions and then suddenly cuts to the S1W’s who portray a rugged look, this technique makes the audience question the unity of the people and, at the same time, portrays a very different message about equality and social injustice.
Finally, there are more messages which get conveyed to the audience in similar techniques for example, when the camera is dollying Chuck D and Flavor Flav with the crowd following; we feel a sense of leadership as Chuck D say’s “Fight the Power” and the crowd chant after him, this makes the audience feel intimidated by the aggressive, but peaceful protest. And this also conveys a massive message of unity and equality. Nelly, formally known as Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., arose his career as a Hip Hop artist in 2002 where Nelly’s second album Nellyville was released and reached number one on the Billboard 200 albums charts.
Nelly’s video “Pimp Juice” is about the riches and wealth of Nelly and the objectification of women. “Pimp Juice” starts by showing a close-up of dice portrayed in a shallow depth of field shot; this immediately highlights the significance of the dice and, more importantly, wealth. This emphasizes a message of money and gambling in Hip Hop culture. Likewise, Nelly conveys a vibrant lifestyle, for example, there is a long shot of Nelly and a girl, and there are three expensive cars in the background. This represents the boastfulness of Nelly and his life.
In “Pimp Juice,” the messages being conveyed are mostly about male dominance, money and women. For example, we see Nelly in a two-shot with another woman; however, Nelly looks as if he is more towards the camera than the woman who looks as if she is in the background. This portrays a very dominant look and signifies women as objects. The final message being conveyed to the audience is that women have two sides, one which is sexual and one which is not; the sexual side gets portrayed more in Hip Hop videos to signify male dominance, misogyny and, of course, money.
50 Cent was born on July 6, 1975, in South Jamaica, Queens; he rose to fame with his albums Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Massacre. Both albums achieved multi-platinum success, selling over twenty-one million copies combined. 50 Cent’s video “I’ll Still Kill” is about prison culture and revenge. It depicts a lot of homoeroticism and hypermasculinity about this side of Hip Hop. In “I’ll Still Kill,” the messages conveyed are all about violence, racism and hyper-masculinity. For example, when “I’ll Still Kill” starts, there is a close-up of Akon and 50 Cent, who are both invests which shows their muscles and aspects of their abdomen; this creates a very intimidating affect and portrays the message of manhood and homoeroticism.
Furthermore, 50 Cent says, “…all across the globe like the world’s mine” this portrays that 50 Cent is somewhat a role model for the audiences and that the world follows in his footsteps. In the same way, when 50 Cent looks through the binoculars to target the enemy, the director uses a point of view shot of 50 Cent showing a scope or target of the “White” enemies. This shows the violence and criminal nature of 50 Cent; similarly, this portrays the racial barriers between the white Americans who are portrayed as evil and racist. Therefore, this emphasizes Akon and 50 Cent to portray that violence is intentionally good against the enemy.
Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and Nelly’s “Pimp Juice” both portray two very different messages about Hip Hop culture as well as values. Public Enemy portrays messages about black equality and righteousness, which leads to a good cause. However, Nelly portrays a very negative message about power which leads to money and then women. In “Pimp Juice,” Nelly gets portrayed more, while in “Fight the Power,” everyone is seemingly equal; this shows that Nelly classifies himself above the rest just because he has wealth and women. However, in “Fight the Power,” the central theme is equality, and everyone gets portrayed evenly.
In the same way, Nelly says, “She only like me for my Pimp Juice” portrays women as objects, implying them as gold diggers and below men. However, in “Fight the Power,” Chuck D says, “People, people we are the same” this portrays that everyone, male or female, is equal and should get respected equally. 50 Cent’s “I’ll Still Kill” focuses on a completely different segment about Hip Hop culture to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” They both have similarities and differences. For example, they both talk about fighting. However, Public Enemy talks about fighting for injustice, and 50 Cent talks about fighting to gain power through violence and aggression.
In “I’ll Still Kill,” 50 Cent and Akon get portrayed as hyper-masculine; this is shown in their exposure of abdomen and muscles, which makes the audience feel intimidated but in a wrong way. On the other hand, in “Fight the Power,” when the crowd is coming towards the camera chanting “Fight the Power”, the audience feels intimidated by the aggressive but not violent protest. Public enemy’s video about equality and social injustice is very real-life as with 50 Cents “I’ll Still Kill”; however, “Fight the Power” portrays a good cause fighting for injustice, and 50 Cent portrays a wrong cause fighting to gain power and respect.
Nelly’s “Pimp Juice” is about wealth and women, whilst 50 Cent’s “I’ll Still Kill” is about violence and prison life. 50 cent and Nelly both emphasize male dominance, as seen in their videos. For example, in “Pimp Juice,” we see Nelly in a two-shot with another woman however, Nelly looks as if he is more towards the camera than the woman who looks as if she is in the background. This portrays that the woman is after the “Pimp Juice” or wealth of Nelly. On the other hand, 50 Cents male dominance gets portrayed differently; the director uses no women in 50 Cents video because the use of women would bring weakness and would soften 50 Cents image about violence and, of course male dominance.
In “Pimp Juice,” Nelly says, “…It could be money, fame, or straight intellect” this tells us that the women in “Pimp Juice” get portrayed as objects, presumably gold diggers. “Pimp Juice” portrays a profound message that money is everything and that women crave people with power and money. Correspondingly in “I’ll Still Kill,” Akon says, “…Cause I will be long gone like the ripper” this portrays the violence and criminal nature of Akon and 50 Cent. It also symbolizes the hatred towards the enemy and portrays that violence is intentionally good against the enemy.
In conclusion, I believe that Hip Hop culture can portray different messages about life and other people. In the three music videos, we get introduced to other aspects of the same genre, like fighting for social injustice and women. Over time I believe that Hip Hop has changed from an aggressive yet not violent type to an aggressive, violent type. However, the use of women as objects is almost standard in new era Hip Hop videos to portray wealth and money.